Heritage Minister James Moore was interviewed by Bill Good yesterday on CKNW in British Columbia about the Northern Gateway pipeline. Mr. Moore was first asked to respond to criticism of how little BC Conservatives have said in response to Christy Clark’s demands and then asked specifically for his thoughts on the proposed pipeline.
Bill Good. So do you think that British Columbia needs to get a much bigger share of the revenue that will be generated by a pipeline if it ever came to be?
James Moore. Well, that’s Christy Clark’s demand and she hasn’t been clear on what actually constitutes a fair share or where the fair share would come from. She’s put five demands on the table, or requests, and many of them, frankly, were already well on their way to being addressed. She knows that. The provincial government knows that. The first three, with regard to environmental assessments, environmental considerations while on land and on the water, those are all things that the federal government has been moving on, we are moving on, and I think those will all be addressed. The aboriginal consultation part is something that coastal First Nations have been very vocal about, will continue to be vocal about, and that needs to be addressed, for sure, by Enbridge, in order for the project to go forward. On the money side, it certainly, of course, it sounds great, as a British Columbian, to say British Columbia should get our fair share and I understand that. But Premier Clark hasn’t been specific about what she’s talking about, how much or where it would come from, so until she’s clear on that, it’s kind of an empty zone to have a debate about this. But I do understand, certainly, the reaction by the rest of the country, when you have one province, who is, geographically, the Pacific gateway for the entire country to the markets of the Asia-Pacific, the perception of us closing the door to the rest of the country doing business with the largest emerging markets in the world, it’s something that’s cause for concern. On the other hand, Christy Clark is very much, I think, in the right in terms of her responsibility to represent British Columbians. To make sure that the rest of the country understands that just because British Columbia is physically the Asia-Pacific gateway, it doesn’t mean that we’re the doormat for companies like Enbridge to think that they can go ahead and do business without having due diligence and taking care of the public’s interest.
Bill Good. A lot of people would be asking why we are even talking about doing business with Enbridge right now, given their track record, their recent environmental disasters, their what seems to be lack of procedures when it comes to oil spills. Why are we even talking about doing business with that particular company?
James Moore. Well, they’re a company that manages a commodity that’s well wanted, obviously, around the world and across the Asia-Pacific. They’ve applied for a license to export their product to market and the process is ongoing. The joint review panel is looking at the environmental aspects of their demand and that’s ongoing and we’ll see where it takes. But there’s no question about that. And I think there’s a real gap, Bill, between the coverage in British Columbia and the rest of the country. Because we would be home to the vast majority of the Enbridge pipeline, I think there is a much more acute sense of the recent failings of Enbridge and the concerns that we have are not, I don’t think, as well understood by the rest of the country. Enbridge hasn’t, I don’t think, adequately explained to the country and to British Columbians, what happened in Kalamazoo and why, what happened in Wisconsin last week and why? Why is it that they said, when they first put their project forward, that it was going to have the highest environmental standards and then last week they said, well, we’re going to kick in $500 million more to make it an even better environmental standard? It raises doubts about their sincerity and their environmental stewardship in the first place. These are serious questions that British Columbians have for Enbridge and Enbridge has to answer. And I think it raises another concern for British Columbians when Enbridge, I believe, just a couple weeks ago, hired their first staffer who was actually going to work on the ground in British Columbia on communications to British Columbians. I mean, it puts a real sour taste in the mouth, I think, for a lot of British Columbians that this is a company that is taking seriously their responsibility to gain the confidence of everyday British Columbians for their project.
Bill Good. Well and it sounds to me just now like you have serious doubts about Enbridge.
James Moore. I believe in getting Canada’s energy products to world markets and I believe that that’s Canada’s interests and I believe that’s in British Columbia’s interests. But this project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public and to answer those very legitimate questions about the way in which they’ve operated their business in the very recent past.
Bill Good. So again it sounds to me like you have real serious doubts about Enbridge.
James Moore. Sure. I think that’s doubts that are widespread given the behaviour of Enbridge recently.
Bill Good. So is there another company that could put a competitive bid in. And let me go further on this, is there another route that could be taken? I raised this on the program yesterday: there are natural gas pipelines that go from Alberta to Prince Rupert, the deepwater port there. Are there alternatives to the Enbridge proposal that could and should be taken seriously?
James Moore. Pipelines still are, even with the [inaudible] that they’ve had recently and the spills that have happened, pipelines still are, by far, the safest, most reliable and most environmentally responsible way in which to get bitumen from Alberta across British Columbia to our ports. The second best, and it’s a big step back from the best, is to rail it across British Columbia and that has its challenges as well. But I think, Bill, there are two camps of folks who are opposed to the current Northern Gateway pipeline. There are those who are just opposed to the oil sands and they want to shut it down and they don’t believe in our energy products being exported. And those are loud voices, they’re everywhere in the NDP, and they just don’t believe in exporting. They were against Keystone 1, Keystone 2, they’re against Enbridge, they’re against Kinder Morgan. It doesn’t matter. They think the oil should stay in the ground and that’s it and you can’t talk to those folks. The other half of the public are the public who are suspicious. They want us to be economically prosperous. They want us to move forward. But they want us to move forward in a way that’s environmentally responsible. And those folks, I think, certainly can be spoken to. And I think, you asked the question, who else is there out there? I think if you look at the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the way in which they are very judiciously and responsibly engaging with British Columbia’s First Nations, the way in which they’re taking environmental challenges seriously, they way in which they’ve operated for 60 years without any spill—there’s one on land that had nothing to do with Kinder Morgan, but had to do with contractors who were tearing up the streets in Burnaby. There’s a difference, I think, night and day between a company that gets public engagement, Aboriginal engagement, environmental stewardship and Enbridge, which I think their track record is not one that I think any other company should follow if they want to do business in BC.
Good then asked about the money spent on commercials marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, but Mr. Moore wanted to say one more thing about Northern Gateway.
Before I answer that, actually, can I just answer another thing on Gateway that I think is really important to underline, Bill? There are a lot of people who didn’t, Norm Spector said it in his comments as well and others have said it, that there’s this assumption that the federal government is going to ram through the Northern Gateway pipeline, regardless of what the joint review panel says. Simply not true. We will listen to the environmental assessment and we will make the best decision that is in the best interests of all Canadians. You know, when the Prosperity Mine was being proposed in British Columbia there were those who said that Stephen Harper is going to push that mine through, regardless of what the environmental assessment said. We listened to the environmental assessment and we said no. And even though we had pressure from the provincial government that said, ignore the environmental assessment, listen to the provincial assessment, push through Prosperity Mine, we listened and we made the decision that we think was right for British Columbia and right for all Canadians. And the joint review panel on the environmental assessment on Enbridge will matter. And I think anybody who’s making assumptions about the ultimate goal of the federal government should understand that our goal is not to ram through the pipeline, but it’s to put in place the best policies to ensure Canadian products can get to market with the consent of Canadians.