Harper government pressured to reject Northern Gateway after Kitimat defeat
Canada's new Natural Resources Minister must decide before mid-June if the Northern Gateway project goes forward.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his new Natural Resources Minister, Greg Rickford, are facing growing calls to reject the Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline, after the project was defeated in a critical Kitimat plebiscite vote Saturday.
Nathan Cullen, NDP MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, said the $6.5 billion project no longer has social license.
"Enbridge should listen, the Conservatives should listen," said Cullen Saturday night in Kitimat, shortly after announcing the vote's outcome to an ecstatic crowd in the street.
"They say in politics, money always wins, but not this time. The people did," he said. "Despite signs, despite people saying no, this company just keeps plowing ahead. I am sure they will, I am sure they will spin it. I know we're on the right side of history," added Cullen.
The Harper government must decide if the project should go forward within six months of the Joint Panel Review -- that would give the cabinet until mid-June.
Northern Gateway pipeline still under review
Minister Rickford could not be reached for comment, but his Ottawa-based press secretary told the Vancouver Observer on Sunday:
Speaking with a megaphone in hand, Former Haisla chief Gerald Amos told the crowd gathered in Kitimat on Saturday that Ottawa has not been listening to the will of the people.
"I think Enbridge and the government really don't understand what happened here tonight. But I think all of us [here in the crowd] do. Not just in this community of Kitimat, but in the entire northwest -- Terrace, Prince Rupert, Smithers, all points east."
"What we witnessed was a community building exercise that should scare the shit out of them," said Amos, to loud applause and laughter.
Coastal First Nations leader Art Sterritt said recently that approving the pipeline would be disastrous for federal Conservative MPs in British Columbia. He said images of protesters blocking the pipeline's construction would not look good for the Conservatives during the next election.
“Hundreds of people call me asking, ‘where do we go to stand in front of the bulldozers to stop Northern Gateway?’" Sterritt said last month.
Greg Rickford, who was sworn in as Natural Resources Minister on March 19, has not yet visited British Columbia since taking over the portfolio from Joe Oliver.
But he told a Montreal crowd on Friday that export-resource projects are critical to growing Canada's economy.
"I propose that we look at the opportunities that an evolving global market offers us: in particular, the benefits across Canada of expanding and diversifying export markets for our natural resources," said Rickford in a speech.
Enbridge Northern Gateway vice president of western access, Janet Holder, at an open house in Kitimat. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa
Enbridge not giving up despite "no" vote
Enbridge released a statement that it will continue to push the project, despite the company's loss in a high-stakes campaign.
"Over the coming weeks and months we will continue to reach out and listen to our neighbours and friends so that Northern Gateway can build a lasting legacy for the people of our community," wrote Donny van Dyk, Northern Gateway's Manager of Coastal Aboriginal and Community Relations, minutes after the plebiscite outcome was revealed.
Cullen, meanwhile, said Northern Gateway has likely spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing its pipeline. The company aired TV commercials -- showing aerial sweeps on beautiful coastal forests -- on CBC during the Sochi Olympics, for example.
He said during his "Take Back the Coast" tour against the pipeline proposal last month that Conservative candidates would likely pay a political price if Northern Gateway is approved despite strong opposition in northern BC.