Opinion: Northern communities need pipeline — and its jobs (Ron Burnett)


Opinion: Northern communities need pipeline — and its jobs

Written by: Ron Burnett for The Province, November 27, 2014

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Recent news coverage suggests there’s a growing awareness that B.C. needs economic development and that projects such as the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline can play an important role in making that happen. That’s good news for employees, business owners and their families throughout resource-dependent B.C. that have gone through a tough last decade or more.

As a longtime resident of Kitimat near the proposed pipeline terminus, and as someone who has watched the local demise of the Eurocan pulp mill and its 500 jobs, and the Methanex plant and its 120 jobs, I focus a lot of my energy on working with my colleagues to try to replace high-paid local employment to build and sustain our community. Here’s how I think about the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

First, Northern Gateway’s positive economic impact on the country will be felt from here to the East Coast. Most people by now have heard reference to the $6.5-billion investment the project represents. But in my view, that’s just the beginning of the economic story.

If approved, this pipeline would allow Canadian producers to obtain fair market price for their products by selling to Asia rather than being restricted to U.S. markets, where bottlenecks and new domestic energy capacity combine to hurt our prices significantly. Accessing Asia, in turn, would help clear the way for the industry and our country to prosper.

Remember, there are a lot of families in our region that are dependent on the oil and gas employment economy. If the market access challenge is solved, we — all of us — do better.

Next, the province must support this proposal as an initiative that can truly improve our lives. Some 3,000 B.C. jobs will be created during the project’s construction, as well as 560 permanent B.C. jobs in the long term. Investment and new jobs from the pipeline will generate $1.2 billion in revenue for B.C.’s treasury over the next 30 years, which can help to build new hospitals, improve classroom education, and to support our quality of life in general.

Our own community stands to derive jobs and taxes from a proposed storage facility and additional employment on the marine side where the large tugs will require crews and maintenance.

And if value were to be added in Canada through upgrading and refining — both topics still under discussion in some circles — then the economic returns could be even more significant.

To push the economic point further, I say Premier Christy Clark was right to hold out for a framework agreement on her five conditions. One of those conditions is designed to ensure British Columbians are fairly rewarded for the level of risk their province undertakes. To me, the condition makes perfect sense.

But let’s be clear. Safety can be managed. Tankers in this region are most certainly not a new phenomenon.

As a 60-year user of the Douglas Channel and as a lifelong Kitimat resident, I can assure you tanker traffic has been plying the channel since the early 1950s, and the tanker traffic continues to today.

In other words, my view is the project benefits outweigh any risks and the precautions proposed are more than adequate.

Double-hulled tankers tethered to very powerful tugs, two pilots and enhanced navigational technology like land-based radar all go a long way to satisfying my concerns.

Further, pipe monitoring 24/7, remote pump stations staffed around the clock, enhanced, dual leak detection and thicker pipe combine to assuage concerns on the land.

Our corner of the province has had a very rough ride through the catastrophic pine-beetle epidemic in our Interior forests that resulted in the closure of manufacturing in Kitimat, Terrace, Hazelton, Houston and Quesnel. That’s a lot of lost jobs and worried families. We need to put the economic pieces back together and then move forward, in a safe, responsible way.

I often point out to people that we in Canada seem to live in a bubble. We account for just two per cent of the global economy and yet we think we can compete with the world on its terms. But for a few rare exceptions, we simply don’t have the population to do so.

We Canadians are fortunate. We have a rich energy resource and the world-leading technical know-how to develop, transport and sell it safely and responsibly to the rest of the world. It’s our ace in the hole. Let’s be proud of the opportunities our natural resources export sector offers, and let’s move forward.

 Ron Burnett is president of the Kitimat Economic Development Association and past-president of the Kitimat — Terrace Industrial Development Society. He lives in Kitimat.

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Why B.C. needs to ‘get to yes’ on major resource projects

Vancouver Sun

Opinion: A minority’s pushback is threatening our future

Written by: John Winter, Special to the Vancouver Sun August 16, 2013

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Douglas Channel, the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, is pictured in an aerial view in Kitimat, B.C., on January 10, 2012.

Douglas Channel, the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, is pictured in an aerial view in Kitimat, B.C., on January 10, 2012.

For a province awash in talent and natural assets, it’s disturbing to see how much British Columbian ingenuity is being channelled into our province’s alarming — and growing — “culture of no.”

Robyn Allan’s attack of Northern Gateway’s job numbers (Vancouver Sun, Issues and Ideas, Aug. 13) is yet another example of that — an intellectual exercise geared at undercutting one of B.C.’s most ambitious and promising job-creating projects to date.

And for what gain?

As British Columbians, we need to sit up and take heed of where the public discourse on resource projects has got to.

From our vantage point, as a network of more than 120 Chambers and 36,000 represented businesses in communities throughout all of B.C., here’s what we’re seeing: it’s a pretty frightening place.

In virtually every corner of the province, we’re seeing the same thing: Smart, highly environmentally responsible projects that can employ our children and keep our towns alive are being battered, paralyzed and stomped out.

By whom, you ask?

Not by most of you, that’s for sure. Broad-based polling consistently finds that the majority of British Columbians favour a “getting to yes” approach to resource projects. This approach calls for top-tier environmental and social practices but, critically, wants to see sound projects succeed.

So no — the pushback on projects isn’t broad-based but rather a minority position. However, that minority pushback, through effective organization and scathing rhetoric, is threatening B.C.’s future for all of us.

And that’s where, as British Columbians, we can’t sit back and watch the “culture of no” threaten our province’s economic future.

Take the Northern Gateway project.

With its $6.5-billion price tag, the project promises to be one of the largest private investments this province has ever seen.

And while critics such as Allan may attack specific job counts, here’s what’s clear: this project will create a vast quantity of high-paying jobs in northern B.C. That’s jobs that will help communities thrive and B.C.’s broader economy to grow. (As a side point, the real problem for B.C. won’t be how many jobs Northern Gateway can create, but just how we’ll fill them all.)

For all of us B.C. taxpayers, as we brace for aging demographics and escalating health care costs, Northern Gateway means $1.2 billion in projected tax revenue to support B.C. health care, education and social programs. That’s a substantial investment in maintaining and growing B.C.’s enviable standard of living.

For B.C. businesses, perhaps one of the most promising things about this project is Enbridge’s commitment to local procurement and local jobs. That’s a commitment to employ British Columbians and keeping spinoff economic activity in the province. That means that from Terrace to Tumbler Ridge, Prince George to Prince Rupert and Vancouver to Victoria, B.C. businesses will see very real benefits from this project.

This is a great gain for B.C. small businesses, which make up 98 per cent of our provincial business community. It also aligns directly with the B.C. government’s forward-looking Small Business Accord. This accord, which the B.C. Chamber had long sought and was implemented this year, will ensure that B.C.’s small businesses have a real shot at landing procurement deals for government projects and programs.

Principles of local procurement and local jobs will only heighten the gains for small business that, as we’ve seen time and time again in B.C., are triggered by large-scale infrastructure investments in our province.

Whether it’s the Port of Prince Rupert in the northwest, oil and gas development in the northeast or investments in Port Metro Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport, these investments have catalyzed the creation and development of countless B.C. businesses.

So there’s a lot at stake here. And frankly, what’s yet to be decided has nothing to do with project economics (which, Ms. Allan, are frankly settled), but rather how we balance economic value against other B.C. priorities, as the Joint Review Panel is assessing.

And with this project, as with any that proposes such substantial benefits for B.C., we hope that British Columbians will take a close look at what’s to gain here. We certainly don’t ask that environmental or community concerns be sidelined. But we’d ask that jobs and economic value not be sidelined as well. This is our future and our kids’ future.

And if you’ve been staying out of project debates in B.C. thus far, we’d urge you to lend your voice to shifting this “culture of no.”

Because if we can pool our B.C. ingenuity and focus on building our province, there’s no telling what we can accomplish.

John Winter is president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

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Building oil pipelines to bring Canadian product to market is in many ways a no-brainer.