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Opinion: Northern communities need pipeline — and its jobs (Ron Burnett)


Opinion: Northern communities need pipeline — and its jobs

Written by: Ron Burnett for The Province, November 27, 2014

Recent news coverage suggests there’s a growing awareness that B.C. needs economic development and that projects such as the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline can play an important role in making that happen. That’s good news for employees, business owners and their families throughout resource-dependent B.C. that have gone through a tough last decade or more.

As a longtime resident of Kitimat near the proposed pipeline terminus, and as someone who has watched the local demise of the Eurocan pulp mill and its 500 jobs, and the Methanex plant and its 120 jobs, I focus a lot of my energy on working with my colleagues to try to replace high-paid local employment to build and sustain our community. Here’s how I think about the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

First, Northern Gateway’s positive economic impact on the country will be felt from here to the East Coast. Most people by now have heard reference to the $6.5-billion investment the project represents. But in my view, that’s just the beginning of the economic story.

If approved, this pipeline would allow Canadian producers to obtain fair market price for their products by selling to Asia rather than being restricted to U.S. markets, where bottlenecks and new domestic energy capacity combine to hurt our prices significantly. Accessing Asia, in turn, would help clear the way for the industry and our country to prosper.

Remember, there are a lot of families in our region that are dependent on the oil and gas employment economy. If the market access challenge is solved, we — all of us — do better.

Next, the province must support this proposal as an initiative that can truly improve our lives. Some 3,000 B.C. jobs will be created during the project’s construction, as well as 560 permanent B.C. jobs in the long term. Investment and new jobs from the pipeline will generate $1.2 billion in revenue for B.C.’s treasury over the next 30 years, which can help to build new hospitals, improve classroom education, and to support our quality of life in general.

Our own community stands to derive jobs and taxes from a proposed storage facility and additional employment on the marine side where the large tugs will require crews and maintenance.

And if value were to be added in Canada through upgrading and refining — both topics still under discussion in some circles — then the economic returns could be even more significant.

To push the economic point further, I say Premier Christy Clark was right to hold out for a framework agreement on her five conditions. One of those conditions is designed to ensure British Columbians are fairly rewarded for the level of risk their province undertakes. To me, the condition makes perfect sense.

But let’s be clear. Safety can be managed. Tankers in this region are most certainly not a new phenomenon.

As a 60-year user of the Douglas Channel and as a lifelong Kitimat resident, I can assure you tanker traffic has been plying the channel since the early 1950s, and the tanker traffic continues to today.

In other words, my view is the project benefits outweigh any risks and the precautions proposed are more than adequate.

Double-hulled tankers tethered to very powerful tugs, two pilots and enhanced navigational technology like land-based radar all go a long way to satisfying my concerns.

Further, pipe monitoring 24/7, remote pump stations staffed around the clock, enhanced, dual leak detection and thicker pipe combine to assuage concerns on the land.

Our corner of the province has had a very rough ride through the catastrophic pine-beetle epidemic in our Interior forests that resulted in the closure of manufacturing in Kitimat, Terrace, Hazelton, Houston and Quesnel. That’s a lot of lost jobs and worried families. We need to put the economic pieces back together and then move forward, in a safe, responsible way.

I often point out to people that we in Canada seem to live in a bubble. We account for just two per cent of the global economy and yet we think we can compete with the world on its terms. But for a few rare exceptions, we simply don’t have the population to do so.

We Canadians are fortunate. We have a rich energy resource and the world-leading technical know-how to develop, transport and sell it safely and responsibly to the rest of the world. It’s our ace in the hole. Let’s be proud of the opportunities our natural resources export sector offers, and let’s move forward.

 Ron Burnett is president of the Kitimat Economic Development Association and past-president of the Kitimat — Terrace Industrial Development Society. He lives in Kitimat.

Read the original article here.

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