David Suzuki: Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline approval flies in the face of democracy and global warming

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      There was little doubt the federal government would approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, regardless of public opposition or evidence presented against it. The prime minister indicated he wanted the pipeline built before the Joint Review Panel hearings even began. Ad campaigns, opponents demonized as foreign-funded radicals, gutted environmental laws, and new pipeline and tanker regulations designed in part to mollify the B.C. government made the federal position even more clear.

      Canadian resource policy is becoming increasingly divorced from democracy. Two infamous omnibus bills eviscerated hard-won legislation protecting Canada's water and waterways and eased obstacles for the joint review process, which recommended approval of the $7.9-billion project, subject to 209 conditions. The government has now agreed to that recommendation. The time-consuming hearings and numerous stipulations surely influenced the government's decision to restrict public participation in future reviews, making it difficult for people to voice concerns about projects such as Kinder Morgan's plan to twin and increase capacity of its Trans Mountain heavy oil pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby from 300,000 to 900,000 barrels a day, with a corresponding increase in tanker traffic in and out of Vancouver.

      And to keep democracy out of fossil fuel industry expansion, the government switched decision-making from the independent National Energy Board to the prime minister’s cabinet.

      Probably the most egregious omission from the review process is the dismissal of impacts such as climate change and rapid tar sands expansion. Here’s how the panel justified not taking these into account: “We did not consider that there was a sufficiently direct connection between the project and any particular existing or proposed oil sands development or other oil production activities to warrant consideration of the effects of these activities.” As for climate change from burning the product, “These effects were outside our jurisdiction, and we did not consider them.”

      A pipeline to carry diluent from the coast to the tar sands to dilute bitumen that would then be carried back to the coast in another pipeline for export to world markets in supertankers does not have a “sufficiently direct connection” to the tar sands? And the impacts of the tar sands and its products on climate are not relevant to the project that makes these impacts possible? What the hell?

      This project should never go ahead. And not just because no amount of money will undo damage from pipeline or tanker spills and accidents along the route, the B.C. coast or the ocean, or that it is opposed by First Nations and other affected communities and lacks social licence—although those are strong enough reasons to stop it. The main reasons it and other pipeline projects shouldn’t be built are the very same ones the government and joint review panel refused to consider.

      Rapid tar sands expansion, increasing reliance on dirty fossil fuels and more infrastructure that ties us to them for decades contravene the need to protect the environment, human health, global climate systems and even economic resilience.

      Our choice is between ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence about the human contribution to climate change and pollution or changing our ways and reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependence. It’s about whether to join the green economy or pin our economic hopes on an increasingly risky industry. It’s about the kind of country—and planet—we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.

      The government has irresponsibly weakened democracy in its willful blindness to the most pressing economic and environmental issue of our time. The spectre of climate change means all humanity has a stake in the future of coal and oil. To avoid the worst impacts, we must shift to a zero-carbon-emissions energy system within the next few decades. Yet Canada doesn’t even have a national energy strategy! As Canadians witness how vulnerable our communities are to climate change impacts like increased intense precipitation and flooding, sea-level rise and risks to food production, demand will grow for solutions such as clean energy.

      Northern Gateway has received qualified government approval. The decision will now face First Nations court challenges and backlash from the majority of British Columbians and Canadians whose voices have so far been ignored. For the sake of our communities and the future of our children, let’s hope democracy prevails.



      400 ppm

      Jun 17, 2014 at 8:09pm

      Democracy? Who voted for the Conservatives into power, Lithuanians? Nope Canadians.

      Krista Hirschhofer

      Jun 18, 2014 at 9:17am

      I am not a scientist, just a concerned citizen of BC, and nature lover. What can I do to make my voice heard on this subject?


      Jun 18, 2014 at 10:05am

      >> Krista Hirschhofer

      Many people want a clear vision, a constructive path for society as a whole to take that would replace fossil fuels. Seven billion+ people want cheap clean vast amounts of energy, not chants and negativity that fossil fuels are bad. Spreading a positive message is what you can help with.

      We need to give people an alternative. Environmental activist Salim Zwein is campaigning to mass produce modular cheap and extremely clean Molten salt thorium nuclear reactors (no water coolant, no solid Pu-U core, no pressure reactor vessel, and so on). See his TEDx-Beirut talk - How Thorium can save the world:

      Even more heartening, is Kirk Sorenson's TEDx talk - Clean Safe Energy from Thorium:

      We need to give a positive message to everyone. Fossil fuel naysaying is not going to change the current disasterous course of society.


      Jun 18, 2014 at 11:20am

      Democracy is a majority vote. Special Interest groups are not democracies. Democractic systems take care of all society not just the special interest groups. How much will Canada lose without resource based infrastructure. What life our we leaving our children. More than half of us Environmentally conscious voters will return the Conservatives to power..that's how it works. It's not as black and white as people from both sides make it out to be. How long has the climate been changing for ? We will adapt and the world will be just fine.


      Jun 18, 2014 at 11:42am


      1) The Conservatives were NOT ELECTED WITH A MAJORITY VOTE. They only received 40% of the popular vote. They got a majority of the seats in parliament only because our electoral system is broken.

      2) A clear majority, 65% or so, of the public in BC does not want northern gateway built.

      3) "How much will Canada lose without resource based infrastructure."

      A recent IMF report estimated that 0.1% of Canada's GDP growth was attributable to the tar sands over the last 10 years. And the cost of all the pipelines being blocked would only be 0.5% of GDP over the next decade. And those benefits are almost all concentrated in Alberta. Outside of Alberta it barely matters at all.

      3) " How long has the climate been changing for ? We will adapt and the world will be just fine. "

      The climate has not changed much in the last 10,000 years - which by coincidence, is when we developed agriculture and civilizations. If we keep on the current course, it will change as much as it did with the last ice age. And MIT puts the odds of a change of 6-8c at 25%, which is the range of the permian-triassic thermal maximum about 250 million years ago, otherwise referred to as the "great dying".


      Jun 18, 2014 at 11:43am

      No one likes it and is popular to oppose but reality is we need it. One just needs to look at news in Iraq to see what is going to happen to the price of oil, perceived or manufactured, it is going to rise. I would like to know how many that showed up to the protest drove a vehicle, hypocrits. The best thing would be to ensure it meets the strictest regulations ever then hold your nose and get on with it.


      Jun 18, 2014 at 11:48am


      If the "reality is we need it", please explain to me why the pipeline goes to ports, to load the oil onto ships?

      I wonder what the correlation is between support for the pipelines and IQ.


      Jun 18, 2014 at 12:05pm

      Mr. Suzuki, do you use fossil fuels? Perhaps in heating your homes? http://www.torontosun.com/2013/10/10/david-suzuki-a-man-of-property Or perhaps in your vehicle? Or perhaps through the electricity your computer requires to write all these columns that slam the government for trying to create jobs for Canadians? Instead of slamming them, try helping to make sure the pipeline is as safe as possible, so that we can have jobs and security. I am sure that a man with your considerable education could help out. Or is the entire issue here one that boils down to this fossil fuel company isn't the one you partner with?

      It is time to quit blaming everybody for what is happening, and start trying to help make the reality safer for all. We are not all rich people with healthy bank accounts. Some of us need these jobs in order to survive day to day living.


      Jun 18, 2014 at 12:38pm


      Less than 2% of Canadians work in the petro sector. The tar sand's only contribute 0.1% to Canada's GDP growth.

      The rest of us manage to earn a living without f@ing up the planet, so can you. We don't owe you a job at the expense of our kid's future.

      Get off petrowelfare and get a real job.


      Jun 18, 2014 at 1:11pm


      LOL, I retired a few years ago. I don't know about you, but I have worked for all of my money, and have never been on "petrowelfare". I sure hope none of your family is in that sector of employment. Must be nice to be able to sit in on judgement of what your friends and neighbors do for a living. I also hope you're doing your share to reduce carbon emissions in this country.

      As for the "less than 2%", i don't suppose they spread their money around by purchasing anything, do they? So perhaps you need to focus on a bigger picture instead of just the few who actually are employed directly in the oil patch. Like maybe the fact that they purchase new homes (construction industry), or purchase new vehicles (automotive sector), etc. I could keep going, but it's obvious you have a high horse to ride, so I will let you get on with feeling sanctimonious.

      Have a nice day!!!