Who decides what is in Canada’s best interest?
Northern Gateway has the potential to add $270 billion to Canada's GDP over the next 30 years
February 12, 2012
By Paul Stanway
Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines project
CALGARY, AB, Feb. 12, 2012/ Troy Media/ - Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to China underlines a potentially historic shift in Canada’s trading relationships, from an overwhelming focus on north-south trade with the United States to a broader, more stable model that would see Canada expanding trade with the growing markets of the Pacific Rim.
For the most trade-dependent nation in the G8, this is no small thing. It’s nothing less than an effort to maintain the prosperity that has also made Canada the fastest-growing nation in the G8 – and potentially an economic star of the 21st century.
Canada has ‘potential’
You notice that I keep saying ‘potentially’, and that’s because there’s a catch to ending our over-dependence on the U.S. and to opening up trade with the fastest-growing economies on the planet: we cannot at the moment connect our most valuable export – crude oil – with the people who are anxious to buy it.
This is a problem. Energy trade has become the cornerstone of Canada’s economy. In 2010 Canada’s single largest export was crude oil. We exported $50 billion worth of it – and nearly all of that went to just one customer: the U.S.
You don’t have to be an economist to understand that dependence on a single customer for our most valuable export cannot be in the national interest. In fact, demand for crude oil in the U.S. is expected to be flat, even declining over the years ahead. Our only market and it’s projected to get smaller!
Fortunately there is a solution to this problem. As the Energy Policy Institute of Canada has noted: ‘Added pipeline capacity to Canada’s west coast is critical if we are to add balance to our 99 per cent reliance on the U.S. as essentially our only export market. Such capacity will also be vital to realize competitive market value for the energy resources of western and northern Canada.’
This isn’t just an issue for the future. Every day that passes that we’re not able to access tidewater and the world energy market is a lost opportunity.
Right now Canada is selling its oil at a discount in a North American market that is already discounted off the world market. That adds up to millions of dollars a day and billions of dollars a year in royalties and taxes that Canadians are missing out on . . . money we will not have available to invest in education, health care, and looking after the tsunami of seniors that’s coming as Boomers like me retire.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project – to build an export pipeline from just north of Edmonton to the Pacific coast at Kitimat, BC – is not a silver bullet, but it can be part of a sensible, practical change in the way Canada’s manages its exports.
This one project has the potential to add $270 billion to Canada’s GDP over the next 30 years, generate $2.6 billion in local, provincial and federal government tax revenues, $4.3 billion in labour-related income, and provide $400 million in employment and contracts for Aboriginal communities and businesses.
Enbridge is confident that it can build and operate the Northern Gateway project safely, but we’re not asking anyone to just take our word for it. Right now we are in the midst of a federal review process that, over the coming months, is designed to examine – in public and in detail – all the engineering and environmental work we’ve put into the planning for Northern Gateway over almost 10 years.
Which is as it should be: It’s how we decide on major projects in Canada.
Right now, stories about opposition to Northern Gateway are in the media almost every day and it can be frustrating to see a decade of detailed planning dismissed, distorted or buried under a pile of misleading rhetoric. But a freewheeling public debate is how we come to a consensus in Canada, through open discussion and conversation.
Ultimately, Enbridge doesn’t own this issue and neither do those who are opposed. Canadians do.
What we want is for Canadians to be confident that, once a decision is made about the project, no stone was left unturned and no concern left unanswered.
Chocking off the ability to find markets
It’s also important for Canadians to understand the strategic goals of organizations opposed to Gateway and other export pipelines. Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, was quoted in the New York Times recently explaining that opposition to pipeline projects ‘is part of a broader effort to stop the expansion of the tar sands. It is based on choking off the ability to find markets for tar sands oil.’
Is ‘choking off’ our ability to move our most valuable export in Canada’s national interest? Is it in the interest of future generations of Canadians who will depend on oil revenue to sustain their prosperity and quality of life? You decide.
Paul Stanway is a veteran journalist and the Communications Manager for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines project.
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