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Enbridge pipeline needed

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Enbridge pipeline needed

DON ZUROWSKI
March 14, 2013

 

As a Canadian, a Westerner and a British Columbian, I take the position that the Northern Gateway pipeline is the right project at the right time, and rather than protest the proposal we need to challenge governments and proponents to make certain it is done right.

In B.C. we’re fortunate to live in a province that has numerous deep-water ports that serve as the Pacific Gateway to Asian markets. But every Canadian should want us to obtain the international market price for our precious natural resources.

It does not make sense that Canadians should depend entirely on one single export market for their oil, resulting in a deep discount on every barrel we send south of the border. It is not prudent for Canadians to allow our largest trading partner, the U.S., to dictate the terms of sale. We value the U.S. as a trading partner, but we need to diversify our customer base.

We’ve had a long history of softwood lumber trade disputes with the U.S. and we know the importance of opening up other markets to Canada’s oil through, in part, the construction of Northern Gateway.

We suffered through the softwood lumber debacle for decades. We have learned that our price was severely constrained by barriers such as countervail duties levied against Canadian lumber and the ups and downs of U.S. new housing starts. As the U.S. policy and economy went, so went the demand and price for our lumber. This resulted in job insecurity and losses, leaving families vulnerable.

Over the last number of decades, we developed opportunities in the Asian markets, and in the last few years China has become a very large user of British Columbian lumber. Speaking as a long-time Prince George citizen, this has clearly been a great benefit. Diversifying our lumber markets has helped get us through some tough economic times. And it will be exactly the same situation with oil.

In fact, the future is even more daunting in relation to Canadian oil exports relying solely on the U.S. Recent reports from the International Energy Agency say the U.S. will be virtually energy self-sufficient by 2035. The future of the U.S. as the sole export market for Canadian crude oil is very much in doubt.

So it’s absolutely clear this country must diversify its markets.

That explains why the Canada West Foundation reported last month that Canada’s reliance on the U.S. market alone is costing Canada billions of dollars. Canadian crude sold into the U.S. market is already trading at a significant discount, whereby we’re losing millions of dollars a day and billions a year, all because we are forced to export to one single market.

That massive loss of income also means a huge reduction in tax revenue that could go to support our health, education and social programs. But a pipeline, properly planned and built to the very highest environmental standards of performance, would boost tax revenues and would mean many Northern communities could thrive.

Liquefied natural gas exportation is an important option for B.C. as well, and one I support whole-heartedly. But bear in mind LNG is one product. To diversify our markets we have to think beyond one product. A pipeline to the west coast, safely built and carefully monitored, represents another project we have to pursue.

We have the knowledge and the skills to build it right. We have rigorous regulatory oversight to ensure as much. It is the better long-term option as compared to rail, which couldn’t come close to satisfying the global demand for the resource. More importantly, it’s clear that pipelines are by far the safest option when transporting large volumes of oil, inland or to the coast.

I have children and grandchildren, and like many people in that situation my vision extends well into the future. I want long-term economic prosperity for all of Canada including communities like mine. I fundamentally believe it is countries and regions with strong economies that have the tools to be environmentally better, healthier and more sustainable; we’ve seen it in our B.C. resource industries.

This is a time-sensitive opportunity. We need a pipeline to the Northwest coast. Let’s build that pipeline.

Don Zurowski is a Prince George business leader with experience in the public, private and non-profits sectors. For nine years (1999-2008) he was a Prince George municipal councillor.

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