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Emotion mounts over feds' scramble for pipeline support in BC

David Eby, NDP MLA, in a photo taken in 2009 by Yukiko Onley for The Vancouver Observer, is one of many people reporters spoke with since Friday about federal emissaries hoping to convert pipeline opponents in BC next week

"Frankly, it's a national shame," Tom Rivest, a biologist and co-owner of Great Bear Nature Tours in Port Hardy, said. 

Rivest echoed what many told the Vancouver Observer on Friday as reporters talked with a wide range of people about a recent announcement that a "parade" of federal ministers are coming to BC next week to try and win support for  pipeline projects from First Nations and other opponents.

For reasons reasons from environmental risk to economics, people throughout BC said Harper's latest pipeline push was going too far.

Unnatural approach to 'Super, Natural' BC 

People like Rivest, who benefit from BC's $13-billion tourism industry, strongly oppose the idea of the province becoming for a conduit for Alberta's oil for the Asian market. As one of the last great wilderness areas left in the world, British Columbia has far greater value in its natural state than becoming a crude oil tanker port, they said.

 "The relatively undeveloped coastline of BC is a national treasure and should be protected for future generations," Rivest said.

"Why should Alberta or Ottawa reap the benefits of the tar sands while we on the BC coast take the bulk of the risk?"

"BC is marketed worldwide as being 'Super, Natural'...relatively few operations in BC would be left untouched by an oil spill in the province, whether along the pipeline route or from a tanker on the coast," Wilderness Tourism Association of BC executive director Evan Loveless said.

"All of BC's tourism would suffer from the tarnishing of our 'Super, Natural'  brand." 

 Rare "spirit bears" can be seen in the coastal rainforests around Hartley Bay

Like a Trojan horse

First Nations -- whose are a key focus of the cabinet ministers' meetings this month -- expressed strong skepticism toward the project. The government's recent outreach efforts are believed to be an effort to patch up pipeline negotiations with BC's First Nations, which a new federal commissioned report described as being a 'mess'.  But having been denied previous meetings with the federal government, and  having had their rights threatened by the controversial Bill C-45, some Aboriginals remain wary.  

 “This government has done everything it can to stifle dissent,” said Caleb Behn, a Dene attorney, noting that many First Nations were going to perceive the meetings as a "Trojan horse."    

Gitga'at Nation Councillor Cam Hill, whose traditional territory is in the Great Bear Rainforest area, knows that if the Enbridge proposal gets approved, oil tankers will navigate the Douglas Channel, near where he lives.  Douglas Channel is one of the most dangerous channels in Canada to navigate, prone to harsh winter storms. What's more, tanker traffic would disrupt the communication patterns of whales along the channel. 

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