Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Northern Gateway now seems destined to be a narrative for Skeena-Bulkley Valley contest

A Sunday night discussion on the CBC French network
has revived the topic of the Northern Gateway pipeline

(screenshot from Radio Canada program)

It took a few hours for the translation to come in, but once folks east of the Ontario Quebec border had a chance to hear of a Sunday evening television interview from Montreal, the ghosts of the Northern Gateway debate of almost a decade ago returned to the hot topic discussion list.

The reintroduction of one of the more controversial moments for British Columbia and the northwest came following an appearance by Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole on the French language news program. 

Mr. O'Toole while expanding on his vision of reconciliation issues, spoke to the prospect of having Indigenous leaders and groups become involved in investments such as the once proposed pipeline project that would have delivered Alberta resources to a shipping terminal at Kitimat.

The history of that pipeline and its eventual demise can be traced from our archives of the time, the issue one which proved to be a political and social lighting rod across Northern British Columbia at the time.

The Conservative leader expanded on his themes en Anglais through Monday, though most likely the only area that it will generate much in the way of a heated debate will be found in the Northwest and Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

O'Toole defends climate plan while promising to revive oil pipeline projects 
O'Toole supports reviving Northern Gateway pipeline in appeal to Indigenous communities
Erin O'Toole supports building Northern Gateway pipeline despite previous cancellation
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole promises to ban puppy mills and support Northern Gateway pipeline
O'Toole supports building dead Northern Gateway pipeline, cites Indigenous benefits

By the time Monday evening was drawing to a close, Nathan Cullen the former MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley and current MLA for Stikine had weighed in on the prospect of a do over for the Northern Gateway debate. 

He was followed a little later in the evening by the current office holder Taylor Bachrach, who is seeking re-election on September 20th.

While the theme of Monday seems to be one of how this is a new suggestion, it's not really. 

Earlier this year, the Conservative leader, while speaking to the Terrace Chamber of Commerce had previewed his thoughts on resource development and the need to approach Indigenous communities as part of the goals of reconciliation, mentioning the Northern Gateway project at the time.

The concept of an Indigenous owned pipeline to transport resources has been a frequent project championed in the region, most recently through a proposal touted by Eagle Spirit Energy which had outlined plans for a pipeline to a facility near Grassy Point north of Lax Kw'alaams.

The spectre of the Northern Gateway also served as part of the debate over the push back to a 2020 private members bill from an Alberta MP that was seeking to overturn the tanker ban on the North Coast, a bill that went down to defeat at the time.

The return of a pipeline project to the political narrative in the heat of an election campaign isn't particularly surprising. 

Though considering the vast difference in opinion between the two main contenders in the region for the Skeena-Bulkley Valley seat, it most likely won't have much impact on the campaigns for either the NDP or the Conservative supporters. 

Both are the home for voters who are not likely to change their opinions let alone their voting intentions, and mostly will only serve to generate some energy for their base of voters and party activists.

Its reprise however may provide opportunity for many of the local politicians of the region to weigh in, the topic one which was a focus for not only MLA Rice at the time, but Prince Rupert City Council which joined in on the debate and even contributed to the launch of the municipal political career for Mayor Lee Brain.

The Northern Gateway of the past also brought a large volume of opponents to the streets and to rallies at the time, making for one of the dominant political themes from 2012-2016

As for the current debate, it's the undecided vote where the reintroduction of the Northern Gateway themes may have the most impact, and whether it shifts any of those votes to either of the two top contenders as part of the current campaign that is underway.

The larger discussion would come following the election, though with current polling suggesting a minority government may once again be the most likely outcome on Election Day; the prospect of a Northern Gateway II would seem one that may not find much traction even should the Conservatives  be the ones to gain office on September 20th.

More notes on the local contenders and they efforts heading towards Election Day can be reviewed here.

A wider overview of the national campaign themes can be explored from our political blog D'Arcy McGee.


  1. Just because politicians say they support something, doesn't mean it will happen.

    The Federal NDP platform supports;

    - ending homelessness in a decade
    - retrofitting all buildings in Canada by 2050
    - developing a national food waste strategy
    - declaring high-speed internet an essential service and ensuring every Canadian has access to reliable high-speed broadband within four years
    - spending $14 billion building 500,000 units of affordable housing in the next 10 years—half of them in the next five
    - a target of net carbon-free electricity by 2030, ramping up to completely non-emitting electricity by 2040.

    Source - https://www.macleans.ca/rankings/2021-federal-election-platform-guide/

    1. True enough about NDP promises, they can say what they want because they won't form the government. O'Toole however may well be the next prime minister and what he says about Northern Gateway does matter. Welcome to Groundhog Day.