A proposal to move Alberta oil in a pipeline through northern Ontario could take years to move through the government approval process — but some in the north are hoping it happens sooner rather than later.


Temagami Mayor John Hodgson (Supplied)

Even though Temagami Mayor John Hodgson knows some in his town hate the idea of an oil pipeline co-habitating with the area's famous lakes and forests, he’s willing to go on the record to say he isn't one of them.

"I just believe personally that it's good for Ontario, good for Temagami and good for the country," Hodgson said, adding that he’s hopeful for a healthy, information-fuelled debate about the pipeline.

And while he doesn't think Temagami council needs to have an official say on whether TransCanada is allowed to convert its 60-year-old pipeline from natural gas to oil, cities and towns could hold some cards, as the National Energy Board will require the pipeline to get all necessary provincial and municipal permits.

The board itself makes the main decision on the pipeline plans, which TransCanada has yet to file.

Oil could flow by 2017

Applications director Sylvia Marion said part of that will be looking at how the company "anticipates" potential problems.

"If they were to build it a certain way, it could cause problems," she said.

"So the anticipating part is, ‘OK, let's do it a different way’."

Marion noted this proposal would likely go to a hearing, where environmental groups, local governments and others would be able to plead their case— something that would happen within 15 months of TransCanada filing its application.

The company hasn't said when it plans to do that, but has said it hopes to have the oil flowing by 2017.

About 40 kilometres of that pipe currently runs through Temagami, and TransCanada is one of the town's largest taxpayers.

Hodgson said opponents of the plan focus too much on the risk of a spill.

"It's the risk that goes with enjoying heat in your house and gas in your vehicles," he said.

"It's always easy to say ‘we don't want to put up with the environment risk.’ Well, if you turn the taps off on the gas and what goes up and down the railway tracks, we'll just be sitting here in the dark."