BY KALISHA MENDONSA
With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of the approved pipeline projects last week, local officials have spoken up for what they feel these announcements will mean to Albertans.
MP for Lacombe-Red Deer Blaine Calkins said he was pleased with the announcements but feels the projects need to be kept in perspective in terms of potential and what could have been granted.
“It’s good news, but it could have been great news,” Calkins said, disappointed in Trudeau’s decision to not grant approval to the Northern Gateway pipeline.
“Line 3 is simply a replacement of an existing pipeline that offers very little in the way of new capacity and new market access. The Kinder Morgan pipeline is simply another pipeline on an existing pipeline right of way, so it’s not a new pipeline either, it’s just an increase in capacity of an existing system,” Calkins said.
“While these pipelines will result in construction jobs – a good thing to come – there is still a problem.”
Calkins said Trudeau should have worked alongside the approval of the National Energy Board in granting approval to the Northern Gateway Pipeline, perhaps the most controversial of the projects being discussed.
He said the Northern Gateway pipeline would have presented positive equity opportunities for First Nations groups and would have allowed for greater market access and market diversification.
“There were First Nations groups along the Northern Gateway route that stood to gain tremendously for their own people, from an equity position, who have now lost that opportunity,” he said.
“Furthermore, the deep water port that Northern Gateway would have accessed would have allowed virtually any tanker in the world to load up with Alberta crude oil. The same cannot be said for the port of Vancouver, which is a shallow-water port. That limits the market access and market diversification that we so desperately need.”
Calkins explained the price differential on oil in international markets versus North American markets creates several billion dollars in royalties that Albertans should be able to capitalize on. He added he believes the Northern Gateway pipeline would have allowed for greater prosperity for Albertans during this continuing economic crisis and he looks forward to the approval of the Energy East pipeline when that comes.
“I believe Justin Trudeau took the easy position on this. The prime minister obviously calculated this politically rather than scientifically or technically,” he said.
“We could have had even more jobs, we could have had even more development and even more market diversification, with a better value for our product in the market-ways. We hope Trudeau realizes this and will support the Northern Gateway pipeline.”
Calkins said there are a few other negative aspects that could come from Trudeau’s decision to block Northern Gateway, including the potential for a lawsuit from Enbridge that would be carried on tax dollars.
“A couple of years ago, in 2014 I believe, the National Energy Board recommended the Northern Gateway be approved with 209 conditions. It then became an issue for Enbridge to meet all 209 conditions but they were well on their way,” he explained.
“Now, with the reversal of the decision, taxpayers may be on the hook for the compensation to Enbridge because Enbridge had proceeded with the pipeline application, was approved and then shut down by Trudeau.”
At the same time Trudeau announced the pipeline projects, he announced a plan to formalize a moratorium to ban crude oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast. Calkins said this is going to further hinder development and investment in potential pipelines.
“When you don’t have certainty and predictability that the National Energy Board recommendations will be accepted by the government, no one is going to invest. That’s the harmful part of this decision – it’s created an even bigger chill when it comes to further investment in the energy sector.”
Calkins said he hopes to, “Bring some common sense to the debate on these issues” and he wants to be able to bring hope back to Albertans.