Thursday, May 3, 2012

The NDP and the Enbridge Pipeline

I was listening to Adrian Dix this morning on CBC Radio 1 On The Island where he was talking about the NDP letter to the Joint Review Panel on the Northern Gateway Pipeline.   The NDP letter seems to focus first and foremost on the economic arguments for or against the pipeline.   This brings with it questions on where the NDP is positioned natural resource issues.

Gregor Craigie asked Adiran Dix about the position of the NDP on more refineries in BC given that the NDP called for more value added use of the resource in the letter.   Adrian Dix managed to avoid saying if the NDP supports more refineries in BC or not.   Clearly he did not want to say yes to more refineries but he did not want to shoot down the value added argument of their submission.  

If one is looking to build new refineries, decent coastal ports with good rail links offer the ability to move large scales of refined products.   Pipelines are good for a single commodity but are not ideal for multiple products.   The implication of the NDP letter is that the Enbridge pipeline would make a lot of economic sense if one were to build a large refinery complex in Terrace.   Is this what the NDP is seeking?  Is this what people in the North West want?

It all says to me that the the NDP caucus is not opposed to the pipeline if there are enough economic benefits for BC to out weigh the economic risks and is not opposed to the tar sands as a concept.

Of primary to me with respect to the pipeline are the title and rights of the First Nations.   First Nations along the pipeline route have real ownership rights to the land and this means their consent is needed.  I do not think the NDP accepts that the First Nations have ownership rights or that their consent is required.

Here is the text from the NDP letter on the issue:


Respecting First Nations' interests
The proposed pipeline traverses the traditional territory of a number of B.C. First Nations. It will thus directly affect the aboriginal rights of these Nations. These rights, whether or not proven, must be identified and addressed in accordance with the duty to consult set out in law. The impact of the pipeline, and even worse an oil leak or spill, will be most severely felt by First Nation communities who depend on the land and waters of their traditional territories for their economic, social and cultural well-being.


It is imperative that First Nations be consulted effectively and be respected at a government-to government level, in keeping with honour of the Crown and in the manner repeatedly affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. Aboriginal rights and title must be recognized through full and complete engagement in accordance with consultation requirements set out by the Court.


The future economic and social development of B.C. is dependent on respectful and mutually beneficial relationships between First Nation and non-aboriginal communities. The unity achieved by some 130 First Nations in rejecting the NGP project and opposing the lifting of the ban on oil tankers on the north coast is significant; it must not be ignored.

First off, the NDP refers to the "interests" of First Nations.   First Nations do not have an interest in this issue, they have constitutional protected ownership of the land and rights to use the land.

The NDP manages to completely ignore the reality of aboriginal title and focus on the current legal minimum required of government when dealing with First Nations.   The NDP could have gone much further and said that the pipeline should not go ahead unless the First Nations have Treaties, effectively the message that Tom Berger delivered about the Mackenzie pipeline in the 1970s.

I negotiated at the Treaty table on behalf of First Nations during the eras of the NDP and Liberal governments.   The mandate of the province was much more limited and old school under the NDP.   The BC government under Gordon Campbell has gone farther than any other government in Canada in de facto recognizing aboriginal title and rights.   I read what the NDP has written and I see a clock running backwards.

It is this one sentence that bothers me the most Aboriginal rights and title must be recognized through full and complete engagement in accordance with consultation requirements set out by the Court.  It is going back to the old model of First Nations having to prove anything and everything in court before the government will accept that First Nations have any sort of right to the land.  
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