Premier Christy Clark has us in an argument that we should never be in – more money for B.C. and better environmental protection from spills in exchange for our approval of the Enbridge pipeline.
With respect, my headline for a blog in the Common Sense Canadian says it all: “Clark has B.C. behaving like a prostitute on Enbridge, only dickering over price.”
Which is exactly what has happened. (Interestingly, out of some 10,000 who read this article, two, both men incidentally, were outraged at what they saw as sexism, unable, it seems, to understand clear, uncomplicated English naming B.C., certainly not Ms. Clark, as the hooker.)
Let me make clear why it is we shouldn’t get into a fight over money.
There are four inescapable truths we must never lose sight of. First, there will be spills or ruptures in the 1,177 km. pipeline through the Rockies, the Coast Range and the Great Bear Rain Forest. Enbridge averages a spill every five days and no matter what new safeguards it brings to the table, there will be, by the company’s own admission, spills.
Secondly, we’re not dealing with ordinary crude oil here but bitumen, a black gooey gunk that sinks like a stone. The Kalamazoo spill of two years ago, in an accessible area, has not been cleaned up to this day and never will be in its entirety.
Thirdly, these spills will occur in remote areas barely accessible by helicopters let alone heavy equipment. To talk of higher environmental standards is rot, highly dangerous rot designed to detract from the obvious point I have just made – it’s physically impossible to deal with these spills no matter how accessible.
Fourthly, we’re talking serial spills — they will be ongoing and add to the degradation that has already taken place.
Let’s look at tanker traffic. Douglas Channel this is not only breathtakingly beautiful; it is narrow and treacherous.
With oodles of tugs surrounding them the risk of a spill is greatly reduced. But these safeguards are an admission that the risks are there.
Moreover, there have been at least four double-hulled vessels go down in the last couple of years, two of them this year, In May of this year, the double-hulled tanker Bunga Kelana 3 spilled 2.9 million litres of crude into the waters off Singapore after being struck by a freighter.
Last January, the double-hulled tanker Eagle Otome spilled 1.7 million litres of crude oil at Port Arthur, Texas after a collision with a barge.
Who would have thought a B.C. Ferry would sink? Yet the Queen of the North sank on March 22, 2006 due to human error, in this case, negligence.
I believe the real issue here is the character of the stuff that will spill. Unlike the Exxon Valdez on March of 1989, we’re talking about a cargo that is many times as toxic and all but impossible to deal with. When you consider the fact that the Exxon Valdez spill has not been fully cleaned up, the horrors of a bitumen spill takes on even more terrifying proportions.
Under these circumstances, Premier Clark’s plea for more money and better environmental safeguards is idiotic.
Despite Alberta premier Redford’s firm denial she will come around, and the bribe from the feds, Alberta and industry will be there.
Premier Redford, some months ago, offered to help build the necessary wharves in Kitimat which seems to me to be akin to having an offer to prepare your grave and headstone if you would just be good enough to commit suicide.
There is a bigger argument against this ghastly pipeline and its resulting tanker traffic. Is the province of B.C. really going to sell its soul for a mess of pottage?
Do we have so little regard for our heritage that we will see it, spill by spill, become an ecological disaster?
This is the dangerous trap Premier Clark has fallen into. It has nothing to do with the welfare of our province and everything to do with saving the B.C. Liberal Party. Having sat on the fence so long, her political advisors pushed her into getting some political mileage of a big time loser.
How much better and more statesmanlike it would have been if she had said “this is not a partisan question but one for all British Columbians – we join with the opposition to take a non partisan approach of ‘no pipeline under any circumstances.’
Rafe Mair writes for The Daily News every other week.