Alberta and British Columbia governments need to stop taking potshots at each other and start working toward opening doors for the Northern Gateway pipeline, says Canadian diplomat Robert Hage.
In a paper for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa think-tank, Hage says he believes First Nations objections to the pipeline could be solved in part by some kind of guarantee of jobs for aboriginal people.
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The provincial and federal governments need "to work together to engage the communities affected by Northern Gateway, particularly First Nations, in environmental protection measures," he wrote in the paperl
“The government of Alberta and the government of B.C. and the federal government have to start talking to each other. To a certain extent there’s been pot shots taken over the last few years The lead process is over and it’s time to sit down and talk,” Hage said in an interview with CBC’s The Exchange with Amanda Lang.
There are numerous projects proposed along the B.C. coastline to get energy to markets in Asia, he points out, but Northern Gateway is one of the most promising.
“It’s a huge project and it’s going to bring in billions of dollars of revenue and it’s something that Canada cannot afford to lose,” he said.
Alaska faced similar opposition from environmentalists and First Nations before building its pipeline, but then experienced the Exxon Valdez disaster and took action to smooth the way for a pipeline.
Hage said Alaska guaranteed that 20 per cent of jobs on building the pipeline would go to aboriginal workers. It also hired a First Nations company to takeover ongoing maintenance and environmental monitoring of the pipeline.
That kind of deal could go a long way toward assuaging the concerns of native people, he said.
A B.C. MP’s bill to block oil tanker traffic in a key fishing zone along the West Coast will open an unnecessary dispute with the U.S., is a thinly disguised bid to block the Northern Gateway pipeline, he said.
NDP MP Fin Donnelly’s bill C-211 would block oil tanker traffic in the Dixon entrance, Hecate Straight and Queen Charlotte Sound, arguing these are all Canadian waters and Canada needs to protect fishing in these areas.
The report says that Canadians should be able to expect responsible, environmentally benign development of their natural resources.
But it argues that marine tankers abiding by Canadian safety standards are in fact cost-effective and safe.
The report said Canada should be actively improving its environmental and safety laws for marine areas. That would be a more effective solution than banning tanker traffic, Hage said.
“We can embrace measures that will reduce environmental risk in coastal areas, measures that make far more sense than Bill C-211, which forbids activity in a transportation mode with an enviable record for safety and sustainability,” the report said.