By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A letter of comment on the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project sparked some friendly debate among Morinville Town Council Feb. 14. Administration had asked council to approve a letter of comment to be submitted to the regulatory review process now underway on the $5.5 billion project that would allow bitumen to be piped from Alberta to the BC coast, there to be transported to emerging Asian markets.
Councillor Lisa Holmes asked if the letter was in support of the project as a whole or merely the portion of the project that is scheduled to pass by north of the Community.
Holmes council colleague David Pattison took issue with the letter of endorsement. “I’m just hesitant to say we would be in support of this without having all of the information in front of us,” Councillor Pattison said. “I’m in agreement with a statement that says this has an impact on the area, but I’m somewhat reluctant to say we support Gateway Enbridge as a statement.”
Mayor Lloyd Bertschi said the Town of Morinville had the opportunity to make comments to the regulatory review process that were in favour or against, but could not see why Morinville would speak against the project.“President Obama stopped pipelines going to his country,” Bertschi told council. “We need to diversify our markets. This pipeline gives us the best opportunity to do that. I cannot see why we would not support this.”
Pattison countered stating in respect of the province’s First Nations and some environmental groups opposed to the project, Morinville should not be making a blanket statement of support. “It may create some jobs in Morinville. It may add to the supply chain. I think a blanket support would be disrespectful to those opposed,” Pattison said.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein said she could not understand how Pattison could support the economic development attributes of the project and not the project as a whole. “You cannot have it both ways,” she said. “You cannot support the economic development but not the rest of it. It’s a contradiction of what you are saying in this letter. We’re wishy washing. Either we want your money and we’re supporting you or we don’t want your money and we’re not supporting you.”
In defending his seemingly dual position on the project, Pattison said he did not want to comment on the potential environmental impact of the pipeline. “I don’t want to comment on it,” Pattison said. “Our First Nations I leave to our first Nations brothers and sisters.”
An amendment to the motion to indicate Morinville supported the economic impact of the project was defeated in a 3-3 tie – Councillors Boutestein, Krauskopf and Mayor Bertschi opposed. A vote on submitting the letter of comment as originally presented passed with a 5-1 vote of council, Councillor Pattison being the only opposing vote.
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Letter as presented in Council agenda package