Energy Ink

Joe Oliver issues a bold challenge on Northern Gateway

Can't let 'unlawful people oppose lawful development,' minister says

December 06, 2011

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Photo: Joey Podlubny

No one can accuse federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver of lacking gusto in his advocacy for Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline. Reaching new markets is “good for Alberta, it’s good for Canada and we’re fully supportive of that effort,” he told Alberta Oil earlier this year.

A former investment banker, Oliver has emerged as something of a western champion since being appointed to cabinet following the election of Stephen Harper’s majority government last spring. In an interview last summer, he was hopeful that the Gateway application would be “handled as expeditiously as possible.”

That desire would seem to have deepened considerably. Already a hotly contested project, Gateway was thrust onto the national stage care of the U.S. State Department, which said this fall that it would delay any decision on another export pipeline from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast until after the U.S. presidential election. The Joint Review Panel established to review the Enbridge project won’t issue a decision before late 2013, Claudia Cattaneo at the Financial Post reports. But Oliver, left spurned by political machinations south of the border, appears more determined than ever to ensure the Enbridge project does not suffer the same fate as Keystone XL. “We can’t let unlawful people oppose lawful development,” he told Peter O’neil at the Edmonton Journal.

Gateway is not Keystone XL. The former is under the purview of Canada’s National Energy Board, while TransCanada was teased along by a president facing re-election and thus in no hurry to make a controversial decision.

Yet one can’t help but wonder about the wisdom of issuing what amounts to a naked challenge to a province whose ardent greens have a demonstrated penchant for chaining themselves to trees. Is Oliver’s memory really so short? We are not that far removed, after all, from the “environmental powder keg,” as the CBC called it, that erupted over plans to log some 200,000 hectares of old-growth forest at Clayoquot Sound in the mid-1990s.

Vicky Husband, then-chair of the Sierra Club of Western Canada in Victoria, predicted the uproar over clear-cut logging would blossom into a “global campaign.”

“The world is watching, there is a spotlight on Clayoquot Sound,” she told the radio program As It Happens.

Have a listen to the full interview from the CBC archives and try not to think of the coming storm over Gateway.

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