Editor, The Gazette:
At the end of May I attended a “Gateway Pipeline Project Proposal” information meeting in Grand Forks. The guest speaker was Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, where a large section of the proposed pipeline would be situated.
As the issue is debated, the general public is kept in the dark about the true impacts of the pipeline and the real figures regarding jobs and the benefits and losses to the communities and the environment along the way.
Here are some facts:
• We are not talking of one 1,200-kilometre pipeline. There are two pipelines in the proposal: one to carry the bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat and the other, alongside, to carry the chemicals necessary to dilute the bitumen so it can flow in the pipe, from Kitimat to Alberta.
• The biggest exporter of bitumen through the pipeline is a Chinese-owned company.
• There is no value added to the export of raw bitumen.
• The tankers bringing and picking up the products, the largest in the world, are foreign owned.
• Navigating through Hecate Straight and Douglas Channel is treacherous—remember the Queen of the North, a small ship in comparison. The tankers will need towing by tugboats, at times, as the turns they must make are too sharp to navigate.
• The cleanup of bitumen spills in the ocean is quasi-impossible. Unlike oil that floats to the surface and is collected with booms, bitumen sinks to the bottom. The proposal admits that, with cooperating seas and weather, only 15 per cent could be collected in the event of leaks/spills.
• The owners of the pipeline have had over 900 leaks and spills in the past on their pipelines.
• There is a ceiling on the amount the owners are responsible to fork out in the event of a spill. The public will be paying after.
• Hecate Straight and Douglas Channel contain pristine and unique flora and fauna in addition to many parks and protected areas.
• The jobs created to build the pipelines are short-lived and foreign workers will fill many, as Canada does not presently have enough trained workers available to satisfy its trades job market. Despite both federal and provincial governments talk about job training programs, B.C. and Canada are doing very little to train Canadians.
In the rush to extract natural resources, it is cheaper and faster for industry and government to get already-trained foreign workers.
• After the pipeline is built, the full-time positions created in the communities are only slightly greater than presently employed by the Grand Forks Sawmill, around 143 jobs.
• The fishing industry and jobs derived presently from the Skeena River and its tributaries are worth millions of dollar annually. The tourism industry of the area is also a big employer.
• The royalties paid to our governments by the oil companies are some of the lowest in the world, comparable to Nigeria.
What benefits are there for us in this proposal? They seem much greater for multi-national companies, big business and politicians then for British-Columbians and Canadians. We can still make a difference!