Canada Has More To Offer the World Than Oil

April 8, 2011
Emma Gilchrist and Eric Swanson
Special Report to The Vancouver Sun


Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel is right: His Northern Gateway oil supertanker proposal for B.C.’s coast presents a profound choice, one where British Columbians have clear options heading into the election on May 2.

The Federal Liberals, NDP and Greens reject Daniel’s project by wanting to ban oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast, while the Conservatives don’t.

This is a voting decision about the kind of future we want for our coast and our country. Are we the kind of people who will force the risk of catastrophe on dozens of unwilling communities? Are we the kind of people who want to gamble our salmon rivers, our coast and all that they provide? Because that is what Daniel is asking us to do when he says he wants to bring hundreds of supertankers to our north coast each year.

It would be a risky gamble, and one that more than 75 per cent of British Columbians don’t want to take. Polling shows more than three-quarters of British Columbians want to see oil tankers banned from B.C.’s north coast, including roughly equivalent numbers of Liberal, NDP and Conservative voters. For most of us, the risk of an oil spill is too great, and promises of “world-class safety standards” ring hollow.

These “world-class safety standards” didn’t save the Gulf of Mexico from the BP disaster last summer. And they are certainly not protecting Japan from the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant right now. The people of Kalamazoo, Mich., have a thing or two to say about “world-class safety standards,” too: that’s where Enbridge dumped $1.7 million of oil in a river last summer.

Enbridge may talk about “safely moving energy to the West Coast,” but the truth is their pipelines leak more than once a week on average. If Northern Gateway goes ahead, oil spills are inevitable — it’s just a question of how bad they are going to be. Earthquakes and extreme weather events happen, like in Japan. Machines break, like in the Gulf. Humans make mistakes, like when the B.C. ferry Queen of the North went down and the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in Alaska.

Enbridge is asking British Columbians to risk their coast so fellow oil companies can make $2 to $3 more per barrel of oil sold. What they’re hearing in response has been clear. More than 80 First Nations have signed legal declarations barring Enbridge’s project. The Union of B.C. Municipalities has said no, as have fishing and other unions, coastal chambers of commerce and hundreds of independent businesses.

Northern Gateway presents us with a decision about our coast, but also a decision about what kind of country Canada wants to be. Are we a country that ratchets up oilsands production, pipes it across two provinces and loads it onto oil tankers just to make an extra $2 per barrel? Or are we a country willing to be a true world leader — a leader that shows courage and integrity.

We believe Canada has more to offer the world than oil. We have different kinds of reserves that are of “tremendous strategic advantage” to our country: vibrant coastal communities and cultures, wild salmon and the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the world’s last intact temperate coastal rainforests, to name just a few.

By pressuring politicians to support his company’s project, Daniel is illustrating that the decision is a political one, period. Thankfully, the Liberals, NDP and Greens have all committed to banning oil tankers off our north coast. The Conservatives haven’t.

We’re counting on British Columbians to stand up during this federal election and vote for a candidate who will ban oil tankers on our north coast.

Emma Gilchrist and Eric Swanson work at Dogwood Initiative, a B.C.-based non-profit dedicated to asserting more local control over B.C.’s lands and waters.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Canada+more+offer+world+than/4585877/story.html#ixzz1JMuh5AOZ


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