Sudbury

Northern Ontario community leaders worry over pipeline debate

Many fear that the debate over the Energy East oil pipeline is dividing the country, with the west on one side and Quebec on the other. That leaves northern Ontario in the middle — and some worry it's left out of the conversation.
Some northern Ontario leaders worry their voices will be drowned out as the debate over the Energy East pipeline becomes more about national unity. (CBC)

Many fear the debate over the Energy East oil pipeline is dividing the country, with the west on one side and Quebec on the other. That leaves northern Ontario in the middle — and some worry it's left out of the conversation.

If Canada is split over the Energy East pipeline, the line might be just north of North Bay.
North Bay Mayor Al McDonald (CBC)

It is the one corner of the northeast where opposition to the pipeline has been the loudest, as the oil would pass beneath Trout Lake, where the city gets its drinking water.

Mayor Al McDonald said he fears a little place like North Bay might get drowned out during this fight over national unity.

"They might say, 'well, let's make the province of Quebec happy and the city of Montreal happy' and kind of ignore our concerns … because you're only 54,000 people. Which, in the grand scheme of things is a very small voice in a country of 33 million," he said.

"So, do we feel like the underdog? Absolutely."

Extremism hijacking debate?

Elsewhere, there is general support for converting the pipeline that follows Highway 11 through the northeast from natural gas to oil.

Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis is pro-pipeline — but worries that "extremism" is hijacking the debate.
Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis (Supplied/Town of Cochrane)

"I get a little concerned when it starts to be stereotypes and regionally specific, because I don't think that has anything to do with the issues," he said.

"People are people. If they have concerns, they are entitled to those concerns."

With several years still to go before a final decision on the pipeline is made, Politis said he hopes the rest of Canada will look to northern Ontario on how to balance the economy with the environment.

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