Monday, May 16, 2011

Enbridge?...Gateway to the Orient?

“Pipeline plans go toe-to-toe with native land rights.”

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated May 14, 2011 and written by Carrie Tait and Nathan Vanderklippe.

The Northwest Passage was once taunted as the “gateway” to the Orient. Lately though, Enbridge has disclosed plans to develop its own gateway to the Orient. In fact, they have proposed a “Northern Gateway” pipeline from Alberta west to Kitimat, BC, a potential port to ship 525,000 Oilsand barrels of oil per day across the ocean and into the Orient. For Enbridge, it’s going to be a huge challenge with lots of hurdles including and especially the “native rights” issue.

Indian and Northern Affairs Minister, Jim Prentice had said, “those drums pack a powerful beat.” He was referring to a number of First Nations who demonstrated outside the Calgary building where Enbridge was conducting their annual general meeting. Apparently, National Energy Board (NEB) regulations and approval may not be enough to ensure a go-ahead. Even Minister Prentice has said, “they must secure First Nations support for project approvals.” Interesting.

Apparently too, the First Nations aren’t biting the carrot of $1 billion dollars in benefits including a 10% equity in the proposed pipeline.

What does Enbridge think?

“We think we can build it. We think there are huge benefits not only nationally but regionally on this project” says Pat Daniel, CEO of Enbridge.

Still, a sub-headline read, “Absence of treaties gives B.C. first nations more power. How much?

“One of the great public policy failures in Canadian history was the failure to actually execute land claim treaties and, in a sense, titlement, in British Columbia over the course of the last 150 years.” Minister Prentice said. He also added, “And so the reality on the ground is that the constitutional and legal position of the first nations is very strong.” How strong?

One must remember a similar scenario: the proposed Mackenzie Gas Pipeline and the native rights issue way back in the early 1970s. The lack of land claim agreements then with the various Aboriginal people resulted in a 10 year moratorium of development which subsequently lagged on and on for almost 40 years. It was only in 2010 that the NEB had finally approved that project after years of negotiations. Only now, the people there are ready.

Seems, the Northern Gateway to the Orient may pave the path to retirement for some Enbridge staff…thanks to native rights.