There is something disingenuous regarding the position BC Premier Christy Clark is taking regarding the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. Ms. Clark has indicated that she is opposed to the proposed pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, unless British Columbians get their “fair share”. Yet “fair share” remains undefined and nebulous.
If she truly believed that BC was entitled to compensation for assuming land and marine risk regarding a potential oil spill, presumably she should be able to put a price tag on the alleged entitlement to financial compensation. But she can’t because the proposed damage is speculative. Major projects will go through a thorough and rigorous environmental review before they are allowed to move forward. An oil spill hopefully will be non-existent, it could be minor or it could be catastrophic; but it cannot be predicted and therefore cannot be calculated in advance. Accordingly, she is claiming compensation in advance for damages that are incalculable, speculative and if the project is properly regulated, non-existent.
Moreover, the Premier is incorrect when she claims that BC gets only 8% of the benefit but assumes almost of all of the risk. In actuality, it is Enbridge, the owner of the line, which would be 100% liable for any potential problems. BC taxpayers face no risk or liability if there is a spill. So according to her own numbers, the taxpayers of BC will receive at least some of the benefit but the financial risk involving a clean-up is borne by the owner, not by the taxpayers.
I am aware Environmentalists will correctly argue that there are intangible and incalculable environmental costs following a spill. I don’t disagree that if a pristine mountain lake is ruined by gushing bitumen, no amount of financial compensation will restore the lake. As a former insurance lawyer, I know all too well the limitations of financial compensation. But financial compensation is what the BC Premier is asking for; implying that enough money indeed would compensate for environmental ruin.
And that is what is truly troubling about the position Christy Clark has assumed. If she truly believes that the possible risks of a pipeline outweigh the $6B in proposed benefits, than she should oppose it unequivocally. That is the apparent position of the BC Opposition Leader Adrian Dix; a position shared by federal NDP Opposition Environmental Critic, Megan Leslie. They oppose the Northern Gateway Project full stop. I disagree with their position but at least I respect them for taking an unequivocal position and having the courage of their conviction to stand by it.
That is quite different from the position of the BC Premier. She apparently has environmental concerns. Fair enough, but she has publically stated that for enough money or BC’s “fair share”, she will give the project her blessing. The BC Premier is stating that her supposed concern for the environment has an undisclosed price tag. I am being kind when I call her position “disingenuous”.