Enbridge’s track record hardly encouraging

Premier Christy Clark may talk tough on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, but she isn’t fooling my mom.

Premier Christy Clark may talk tough on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, but she isn’t fooling my mom.

Those who read last week’s column know that when Clark visited Sicamous last Monday, I had an opportunity to ask her some questions about the province’s response in terms of disaster relief. I was also able to follow through with a request from my mom to ask the premier to consider putting the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline question to referendum. Clark said the province didn’t have enough information to consider going there just yet, but called it an interesting idea.

Clark also implied that so long as British Columbians “get their fair share,” they are in favour of the proposal that would have oil piped from Alberta to Kitimat for shipping overseas. My mom, apparently, is not among them.

Now, before I continue, allow me to throw out this disclaimer. Mrs. Labere, my mom,  is not some tree-hugging, anti-development BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything). Her dalliances with politics, local or provincial, typically don’t extend much further than reading the Vancouver Sun each morning (and the odd issue of the Eagle Valley News). That said, her opinion of the B.C. Liberals has been on the wane for a while now. Still, when I passed along Clark’s reply, for some reason I had expected a somewhat less indignant response. My mom, you see, is convinced Clark’s much publicized stand-off on the pipeline is but another photo op, and that minds are already made up.

“That’s what her party wants and not what the people want, and it seems everyone has already made up their mind in the media and in politics,” my mom concluded.

I don’t think she was including me in that broad brushstroke. Not that I doubt there’s good press to be had by the premier with her hard-line position on the pipeline. But it is it not also her job to put B.C. first, and not bend to Alberta or Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Interestingly, Harper’s heritage minister, James Moore, has publicly stated that Clark is in the right, “that just because British Columbia is physically the Asia-Pacific gateway, it doesn’t mean that we’re a doormat for companies like Enbridge to think that they can go ahead and do business without having due diligence and taking care of the public’s interest.”

On the other hand, we have to ask is getting our fair share enough when it comes to an oil spill, if and when it happens, be it onland  or along our coastal shores? Enbridge’s record for ongoing maintenance and spill response hasn’t been exemplary. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s recently released its final report on Enbridge’s 2010 spill in Michigan, where a ruptured pipeline leaked 877,000 gallons of tar sands crude into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. The scathing report says Enbridge’s approach to safety was inadequate, and their response insufficient.

Within weeks of the report’s release, Enbridge was mopping up another leak, this time in Wisconsin.

One of Clark’s conditions, to be met prior to B.C. accepting the pipeline, is a requirement of “world-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems…”  A similar condition exists for marine spills, suggesting Enbridge’s track record may be overshadowing their safety assurances.

As for the referendum question, I’m not entirely convinced it’s the right direction. Politicians are elected for a reason. However, I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of an oil spill, such as the one in Michigan, happening in my province – my backyard.