Pipeline debate best left to Canadians: B.C. premier
Published Sunday, January 15, 2012 4:51PM EST
When it comes to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, British Columbia's premier says the debate and decision is best left to Canadians.
"I don't think Canadians benefit from foreign meddling in our decisions," B.C. Premier Christy Clark told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.
The twin pipeline project, which would move bitumen from Alberta to coastal B.C., has divided Canadians and caught the attention of observers in the U.S. and beyond.
Clark's comment comes almost a week after Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver issued a letter accusing "radical" environmentalists of trying to undermine Canadian interests. He later clarified his position, saying he was referring to groups receiving funding from American sources.
Though Clark didn't ask outright for U.S.-backed environmental groups to butt out of the pipeline debate, she said it's Canadians who will be directly affected by the multi-million dollar Enbridge Inc. project.
"The American groups that come up here to influence the process come up here…they want to win their battle and then they walk away," she said.
Oliver has been widely criticized since calling out groups such as the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council and the Canadian charity Tides Canada Inc., for receiving U.S. funds.
While she hasn't taken a similarly hard-line, Clark acknowledged those concerns.
"I think the danger for Canadians in Americans spending a lot of money to change our political decisions can be very real," she said.
Since the Northern Gateway hearings began in Kitimat, B.C. last week, Clark has attempted to stay neutral, saying she prefers to "get the facts on the table" before forming a concrete opinion.
Still, some say the B.C. premier compromised her impartiality when Ken Boessenkool, a former Harper advisor and lobbyist for Enbridge Inc. became her new chief of staff.
Clark insists that Boessenkool is "leaving his private sector connections in the past in coming to perform public service here in British Columbia."
Meanwhile, American environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. maintains that it isn't disingenuous for U.S. groups to contribute to public debate on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
"They don't have a private-personal stake in this," he told CTV's Question Period. "Nobody's going to get rich doing this, they're doing it because they think its in the public interest."
Kennedy represents a group called Waterkeeper Alliance, a group made up of clean water activists. He says the alliance is binational and is required to have a certain number of Canadians on its board.
The long-time environmental lawyer said there are international groups weighing in on both sides of the Northern Gateway debate, which he maintains affects more than just Canada.
Many have drawn parallels between the Enbridge line and the stalled Alberta to Texas Keystone XL pipeline, which also stirred questions on both sides of the border.
"Do I think it's wrong for U.S. groups to come in on issues that might affect the world environment? No, I don't," he said.
Still, Kennedy concedes that the location of the pipeline means the debate differs from the Keystone XL.
"Ultimately, this is going to be a Canadian issue," he said.