Residents of British Columbia, Canada are pushing back against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, a 731-mile twin pipeline project that, if given final approval, would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Canada’s west coast.
On Saturday, residents of Kitimat, B.C. — the last stop of the proposed pipeline’s route — voted no to the pipeline’s construction in a non-binding ballot. Until this vote, Kitimat as a whole hadn’t voiced an opinion on the pipeline — now, the city council will discuss the vote in their meeting this week to decide what else, if anything, the city should do about the project.
“The people have spoken. That’s what we wanted — it’s a democratic process,” Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said in a release.
About 58 percent of Kitimat residents voted no to the pipeline, which was approved by a federal review panel in December on the condition that Enbridge meets 209 conditions, many of which are environment-related but none of which directly address climate change or carbon pollution. If built, one pipeline would transport up to 525,000 barrels of tar sands oil each day from Alberta to British Columbia, while the other would carry 193,000 barrels of condensate, which is used to dilute the oil, back to Alberta each day.
CREDIT: Enbridge, www.gatewayfacts.ca
Some in Kitimat say that Enbridge poured money into pro-pipeline advertising as an attempt to sway the city’s vote, running ads that focused on the jobs the project would create. Murray Minchin, spokesman for the anti-pipeline group Douglas Channel Watch, told the Financial Post that Enbridge’s failed attempts show how serious Kitimat residents are in their rejection of the pipeline.
“It disproves the power of advertising,” he said. “It also proves you can’t buy social licence, which is what Enbridge attempted to do. That message is now echoing in the halls of Ottawa.”
Kitimat residents weren’t the only ones to call for the rejection of Northern Gateway this weekend. On Saturday, more than 300 people gathered in Burnaby, B.C.’s Forest Grove Park to protest the pipeline. The protesters then marched about three and a half miles of the proposed route of the pipeline, carrying signs that read “Big oil is killing us” and “Clean water worth more to us over dirty oil.”
“It’s the people of the community standing up and saying we’re going to be listened to,” Kennedy Stewart, the Member of Parliament for North Burnaby, told the Burnaby Newsleader. “There’s no more fooling the public.”
First Nations groups, many of which have already been vocal in their opposition to the project, also reinforced their rejection of the pipeline over the weekend. A group of First Nations leaders, who represent a quarter of the land in the pipeline’s proposed route, met with Canadian officials Friday to voice their concerns about the pipeline.
“We do not, we will not, allow this pipeline,” Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of the Nak’azdli First Nation, said during the meeting. “We’re going to send the message today to the federal government and to the company itself: their pipeline is dead. Under no circumstances will that proposal be allowed.”
The vote makes clear that a majority of the town disapproves of the pipeline, but it does not make clear that the federal government has to listen to them.
The Canadian government is expected to decide in June whether or not to approve Northern Gateway.