Heather Conn Blogs

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The Northern Gateway Project: Which conversation of “facts” will you join?

This week, The Vancouver Sun ran in multiple papers a three-quarter-page ad from Enbridge, the U.S. corporation behind the Northern Gateway project. Enbridge plans to build 1,200 kilometres of pipeline across northern B.C. from Alberta’s Tar Sands project to Kitimat on the coast. This would end British Columbia’s current moratorium on related tanker traffic and open up a vast, pristine area, including the Great Bear Rainforest, to more than 200 oil tankers a year.

(For more background on this project, see my archived post “No oil tankers on B.C. coast,” Dec. 1, 2009 under Environment on this blog.)

These ads are a prelude to the public hearings about the Northern Gateway project, to be held from January to March 2012 in some of the northern communities situated along the suggested pipeline route.

I wrote a letter to The Sun in response to these ads, which I didn’t really expect them to publish, since it criticizes an advertiser. Here’s what I said:

“I wanted to point out how your repeat ad from Enbridge executive vice-president Janet Holder is a wonderful example of doublespeak. The most telling line is the following: ‘We fully accept the responsibility of earning your trust and confidence regarding the high standards and expectations of this project.’ This phrase implies that the go-ahead for the Northern Gateway oil pipeline is already a fait accompli. Therefore, the invitation to ‘join the conversation’ is really just another way of saying: ‘We want you to see it our way.’


“I applaud the initiative to host public hearings and have open dialogue. However, this so-called open letter by no means gives the impression that if enough people speak out against the Northern Gateway project at the hearings, Enbridge will not move forward with it. Sure, the company might have ‘a long tradition of listening to all opinions,’ but how many of those opinions made them stop their actions? Such use of language would make even Orwell blush, if he was still around. In response, I offer a simple saying learned in the schoolyard: ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say.’


The letter by Holder says: “I invite you to engage in the conversation based on informed, knowledge-based opinions, which are grounded in balanced facts and realities.” This means “facts” like those presented on the Northern Gateway Facts website, facts like “the chances of a marine mishap are very unlikely.”


Is that less or more unlikely than the Michigan oil spill caused by Enbridge  in July 2010? The rupture of a 30-inch piece of pipeline released 819,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River and carried oil 30 miles downstream this Lake Michigan tributary.


For real facts on the Northern Gateway project, I recommend the book Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent by Andrew Nikiforuk and any of his related articles. To learn more about the impact of this pipeline project on marine life, fragile waterways, and First Nations livelihoods, please see the website for Pacific Wild.

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December 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm Comments (0)