Of Summertime and Pipelines

From the Editor

Of Summertime and Pipelines

No matter what the time of year, I love the great outdoors. Spending time in the comfort of nature helps me stay motivated and centred. Once the weather warms to its August highs, Canada’s pristine wilderness is more accessible than ever—and thousands of Canadians make the trek to enjoy the sweet gift that nature provides.

As I write, Bill C-38 has just been passed by Parliament. So complex was the bill that the outcomes to our environment, resource development, and fisheries laws are not yet fully clear, but a considerable amount of regulatory downgrade in these areas is certain. It will add to an already complex argument between resource development and environmental protection.

In June, 475,000 litres of light sour crude leaked from an Alberta pipeline into the Red Deer River. Having grown up in Alberta, I know this river well. I’m sad to see the cruel effects of this breakdown in pipeline infrastructure. Unfortunately, such breakdowns are not uncommon.

According to recent news reports, leaks and spills from pipelines are more common than most of us think. A June 14 article in the Financial Post stated, “Industry figures show the oil that spilled last week is only the tip of the slick. Since 2006, the volume of hydrocarbons accidentally released from pipelines has never been less than 3.4 million litres a year—the equivalent of the second-largest spill in Alberta history, repeated annually.” If accurate, that’s an outrageous number.

Bad press like that is likely behind the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project’s multi-million dollar public relations campaign in British Columbia to combat staunch opposition from environmentalists. The project’s tagline? “It’s more than a pipeline. It’s a path to the future.”

The question is, once we head down that path, what does the future look like for our pristine wilderness? Enthusiasts of this and other pipelines (including the Canadian Government) have moved to defend modern pipeline safety and to smear dissenters as radicals.

Clearly, the numbers in Alberta tell a different tale of pipeline safety. So what’s radical about raising your voice to protect Canada’s beauty and resources for future generations?

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is a 1,700-kilometre pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to British Columbia’s northern coast. It has the potential to wreak havoc on some of Canada’s most untouched wilderness.

Not only will the proposed pipeline cross an estimated 1,000 salmon-bearing and freshwater streams, it will also pass across mountains, through rainforests, and into First Nations territories before reaching the port of Kitimat, where its contents are to be pumped into supertankers. These tankers will travel through Hecate Strait, cited by the Feds as the fourth most dangerous in the world for navigation due to shallow water, strong tides, and rapidly changeable weather.

My concern, and the concern of millions of Canadians, revolves around that path to the future—will there be any true pristine wilderness left when our children and grandchildren get there?

Radical or not, we must be stewards of our environment. Our collective opposition to projects that could negatively impact the land we love can help to ensure that the best possible practices are in place, even if that project goes ahead.

Next time you’re enjoying Canada’s pristine wilderness, take a moment to think about which path you want Canada to take to its future. We all have a voice, and we all deserve a say.

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