The big news is that, after months of dodging and dancing, the B.C. Liberal government finally has taken a position on the Enbridge pipeline proposal. The question is: Was it worth the wait?
Approval of the project hinges on five conditions, two of which sound like spin rather than stipulation; namely, consultation with First Nations and an environmental assessment. These are already mandates of the National Energy Board. As well, Enbridge has been offering First Nations "opportunities to benefit" for several months now. So, nothing new there.
Then there are two demands dealing with "world class" land and water oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems. It sounds good, especially since it is based on the principle of "polluter pays."
But, when all is said and done, the best safeguards in the world won't prevent oil spills, much less repair the damage to ecosystems. And Enbridge's record is far from exemplary. So, the polluter may pay, but money can be replaced. The environment cannot.
The final condition seeks payment for the risk to the environment posed by a pipeline and tankers carrying heavy crude. To that end, the provincial government has demanded a "fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits" of the Enbridge project and "other proposals for heavy oil pipelines." It is here that the government - and Premier Clark personally - stumbled badly. Alberta's Premier Alison Redford made two telling points. First, B.C. has the necessary fiscal means to get the economic benefits it seeks and, secondly, inasmuch as the pipeline is a commercial venture, B.C. should negotiate with Enbridge, not the Alberta or federal governments. Clark, however, wouldn't budge. Redford then suggested Clark's concerns possibly could be addressed as part of an agreement on a national energy strategy. That idea was rejected as well.
So, at the end of the day, although our premier says she wants to negotiate a price for B.C.'s approval of the Enbridge pipeline project, she made it clear that it's her way or no way. It got headlines, that's for sure. But I very much doubt it will get her what she wants.
On the other hand, maybe it did.
Bill Brassington, Burnaby