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Northern Gateway Pipeline will benefit every region of Canada




Take national pipeline perspective

Opinion: Northern Gateway will benefit every region of Canada as our oil gains access to world markets

By Stuart Houston, Special to The Vancouver Sun
January 30, 2013


The debate over the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline often gets covered as a dispute among provinces rather than as a national discussion impacting all Canadians.

I think that’s unfortunate.

While understanding the impacts of Northern Gateway at a local and provincial level is certainly important, we miss the bigger picture when we fail to consider the proposed pipeline from the broader, national perspective.

The fact is that Alberta’s energy development is a key economic engine for all of Canada. For every direct job created in Alberta’s oilsands industry, approximately one indirect and one induced job will be created elsewhere in Canada.

Over the next 25 years, Alberta’s oil industry will purchase $117 billion in supplies and services from other Canadian provinces, including purchases of $28 billion in British Columbia.

That’s why I believe the Northern Gateway Pipeline to be essential to our national economy as critical infrastructure.

When our nation has only one buyer for an exported resource there are few options but to accept whatever price that buyer is willing to pay. That is precisely the situation we, as Canadians, now face.

Because our oil is landlocked, 99 per cent of our petroleum products are sold to the United States. And like any savvy buyer, the Americans are asking for a substantial discount we have no choice but to provide. That discount amounts to as much as $30 per barrel on the 2.45 million barrels exported each day or a whopping $73.5 million in losses to producers each and every day. That magnifies to a stunning loss to industry and government of more than $26 billion annually.

Those lost dollars mean lost tax revenue that could have gone to pay for new roads in British Columbia, schools in Alberta, health care in Ontario, and other important social programs throughout our country.

Those losses hurt all Canadians.

Northern Gateway can start to turn these losses into gains by developing efficient infrastructure to safely transport petroleum products to the world market with export access to the ocean. According to a University of Calgary School of Public Policy research report, prices for Canadian oil could increase by $13.60 a barrel if we had better access to growing Asian markets.

The increased price paid for our oil would benefit Canadians from coast to coast with jobs in every sector of our national economy.

As a country, we have the opportunity to become energy independent by further upgrading existing lines as well as expanding new pipeline infrastructure to Eastern Canada. The fair energy prices that would come from building Northern Gateway would allow industry to further expand Canada’s refining capabilities. Refineries allow for value-added production, creating more jobs and increasing government revenues.

And I believe this benefit can be provided while ensuring the environment is protected. I say this because that’s exactly what we’re doing in my community of Spruce Grove, Alta., and in the surrounding Capital Region, which includes the City of Edmonton.

The Capital Region is my home but it’s also home to drilling operations, oilfield supply and services companies, upgrading and refining facilities, a petrochemical hub and a network of pipelines.

This infrastructure is subject to some of the toughest environmental rules and regulations in the world and it has provided this region with huge economic benefits.

The National Joint Review Panel will closely consider testimony and input from Canadians, governments, industry experts, environmental scientists and affected individuals on the proposed $6-billion Northern Gateway Pipeline investment. The JRP report will initiate an extensive regulatory review and approvals process, including a detailed environmental assessment that will set out strict environmental safeguards for the project to proceed.

As Canadians, we can overcome the obstacles and hurdles we face today using sound future-focused decision-making based on credible science. We need to ensure the industry implementation of new innovative technologies and monitoring safeguards as we build a strong economic foundation with jobs and prosperity for future generations.

I know the Northern Gateway Pipeline remains controversial in B.C. and, as a fellow Canadian, I applaud my neighbour’s stance on ensuring any approved plan must include stringent environmental safeguards to preserve and protect beautiful British Columbia.

We stand together as a nation at a historic crossroad. We now must ask those elected to govern to make decisions that represent the best interests of our country as a whole. I can only imagine the enormous benefits that will come to Canada and its citizens if we can develop a common vision for energy resource development and energy transportation infrastructure.

Stuart Houston is a member of Alberta’s Capital Region Board and the chair of its pipeline linkages strategy committee. The Capital Region Board is a regional board made up of 24 municipalities representing 1.2 million citizens which includes the cities of Edmonton and Spruce Grove. Houston is the mayor of Spruce Grove.

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