Canada is endowed with the third-largest oil reserves in the world, but a lack of access to world markets means our oil is sold far below world prices. Each day, this “captive-market discount” hands a $40-million gift to Americans. Adding insult to injury, the discount also drives tens of billions of dollars in Canadian investments to American oilfields.
Now, after seven years and billions of dollars spent by proponents of three oil-export pipelines, hopes for revival of Canada’s oil industry has come down to one extremely troubled project: the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. How could this possibly have happened?
The answer lies in politically motivated decisions that progressively narrowed those three proposals to what was always the most fraught project. Here is a precis of what I’ll call “the saga of the three pipelines.”
Enbridge filed regulatory applications for a Northern Gateway pipeline to ship Alberta oil to the North-Pacific port of Kitimat in 2010. The Harper government’s cabinet approved the project in 2014 after a thorough and intense review by the National Energy Board (NEB). However, in September 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled the project. “The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline,” said Trudeau. It mattered not that the so-called “Great Bear Rainforest” hadn’t even been given that name until after the regulatory review (in 2016, it was still called the Central and North Coast Forest).
Some First Nation bands were pleased, but not those most affected by the loss of employment and financial benefits. Just weeks ago, the Lax Kw’alaams, representing nine First Nations tribes, filed a lawsuit claiming that the Great Bear Rainforest prohibition against development on their traditional lands shouldn’t have been implemented without their consent. The tragic irony is that Northern Gateway could have been built by 2019. And it would have created jobs and economic benefits in a part of the province that desperately needs it, unlike Vancouver.
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