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Enbridge approval could shake up Conservative majority in 2015

 If you’re one of the 21 Conservative Members of Parliament in BC, what are you thinking right now as the decision on Enbridge approaches? 

"The Enbridge 21": BC Conservative MPs.

The Harper government is due to announce its decision on Enbridge’s high-risk Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project in the coming days. While the likely approval will remove another obstacle for Enbridge, they will continue to meet a wall of opposition in British Columbia that will stop the project from ever being built.

Now here’s a question: if you’re one of the 21 Conservative Members of Parliament in BC, what are you thinking right now? Perhaps they’re trying to tell themselves that it’s going to be alright, that Enbridge is going to win the province for them with its neverending TV, radio and facebook ads. They may also believe that they’ll be okay if they keep lurking behind Harper’s shadow. Which is why right now, we need to shake them up and let them know that betting our coast means gambling with the possibility of another majority Conservative government in 2015.

Less than a day after being elected with his “strong Conservative majority government” in 2011, Prime Minister Harper expressed relief that he would no longer have to deal with “regressive energy transportation policy proposals for the west coast”. He was referring, of course, to two private members’ bills (one from Liberal MP Joyce Murray and another from NDP MP Fin Donnelly) for a legislated tanker ban for Canada’s north Pacific coast. The ban would effectively stop Enbridge’s proposal to introduce oil tankers through the Great Bear Rainforest.

But Harper went much further. He not only decided to place his bets on getting tar sands to Asian markets, he decided to bully anyone who spoke out against it. The day before the review process began, Joe Oliver, then the Minister of Natural Resources, tried to discredit people who were concerned about the project by calling them all “radicals.”

Instead of silencing dissent, thousands of concerned citizens stepped up to raise their voices – through oral and written testimony in the review process, as well as at events and rallies across the country.

Far from marginalizing their opponents, the Harper Conservatives and Enbridge have united people across the political spectrum. Unlikely allies and vocal opponents have included the daughter of one of the founders of the Reform Party, the son of an oil executive born in Fort McMurray, an ex-Conservative Party of Canada riding president, an oil spill clean-up expert, and a former World Bank economist.

First Nations have led opposition to Northern Gateway and used their laws to ban pipelines and tankers from going through their territories and watersheds. Municipal governments, such as Smithers, Kitimat and Fort St. James (not exactly a list of famous radical hotbeds), have passed resolutions against Enbridge’s project. The BC Government also rejected Northern Gateway in their final arguments of the review process and have set out five conditions that are impossible for Enbridge to meet.

Regardless, the Conservative government has bent over backwards to make things easy for Northern Gateway. Few pieces of federal legislation affecting Enbridge were left untouched in 2012: the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Navigable Waters Act, National Energy Board Act, Marine Liability Act. In terms of the permits Enbridge would need for Northern Gateway, the only legislation that wasn’t changed was the Explosives Act and Railway Relocation and Crossing Act. At the same time, the Harper government has muzzled scientists, spent millions on flashy ads promoting pipelines, and then spent millions more auditing the environmental watchdog organizations who spoke out.

Despite all of this, the diversity and strength of opposition has even made BC’s senior Conservative Minister, James Moore, and Conservative Senator Richard Neufeld express reservations about Enbridge’s project.

Whether you support or assert First Nations rights and title, oppose oil tankers, love wild salmon, are tired of shipping jobs and raw resources overseas, want to stop tar sands expansion and global warming, believe in science, see all risk and little reward, and/or see our democracy being eroded for big oil interests, there are no shortage of reasons to oppose Northern Gateway.

Which is probably why Enbridge’s pipeline has now become so much more than a massive climate destroying toxic sludge pipe. Northern Gateway has become emblematic of the choice we need to make about the kind of future that we want to create together.

Do we bet our economy on rip-and-ship industries that have gone boom and bust over and over again? Do we keep building on a foundation of broken promises to communities and First Nations? Do we bury our heads in the sand while the salmon dwindle and our climate goes out of control?

Or, do we take a step back from this rigged table and create a new plan that brings people together as citizens to hold government accountable, strengthen our democracy and create a clean energy economy that’s built to last?

Three years ago, Harper’s 21 MPs in British Columbia gave him a winning hand in the 2011 election. But now, with two-thirds of British Columbians opposing the introduction of oil tankers on our north coast, that electoral math could start to look a lot different. An approval of Northern Gateway will put Harper’s BC caucus at risk, and by extension it could undermine the very real chance that of Harper winning another majority government.

If that’s the case, then how could they even consider approving it? Put yourself in their heads, and imagine that every time you hear one of those Enbridge ads on the radio you can convince yourself that a flood of corporate advertising is going to drown out any opposition.

Don’t let them hide behind a blank poker face. Let them know all bets are off when it comes to Enbridge’s project.

There will be people organizing in key federal ridings, there will be people launching court challenges, there will be people who are ready to put their bodies in front of the bulldozers. Northern Gateway will never be built.

This work is much bigger than Enbridge’s pipeline and super tankers. It’s about a movement that’s standing up for a better future. Let’s send a strong message now to give the 21 Conservative MPs one last chance to play their cards right.

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