Just days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's senior B.C. minister slammed Enbridge over its Northern Gateway pipeline project, Harper himself said the project will be decided on its own merits, not politics.
While his comments were made in reaction to B.C. Premier's Christy Clark's stance demanding B.C. get more than an eight per cent share of the benefits, they underscore a B.C.-Ottawa rift that the project has created, with Harper's own senior minister on the B.C. side of the argument.
Last week, Conservative Heritage Minister James Moore criticized Enbridge for its poor environmental track record and for failing to properly respond to public concerns over the Northern Gateway project.
"This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public and to answer those very legitimate questions about the way in which they've operated their business," Moore said.
But on Aug. 7, Harper — who was in Vancouver to announced changes to EI benefits for parents of sick kids — said megaprojects like the $6 billion Northern Gateway proposal and Kinder Morgan's $4 billion plan to twin the Trans Canada pipeline would be decided by science, not politics.
"The only way governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically, and not simply on political criteria," Harper said. "The government does not pick and choose particular projects. The projects have to be evaluated on their own merits."
Opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline project continues to gather momentum. The United Church is considering a resolution that the church officially opposes the project, and hundreds of First Nations gathered in Fort McMurray for a "healing walk" in the oil sands. Participants included key First Nations from B.C., including the Heiltsuk, Yinka Dene and Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
The Canadian Energy Research Institute recently calculated that Ontario would get more economic benefits from the Northern Gateway project than B.C., as Ontario would supply much of the steel and other resources needed to build the 1,177-kilometre pipeline.
The Gateway project is currently under review by a joint panel of the National Energy Board and Environment Canada. The Harper government has set Dec. 31, 2013 as the deadline for the panel to conclude its review.