Are the Conservatives making Northern Gateway pipeline hearings irrelevant? – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – January 18, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA—Provincial premier or pipeline protester, you had a common plight Tuesday. You both found yourself in British Columbia, pushing back against that immovable object, Stephen Harper.

At their waterfront hotel in Victoria, most premiers took turns over two days spitting disdain at Harper’s 10-year, no-strings-attached health-care funding plan presented to their finance ministers — without debate — last month.

Harper was unmoved.

In an interview with CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge, he told the provinces to get on with health-care innovation (they did) and stop obsessing about money.

“I hope that we can put the funding issue aside, and they can concentrate on actually talking about health care, because that’s the discussion we’ll be having,’’ he said.

Over on the mainland, National Energy Board hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline project were resuming at the Island Gospel Fellowship Church in Burns Lake.

On this, too, Harper appears unshakeable, but his comments on the Gateway project deserve more scrutiny.

It appears he is undermining the work of an independent panel that is hearing aboriginal and environmental objections to the $5.5 billion project that would run from Edmonton to the Pacific, from where Alberta’s oil could be shipped across to Asian markets.

Harper is likely just over a month away from watching Barack Obama put a final bullet in the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline project, leaving U.S. supporters to either seek a congressional mandate to have it completed or hope for the ascension of Republican Mitt Romney to the White House in November.

Obama has had another deadline of Feb. 21 forced on him by Republicans, but the White House has said that did not leave time for a proper environmental assessment in Nebraska, all but hastening the death warrant for the project.

For Harper, this was a “wake-up call,” so much so, that he appears prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure a Keystone repeat will not be played out in Canada’s west.

Unlike his more volatile natural resources minister, Joe Oliver, Harper works at not overplaying his hand.

But Mansbridge asked Harper if his unrelenting support for Keystone made approval of the project a fait accompli.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/article/1117139–tim-harper-are-the-conservatives-making-northern-gateway-pipeline-hearings-irrelevant

 

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