Dead pipeline walking – by Tex Enemark (National Post – October 19, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Tex Enemark, former president of the Mining Association of B.C. and a former B.C. deputy ­minister, is a Vancouver-based public-policy consultant who does political risk assessments and strategic planning.

Northern Gateway dead as Enbridge had no grasp of B.C. reality

I told a friend of mine — a retired pipeline executive — that I was writing a column on why the Enbridge pipeline project failed. He responded, “A column? You could write a book!”

Enbridge ought to have studied the history of large B.C. projects that failed when faced with the combined influences of native unhappiness and British Columbia’s environmental protest industry. The Alcan expansion project of the 1980s was killed by the Mulroney government after more than $2-billion had been spent over about eight years.

The huge Windy Craggy copper-cobalt mine in northwest B.C. was sidelined into limbo by the Social Credit government in 1989, then neutralized by park designation by the NDP in 1993. Northgate’s Kemess North copper-gold mine was turned down by the provincial Liberals in 2007. These project cancellations were not associated with any one political party.

In each case, company executives located outside the province and with no grasp of B.C. political reality were warned by their B.C. consultants and each was given a strategy for addressing the issues. They all ignored the advice. Enbridge could also have benefited by studying the forest industry’s smaller, less spectacular failures involving environmental issues and native protests — everything from Haida Gwaii to the Great Bear rain forest to the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Flathead Valley. The list goes on.

Because native land claims are not being dealt with in good faith, and there is a strong environmental movement, B.C. can be a treacherous place for ill-thought-out projects.

Enbridge then ought to have consulted widely among people in B.C. with some experience in such matters, including B.C.-based pipeline companies. They would have learned to run the project out of B.C. and, if the office had to be in Vancouver, a very large satellite office should have been located in Prince George. Small storefront offices, staffed by local people, should have been established along the pipeline route to listen, to educate, and to reach out.

And Enbridge would have learned that the very fewest Albertans, with their oil-industry, Calgary-centric thinking, should be involved, other than in a technical capacity.

At that point, it would have been clear to them five years ago that, until the native land claims in at least Northern B.C. have been addressed, and there is a framework for engagement, and until there is certainty of aboriginal rights and title, this project was just not going to happen. Also, the company would have learned that there has to be public confidence in everything environmental.

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