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An Alberta Look at Kitimat | Northern BC Business

An Alberta Look at Kitimat

Skeena River

Skeena River

From the Prince George Citizen

By Todd Whitcombe

Last week, CBC Radio West interviewed Jim Rennie, Mayor of Woodlands County, on his response to the non-binding plebiscite in Kitimat on the Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

On the whole, Mr. Rennie gave a reasonable and rational interview. He expressed his disappointment at the results but respected the choices that people in Kitimat have to make. As he put it, “we have different choices at this end of the pipeline”.Woodlands County has many pipelines running through it and they are quite comfortable with the associated risks. As he stated: “we’ve lived with the risks for decades and we are also quite comfortable with the rewards.”He went on to talk about the low unemployment rates and the lowest tax rates for municipalities in Alberta.

Yes, things look good at that end of the pipeline. But it has little to do with the pipelines themselves. His municipality doesn’t receive revenue from the pipe in the ground. Rather, the revenue arises from what flows through it.It also arises from the jobs that are created in both extracting and processing the petroleum. It is manufacturing jobs at the ends of the pipe that create wealth, not the pipe in-between.Unless the pipe leaks.

He went on to say: “When you are living the other end of it [the pipeline] where you’ve got this great opportunities, such as we have in Woodlands County, I was certainly surprised to see the vote come out with the results that it had.” “The proponents of Enbridge and all of the communities on the Alberta side have been looking at all of the opportunities that come with the pipeline … I thought there was support for this all around.”

He went on to say: “This pipeline is going to change the future of Canada and it is a shame when one community has said no to that.” CBC Radio West then went on to interview Alberta’s Energy Minister Diana McQueen. She also took a conciliatory route respecting the people of Kitimat and their decision. Then she spent a great deal of time talking about how “we” need to convince the people of Kitimat that the 209 conditions will be met.

It is a strange thing for a politician to speak repeatedly about how “we” need to do things when it is the company, Enbridge, that is the proponent. This is one of the troubling aspects of this whole case. The way the Minister was speaking, it is not a for-profit private company that is building the pipeline but the whole government of Alberta. Indeed, the whole province of Alberta.

Maybe even the whole country of Canada.When did the interests of a corporation supersede the interests of the people? When did we switch over from our governments representing the people of our municipalities, our provinces, and our country to representing the interests of private corporations?

I understand that we need companies operating within our economy. But ensuring that corporations can take on new ventures should be the job of the corporations, not government ministers.But perhaps the most telling part of the interview is when the Minister was asked about support along the pipeline route in Alberta. Her response was: “Certainly a great deal of support for it in the province. We recognize this is an important project for us to get to market access, to receive a higher value for our products in Alberta but also an important project for British Columbia when we look at the number of jobs and also for Canada as a whole.”

There is the crux. Alberta has a commodity. They have no way to get it to market because they are trapped by the Free Trade Agreement with the United States that makes shipping it south less profitable.They want to use British Columbia as a bridge to get to an outlet where they hope to make more money. Indeed, by many estimates, the oil companies in Alberta will receive somewhere around $30-40 more per barrel of oil and the Alberta Government will take their slice of that profit.But what will be the people of Kitimat get?

More jobs – although the number of jobs seems to be quite fluid depending upon when you look at the proposal. And a huge mess if anything goes wrong.In between Alberta and Kitimat, there is not a lot of benefit for British Columbians although fixing the pipeline when it breaks will result in some revenue.No. The benefits are not equally distributed between the provinces. Not even close.However, I do think that Mr. Harper and his Conservative government will approve the proposal. They will use the same language about how “we” have to do this for the good of the country.I only hope that Premier Clark charges a hefty toll for every barrel that flows across our land.



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Posted by on 4:21 pm. Filed under Alternative Energy, Economic Development, Featured, First Nations, Kitimat, North Coast, North East, Oil & Gas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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