Work together on Gateway, for prosperity’s sake – by Mike Harris (Globe and Mail – July 7, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Mike Harris, former premier of Ontario, is a senior business adviser at Fasken Martineau and a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.

Canada is a resource nation. In every region, its natural resource sectors, including mining, forestry, energy and oil and gas, support vital social programs and provide stable, well-paying jobs.

However, regardless of their economic contributions, major infrastructure projects face intense scrutiny – as they should. In order to proceed, these projects must balance economic development with environmental and safety protections.

Consider, as just one example, the Northern Gateway pipeline, recently approved by the federal government. Since being proposed more than a decade ago, the project’s journey hasn’t always been easy. It has faced tough criticism. But thoughtful debate has taken place and ideas have been exchanged that have resulted in a better pipeline proposal.

As a former premier, I know first-hand the experience of fighting for economic development for your province and its people, but not to the detriment of local communities and the environment. Receiving social licence for resource projects must be the leading objective for proponents; public input and consultations are paramount.

In 1999, my government introduced Ontario’s Living Legacy, a provincial strategy that added 378 new parks and protected areas totalling 2.4 million hectares. The strategy allowed for more than 65,000 Ontarians to express their opinion on the use of Crown lands. We worked hard to ensure the province’s forests met the needs of all concerned, including anglers, hunters, naturalists, and cottagers, as well as industry. Consultation with aboriginal peoples was critical.

The overarching objective was balancing Ontarians’ needs and expectations with those of industry, providing for greater land and resource use certainty. In short, we were working to ensure that projects had social licence.

In British Columbia, Premier Christy Clark deserves credit for putting forward tough but fair conditions that must be met for all heavy oil projects in B.C. They include environmental reviews, marine oil-spill response, land oil-spill prevention, aboriginal engagement and economic benefits that reflect the risk borne by the province. Ms. Clark is ensuring that no project is built without meeting the needs and interests of B.C. and British Columbians. Northern Gateway has committed to meeting her conditions.

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