Canadians want policies that create jobs, a healthy environment, and want to feel that neither is put at risk by the other. Yet many of the players in pipeline debates attempt to persuade by distilling their argument to the simplest of messages – pipeline good, pipeline bad. The result is political ugliness.
A recent independent survey done by Nanos for Bloomberg News on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline in B.C., captures all of these touch points. British Columbians are concerned about a potential oil spill, but a significant proportion also associate jobs with the potential pipeline project.
The research suggests that it’s a political no-go if environmental and aboriginal groups have concerns. These stakeholders have much more credibility on this issue than Enbridge, the Clark B.C. government or the Harper government. What’s also important to note is that the focus on a B.C. solution, not something imposed from outside, such by federal government pressure, is likely the best path forward.
The message: Let British Columbians sort through the politics of this potential project and how it aligns with their vision of reconciling concern for the environment with jobs. Yes, it will be messy. However, if any province can sort through this, it is likely British Columbia. BCers have been ahead of the curve on environmental issues, they have a strong resource and service economy, and quality of life and provincial pride are a big part of the B.C. attitude.