Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, has been seeing a lot more of B.C. than his northern riding over the past few weeks as he takes his Take Back Our Coast tour around the province.
It’s Penticton’s turn Wednesday night, when Cullen holds a town hall meeting at the Shatford Centre to encourage people to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.
“First of all come out and hear what the project is. I do present it very plainly and factually,” said Cullen, adding that he wants people to make up their own minds.
“If people feel passionate about this, and most people do feel passionate about our great province, then get engaged.”
The effects of the pipeline, he said, should be the concern of everyone in the province, not just those in northern or coastal communities directly affected by the pipeline, which will pump raw bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to the coast.
The risks don’t outweigh the benefits, he said about the proposed 1,100 kilometre-long pipeline crossing two mountain ranges and passing through environmentally sensitive areas.
And the federal government, he continued, isn’t listening; in his opinion, it is intent on forcing the project through.
“In their desperate efforts to approve this one pipeline, the federal government has scrapped a whole series of laws, has attempted to bully local people, calling us names, like radicals and enemies of the state and suggested that local concerns don’t factor in,” said Cullen. “If they can go about approving projects like this one, the way they are approving it over the strong objections of local people, it would mean it is open season on small towns, not just across B.C., but across Canada.”
Besides the possibility of an environmental disaster inherent in shipping oil, Cullen is concerned Canada and B.C. will be shipping jobs along with the bitumen.
“This is bad economics, this is bad environmental policy, this is bad all around,” said Cullen.
“It seems to show a lack of confidence, a lack of intelligence, when we propose to export raw materials.
“To do it with the most valuable resource the country has seems like economic suicide.”
Strengthening ties with trade partners other than the U.S. is important, Cullen said, but internal trade shouldn’t be forgotten either.
“We import the vast majority of oil from the Middle East for Eastern Canada,” said Cullen, adding that he was in support of a west to east pipeline.
The benefits of adding value by refining the oil at home, he added, are also important.
Our ministers, when they are in Washington, talk about all the jobs there will be for Americans, in adding value and upgrading,” he said.
“I don’t understand why all those jobs couldn’t be added to our economy.
“We haven’t built or upgraded a refinery in 35 years in Canada.”
Cullen had intervener status during the hearings for the Enbridge pipeline and said that not only was local opposition ignored, the company and the government were short on answers when it came to basic questions, like whether a spill could be cleaned up, and the effect on the economy and way of life in affected areas.
“They wouldn’t even admit to the nature of bitumen, sinking or floating, which might sound like a small thing, but when you are talking to clean up companies, it is the only thing. It felt like that the whole way along, the process has been rigged,” said Cullen.
“It’s just not enough to yell at people and hope they go away. It’s not the Canadian way of making decisions.”
Cullen is holding his town hall meeting in the Shatford Centre auditorium starting at 7 p.m.