June 18, 2014 – Mark June 17, 2014 as the day Canada as a nation decided that its future was not tied to the planet. The federal government through a cabinet decision which we call an Orders in Council, decided to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline. This pipe will travel from the Alberta oil sands to a remote fjord bound terminus in northern British Columbia. It will cross mountains, rivers and valleys, an area inhabited largely by Canadian aboriginal peoples. In making its decision the government largely used the material provided it by the applicant, Enbridge, a company that has a legacy of pipeline spills in its history.
For Canada’s federal government the decision is all about “the now.” Enbridge says the pipeline will contribute $300 billion to the Canadian economy over the next three decades. What a false calculation? The company has not factored in the carbon impact from the bitumen extraction processes needed to fill its pipe. Nor as it looked at the health consequences and costs associated with the increased greenhouse gases from production. Nor can it put a price on the cost of one or more spills, whether on land or coastal waters should in the latter case a tanker accident occur. And believe me there will be accidents. Ask Alaska who continues to pay the price for the Exxon Valdez spill. Enbridge’s pipe will terminate in waters with similar navigation channels to those that the Exxon Valdez navigated.
Back on June 10 I wrote about a joint news conference featuring Canada’s and Australia’s Prime Ministers in which my leader stated that no country is willing to address climate change when jobs are at stake. At the time I called his comment delusional thinking because it didn’t look at the consequences of ignoring climate change and what it ultimately will do to people, biodiversity and the planet. Nor did it consider the upside of investment in developing alternatives to bitumen as an energy source.
Our Prime Minister and his government remain focused on election cycles and pandering to those companies that fund their political campaigns. In 2015 or sooner they will go to the polls. They will do this having taken a position that is morally bankrupt, that exposes the world to increased carbon output from Canada’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, only to be made larger by the increased capacity that this pipeline will propagate.
There will be growing resistance to this wrong-headed decision, from within Canada and from abroad. No one looking to the future should consider this to be a happy day for the planet.