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Northern Gateway gets federal approval

But what does that mean?

Jun 17, 2014

by Michael Ganley

To perhaps nobody’s surprise, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given his government’s blessing to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.

The Prime Minister and his colleagues have argued strenuously and repeatedly in favour of the pipeline over the last couple of years, and last December the National Energy Board, which had conducted hearings into the pipeline, recommended that it be approved by the federal government. The approval remains conditional on Enbridge meeting the 209 conditions imposed by the NEB decision.

This, of course, is hardly the end of the road. The pipeline is fiercely opposed by many people in B.C. and beyond. The pipeline crosses the traditional territory of dozens of First Nations, many of which are opposed to it, and many of which have never ceded their traditional territory through any type of land claim settlement. Any attempt to force the pipeline across its proposed route is sure to lead to litigation, which could hold up the pipeline for many years. As we saw with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, a delay in construction of that long can lead to such a project becoming uneconomical for the proponents and getting permanently shelved.

Quite simply, Northern Gateway is neither the first nor the last word with respect to the future development of the oil sands.

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