Northern Gateway opponents target MPs in last-ditch campaign

Opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline project in B.C. are making a last-ditch attempt to pressure Conservative MPs to reject the project.

Campaign asks pipeline opponents to email opposition to 21 Tory MPs

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has been a divisive issue in B.C. (Jonathan Hayward / Canadian Press)

Opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline project in B.C. are making a last-ditch attempt to pressure Conservative MPs to reject the project.

They've launched a campaign called Enbridge21, featuring a micro website showing the portraits of all 21 Tory MPs from British Columbia on a stark black background. The website provides an email that people can send to individual MPs.

The Enbridge 21 website invites users to email B.C. Tory MPs to express their concerns with the Northern Gateway pipeline. (Enbridge21)
The message of the site suggests that if the MPs support the pipeline, they could lose their seats in the next federal election.

"A gang of 21 MPs is casting a long shadow on the province as they decide whether they will back Enbridge or align with heroic defenders of this province," says the website.

"These 21 federal Conservative MPs and their leader James Moore have a choice, they can help defend this province from the Enbridge pipeline and supertankers or they can gamble B.C.'s future."

Nikki Skuce, with Forest Ethics Advocacy, one of the organizers of the campaign, said British Columbia could be a deciding factor in a federal election in 2015.

"So we thought it would be important to put pressure on these B.C. Conservative MPs to make the right decision or make them feel really uncomfortable about approving Northern Gateway, if that is the way it goes."

The federal cabinet has to make a decision about the Northern Gateway pipeline by June 17.

The Enbridge project to bring Alberta oilsands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., and then send it to Asia by supertanker, has become hugely controversial because of fears over the environmental effects of a pipeline rupture or oil spill along the sensitive coast line.

Skuce says, so far, more than 14,200 people have logged on to the website and forwarded the emails.

MPs confirm they are receiving targeted emails

CBC contacted the offices of all 21 B.C. Tory MPs. Of the 13 that responded to our calls, almost all confirmed they received some of these Enbridge21 messages ranging from "a few" to a "substantial amount."

Some MPs find them annoying.

A look at the proposed path of the Northern Gateway pipeline. (Canadian Press)
"I think that is exactly what we expect from the opposition," said James Lunney, the MP for Nanaimo-Alberni.

MP John Weston, whose riding includes B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, appeared to walk a finer line between his constituents and the discussions in Ottawa.

"When we talk about Northern Gateway, what I talk about is what I'm for," Weston told CBC.

"What I'm for is the jobs and the economic development in a sustainable environmental way, in a way that really represents what we British Columbians want. I think we are getting this message across to the PM and cabinet," he said.

Poll suggests pipeline may bring political fallout 

But a recent poll shows the federal Conservatives could face "collateral damage" on the west coast if they do approve the project.

A Bloomberg-Nanos survey of 500 people in the province between May 27 and 31 showed 47 per cent of all respondents polled — regardless of voting preference — said they would be less likely to support local Conservative candidates if the Harper government approved the pipeline. Only 11 per cent said they would be more likely to support local Conservatives if the project is approved.

The telephone poll, conducted by Nanos for Bloomberg News, called B.C. residents at both landline and mobile phones, and was representative of age, gender and region. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"I think privately in the confines of Conservative circles they're quite worried about what's happening because those ridings could be in play," said pollster Nik Nanos in an interview with CBC. "There will be a very close election and every Conservative riding counts."

Over the next six days, the Conservative cabinet has to hash out a decision on the project. It's widely expected to approve it.

But Nanos says it could turn into a major distraction for Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the next federal election.

Delay decision, pollster suggests 

"If he goes for the bright green light to approve this quickly without a lot of conditions, this will probably be an issue that he will have to manage in terms of the political fallout," said Nanos.

Nanos thinks it would be more politically savvy for the prime minister to delay the decision.

"If he decides to say he supports the project wholeheartedly but that he would like to slow things down a bit, that would probably give him enough political cover to send the signal he supports the Northern Gateway pipeline but would like British Columbians to sort through a solution."

"Perhaps a little patience … could pay political dividends for Stephen Harper in British Columbia."


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