In November 1942, as the British triumphed over Axis forces in Africa, Winston Churchill said: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
The people at Enbridge might well say the same thing after the Joint Review Panel which recommended approval - well, approval with more than 200 conditions attached, at least - of the Northern Gateway Pipeline project on Thursday.
The report, while legally required, is going to be almost completely irrelevant to whether or not this project is approved. It will not convince anyone who is opposed to the pipeline and its myriad of conditions will not dissuade anyone who is in favour.
The federal cabinet's decision doesn't have to take any of it into account when it makes its final decision in the next 180 days. And those opposed to the pipeline have already made it clear that they will continue to seek to stop the mine, even after federal approval, "by any means necessary," in the words of B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip on CBC Radio on Friday.
Not to say that the months of hearings and thousands of submissions are useless; they are simply not the final authority.
By the same token, when a ruling goes against a proponent, proponents often challenge the process that led to the decision, as Taseko recently did over the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel's assessment of the New Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake.
Again, the approval process is not the be-and and end-all, it is the prelude to the real decision, which, again, will be made by the federal cabinet.
And we think that will ring true for the Ajax mine approval process as well when it gets underway. Whether the formal review mechanism is provincial or federal, whether it recommends
approval or rejection, its findings will not bring consensus or closure.
What it will provide is the information which will go into the final decision, which will rest exactly where it should - in the hands of our elected officials.
Which means that when it comes to Ajax, we're not even near the middle of the beginning.
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