Northern Gateway pipeline may soon need extraordinary political measures to survive

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Is the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline dead in its tracks?

While environmental hearings about the controversial oil pipeline from Alberta's oilsands to British Columbia's west coast continue, it seems the project's major stakeholders are dialing down their support.

According to the Financial Post, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver presented somewhat of a conciliatory tone — about the project — at a meeting of energy industry leaders last Friday.

"If we don't get people on side, we don't get the social licence — politics often follows opinion — and so we could well get a positive regulatory conclusion from the joint panel that is looking at the Northern Gateway, but if the population is not on side, there is a big problem," he said according to the Post.

"We understand there are huge challenges there, and looking at that and how we can deal with it and looking at all the alternatives at the same time."

[ Related: Ottawa may try emotional tack for pipeline support ]

Oliver's tone was similar to that of Enbridge CEO Al Monaco who spoke to the National Post's John Ivison one week ago:

"Al Monaco puts a brave face on the prospects of Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline becoming a reality.

"We're in the middle of the regulatory process, so I don't want to presume anything. But we're optimistic and committed to it," the company's new chief executive said over breakfast in Ottawa Wednesday.

Yet he remarked on more than one occasion, "it's not just about Gateway," as if he's resigned to the idea Enbridge's plan to build a pipeline to connect Canada's supply of heavy crude to demand in Asia is doomed to failure, thanks to the opposition."

The opposition Ivison speaks of is evident from the pipeline protests, First Nation discontent and a lack of cooperation from the B.C. government. And it's only going to get worse.

According to Eric Grenier of, the NDP are poised to form the next government in British Columbia.  And if Ottawa, Enbridge and Alberta premier Alison Redford thought they had a problem with current premier Christy Clark, just wait until Adrian Dix is in power.

In July, the B.C. NDP leader told Global News that the NDP is "firmly opposed" to the Gateway pipeline and is not going to change its mind regardless of the results from the environmental review.

[ Related: NDP credits pipeline opposition for Victoria byelection win ]

The Gateway pipeline might not be dead, but — at this point — it seems like it's going to need some extraordinary measures or some divine intervention to survive.