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What the Re-Election of the BC Liberals Means for the Future of Proposed Pipeline Projects


Christy Clark and the Liberals surpassed the BC NDP to win a fourth consecutive majority government on Tuesday night, despite the initial predicted NDP win heading into the polls. The scandal-plagued election holds some hope for energy companies in regards to the future of pipeline prospects in B.C., as Clark remains committed to keeping the door open to pipeline propositions.

It is widely regarded that the Kinder Morgan pipeline proved to be the pivotal issue on which the tides turned. In the weeks preceding the election, the NDP, in an effort to re-enforce their green stance, decided to outright oppose the expansion of the already existing Kinder Morgan pipeline from Edmonton, Alta. to Burnaby, B.C.. On the other hand, the Liberal’s pro-economic stance offered facilitation of the pipeline projects, and highlighted the connection between the projects and economic opportunities for the province.

Will the pipeline projects go through?

The election result thus offers much more likelihood of the pipeline projects going through. Indeed, Geoff Morrison, B.C operations manager for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers noted that their existing relationship with the Liberals minimizes the transactional time of building a new one, and that:

Having the Liberals return to power means that discussions over acceptable conditions for oil pipeline development could continue without interruption

Enbridge Inc. and Kinder-Morgan are also keen to meet Clark’s five conditions for the Northern Gateway and the Trans Mountain pipeline projects. These include environmental prevention and response systems, aboriginal and treaty rights, and B.C. receiving a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits associated with the projects. Clark has continued to express her concern about the environmental risks associated with transporting heavy oil across B.C.s rugged terrain, but stresses that the interests of her province, both environmentally and economically, are her main concern.

The Albertan and federal government do not see Clark’s economic concerns as a deciding factor in the approval of the projects. Clark however, has stated previously that if her conditions are not met, the provincial government could still block construction by denying permits or refusing to power the pipeline, even if they are granted federal approval.

Pipelines and the future of Canadian oil

The Albertan conservative party and the federal government see both pipeline projects as vital to Canada’s national interest. Expanding output for Alberta’s rich oil reserves will indeed greatly increase trade prospects and further a much-needed boost to the Canadian economy. Should the pipeline projects be approved, millions of dollars of investment will be injected into both provinces for their development.

The economic benefits seem so great that one might be tempted to negate any possible environmental risks; however the residents of “Beautiful British Columbia’’ worry that without proper precautions and regulations, a possible spill could destroy much of their province’s marine wildlife.

Residents are also concerned about when and how they will see the benefit of this project. Unless B.C. firms are directly contracted and involved in the building process, economic returns will not be seen during that stage, leading residents to wonder how the economic benefits will ultimately be dispersed.

In the coming months B.C. residents should voice their concerns about the pipeline project, and encourage their newly elected government to draft clear public plans that ensure the greatest economic returns and prevent negative environmental externalities. B.C should not shy away from taking advantage of their neighbor’s growing oil industry, and impose  tailored goals to Alberta’s wants.

– Beth Mansell


Featured photo: Paternité  rcbodden, Creative Commons, Flickr

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