Unfiltered voices: Kitimat votes today on controversial Northern Gateway pipeline

Today, citizens in the northwest coastal B.C. community of Kitimat are expected to make a record voter turn out for a plebiscite on Enbridge`s $6.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline.

Voices of the Northern Gateway pipline - Kitmat vote - Vancouver Observer

Today, citizens in the northwest coastal B.C. community of Kitimat are expected to make a record voter turn out for a plebiscite on Enbridge`s $6.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline. 

Many pipeline communities – such as Prince George, Terrace, Smithers – have passed resolutions against the project.  Several Aboriginal communities, including critically the Haisla Nation where the pipeline terminates – are dead set against the project.  And yesterday, four Yinka Dene First Nations that represent one quarter of the pipeline's route also officially rejected it.

Kitimat's council did not take a position. So a dramatic and controversial plebiscite ensued, that included a surreal campaign of corporate canvassers versus pipeline-opponent volunteers.  There was no limit on ad spending, and Enbridge's project, backed by oil sands producers and Chinese-state oil companies, clearly had a financial advantage.

Many say Enbridge needs a win to claim an advance in social licence. Others say the vote doesn't matter: other opposing communities, the B.C. government, aboriginal lawsuits, and direct action protests may frustrate the project.

What follows here are unfiltered voices, recently recorded by the Vancouver Observer.

Janet Holder Northern Gateway open house - Kitimat - Mychaylo Prystupa

Janet Holder, Executive Vice-President, Northern Gateway

Q: how much have you spent on ads to sway Kitimat voters?

“I actually don’t know the answer to that question -- I do know we are going to tally those numbers up after the plebiscite happens, and we will share that with media.”

“But what’s important is we have been engaging with British Columbians for quite some time now.  So a lot of what you’ll see is part of our outreach and response to British Columbians who want to get more "… this is an extension of what we’ve been doing over the last year.”

“We offered 10 percent equity of the pipeline to Aboriginal communities, and we had a 60 percent uptake of those communities who’ve signed.”

“It’s important that we are not proceeding today.  First of all, we haven’t got approval.  Assuming we get approval, we have a number of conditions we have to meet." 

“We continue to engage with all the Aboriginal communities – those who’ve signed on, and those who’ve not signed on with equity.”

“I think you’re well aware we’ve hired Jim Prentice to assist us in that effort.”

“I think [Northern Gateway] is an opportunity to create a sustainable community.  This is not about a pipeline necessarily.  It is about creating opportunities in the north, for people who live in the north, for aboriginal communities in the north.”

“That’s why we’re spending money since 2006 on skills training and development, so hopefully people can stay in the north, create their careers in the north, and hopefully raise their families in the north.”

“We’re still expecting an in-service date for the last quarter of 2018, which means we need to start construction mid 2015.  So it’s just over a year away.”

“We do think it’s feasible." 

Q: You said Enbridge's Kalamazoo oil spill was 'humbling' -- why?

“Well I think that everybody recognizes that is not what we want to see.  And we do everything in our power, and continue to do everything in our power, whether it be through technology, through new practices, new policies, new resources, to make sure those things don’t happen.”

“We spent an awful lot of time – and we’re still actually still there, being part of the community.  And that’s important to us.”

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