OUR VIEW: We must engage as pipeline debate escalates

We say: Despite likely court action, we still need to speak out

The Enbridge pipeline debate is coming to a boil across B.C. this month.

Project opponents are organizing protests in scores of communities up and down the coast, including here in Campbell River, and across the north while the pipeline giant confidently insists that time is on its side when it comes to winning the public relations battle over the $6 billion project.

A “Defend Our Coast” day of action is set for Wednesday, Oct. 24 one day after what is anticipated to be a huge anti-Enbridge sit-in on the front lawn of the Legislature. A sense of urgency, particularly on the part of coastal citizens concerned about tanker traffic in narrow channels, has been heightened by the cocky rhetoric of Enbridge brass. Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce Energy Summit this week Enbridge executive Janet Holder insisted the project is “definitely not dead.” She said the company is “still investing a lot of time, effort and money … and we’re going to do what’s necessary to make this project happen.”

Enbridge claims it has 60 per cent support of aboriginals living along the pipeline route, but environmentalists counter that this ignores the fact that 130 First Nations have signed the “Save the Fraser” (River) declaration vowing that they will never support a pipeline through their traditional territory.

For us on the coast, the biggest concern remains the issue of oil tanker traffic. Retired engineer Brian Gunn, based at Strathcona Park Lodge, says Enbridge has not taken into account that more than 200 oil tankers will be sharing narrow channels annually with several hundred Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) tankers from new LNG terminals near Kitimat. A spill is inevitable, he predicts. At the end of the day it seems unlikely this contentious debate will be decided by well-intentioned concerned citizens camped on the Legislature lawn or by well-healed Enbridge PR teams. It will most likely be settled in the Supreme Court of Canada by our nation’s premiere lawmakers weighing First Nations’ challenges.

Nevertheless, we still have an obligation to engage in the discussion right now and to make all our voices heard loud and clear.