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The $273 Billion Question: Enbridge and the Northern Gateway Controversy

The Harper government wants to supercharge the Canadian economy by allowing over 200 tankers a year through the waters off British Columbia. Detractors of the so-called Northern Gateway insist a single oil spill is all it would take to destroy one of the world’s most diverse natural environments. Is the payoff worth the risk? 

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The $273 Billion Question: Enbridge and the Northern Gateway Controversy

Photo: Ilja Herb

I’m at the helm of a sinking ship. Our sailboat, Foxy, is 12.5 metres long, her sails wrapped tight as bagged carpets. She had been motoring up the centre of Seaforth Channel until her diesel engine made a sound like its 37 horses were going cannibal. Ilja Herb, Foxy’s captain, slammed a grease-stained fist into the kill switch and dived below decks, leaving me at the wheel. The sun is shining. To starboard, a tug is overtaking us with a football-field-sized barge in tow, laden with machinery and as oblivious to our predicament as the three yachts bearing down off our port beam -ecotourists back from a day’s visit to Bella Bella, B.C., the town we thought we’d left behind.

Staring into the engine room below me, Herb is absorbing new information, shouting it up in expletive-tinged terms. The impeller pump has sheared off and burst its hose. I have no clue what an impeller pump is.

It’s been 40 seconds since the motor’s death rattle. Downwind, less than a kilometre away, sits a pyramid of exposed granite reef I hadn’t noticed earlier. 

Ten seconds pass. The Pacific Ocean is gushing into the engine room. The wind nudges us toward the pyramid.

Our goal was simple: to see for ourselves the roadless realm of fjords, inlets, straits, channels, passages and evergreen islands that make up British Columbia’s central coast. In the mid-1990s, environmentalists started calling this the Great Bear Rainforest, but lately Canadians have been hearing it most often referred to as the Northern Gateway-a moniker invented by Enbridge Inc., the Calgary-based oil-and-gas-pipeline conglomerate. Enbridge, whose net annual earnings approach $1 billion, would like to ship 200 million barrels of bitumen a year through the area. The heavy oil would reach the coast via a 1,177-kilometre pipeline running from Bruderheim, Alta., to the port of Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto tankers bound for China and California.

By Enbridge’s projections, the pipeline would create nearly 3,000 jobs during the three years of construction and, over the project’s estimated lifespan of 30 years, raise Canada’s GDP by $270 billion. Royalties and tax revenue would pour an additional $86 million a year into Canada’s public purse, to be divvied up between federal, provincial and municipal governments.

There’s an additional upside: bragging rights. Canada currently produces more than three million barrels of oil a day, and exports over 70 per cent of it to the United States. The Northern Gateway would not only increase Canada’s export capacity by almost 22 per cent, it would give us access to Asia’s awakening markets-something that Keystone XL, the Alberta-Texas pipeline whose fate is now in Barack Obama’s hands, can’t offer. Small wonder the Harper administration has embraced the $6.5 billion proposal, describing oil exports to Asia as a “national priority” central to their vision of making Canada an “energy superpower,” and suggested it might overrule the National Energy Board in the event that it rejects Enbridge’s application. “We must seize the moment,” Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told reporters last April. “These opportunities won’t last forever.”

WATCH IT ON TV : On Friday January 18, Global TV’s news magazine program 16×9 will air a segment about Arno Kopecky and Ilja Herb’s three-month sailing trip up British Columbia’s central coast. 10 p.m. ET/AT, 9 p.m. CT, 8 p.m. AT/MT.

Next: Why scientists and First Nations aren’t buying
Enbridge’s environmental promises

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Photo: Ilja Herb

A federal decision on the Northern Gateway is expected in 2014. Hanging over it is the question of an oil spill. Or rather, questions: how likely, how big and how costly to clean up? In 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled a quarter of a million barrels into volatile waters nearly identical to those found throughout the Northern Gateway’s proposed route, contaminating almost 2,000 kilometres of pristine Alaskan shoreline. More than 11,000 people were recruited for cleanup operations that lasted three years. Almost a quarter century later, the herring fishery in Prince William Sound, which received the brunt of the spill, is still closed. Salmon fisheries and shellfisheries remain stunted, and you can still scoop up oil with your hands on beaches more than 700 kilometres from where the tanker ran aground.

Afraid that British Columbia could be next to host such a scenario-the plan potentially endangers some 900 kilometres of Canadian coastline-a broad coalition has assembled to fight the Northern Gateway. Over 130 First Nations have registered their opposition by signing the Save the Fraser Declaration, and environmental groups from Greenpeace to the David Suzuki Foundation have co-ordinated marketing campaigns, online petitions and rallies. Scientists and researchers with decades of experience in marine systems have also spoken up.

One of them is Barb Faggetter, an oceanographer with a 20-year career on the B.C. coast. She was commissioned to analyze the Northern Gateway proposal on behalf of northern British Columbia’s fisheries’ union, and she believes it’s a bad deal. “The unknowns are huge,” she says. “The ecological impact might be light, but negative impact in the event of an oil spill could just as easily be devastating.”

Jay Ritchlin, director general of Western Canada at the David Suzuki Foundation, agrees. Ritchlin and his team ran through simulations of the effects that oil spills of varying sizes and types would have on the coast. Each result-always kept to the most conservative, “best case” scenario-wreaked havoc on the area’s fish, shellfish and whales. “Enbridge’s project,” Ritchlin says, “poses a significant threat to the region’s enormous biodiversity and to the thriving economy and ecotourism that biodiversity sustains.”

Last January, Oliver published an open letter denouncing Northern Gateway critics as “radical groups” determined to stop the project despite the cost “in lost jobs and economic growth.” The Economist, reporting on the controversy a few months before that, had described the opposition as “an outbreak of Nimbyism.” The anti-Enbridge camp maintains, however, that this is no ordinary backyard. Spanning a dozen mountain ranges and hundreds of rivers and streams, British Columbia’s untracked wilderness poses a greater engineering challenge than Enbridge-which operates more than 24,500 kilometres of crude-oil pipeline across North America-has ever faced.

Indeed, the company’s record is not encouraging. On July 25, 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. When alarms sounded, company technicians blamed it on an air bubble, and boosted flow pressure. By the time the two-metre tear was detected-nearly 17 hours after the incident-20,000 barrels of oil had contaminated a 61-kilometre stretch of the river. With cleanup costs reaching $800 million, it remains the most expensive onshore pipeline spill in U.S. history.

The Northern Gateway pipeline route, however, is only part of the worry. It’s in Kitimat where the most fraught portion of the shipment would start-where the oil sets out to sea. Notwithstanding the Kalamazoo River catastrophe, pipeline spills rarely exceed a few hundred barrels because technicians can turn off the tap the moment they discover a leak. Compromised oil tankers, by contrast, can spew hundreds of thousands of barrels into the ocean. And British Columbia’s geography makes such concerns real. If the project is approved, oil tankers will first have to navigate a series of island-pocked, reef-strewn channels famous for heavy currents that change directions every six hours with the tide. After running this narrow, 105-kilometre gauntlet, the tankers will cross Hecate Strait, described by Environment Canada as “the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world.” This is due to the hurricanes that drop in with little notice, on waters so shallow the ocean bottom is often exposed in the troughs between waves. Few ships could sail away from a bottom strike.

Enbridge has tabled an exhaustive plan to minimize the risk of 270,000-tonne tankers running into trouble in these waters. Among other things, Enbridge’s fail-safe strategy calls for all tankers to be double-hulled; each would be accompanied by two “supertugs”-immensely powerful tugboats that would haul a tanker to safety or push it like a bumper car-throughout their passage in the confined channels of interior waters; each tanker’s load would be held in segregated tanks, meaning that if one were to rupture, only a portion of the total shipment would be compromised; operational weather limits would bar tankers from travelling in excessive sea conditions; pilots and tug crews would undergo simulator training; and a radar system would be installed to link up with the Coast Guard’s central command.

These measures lead to the final calculation that a major tanker spill (250,000 barrels or more-same as the Exxon Valdez) could be expected once every 15,000 years. In the past 10 years, five major vessels have sunk, run aground or experienced collisions along this same route. But somehow, using security measures tested only in computer simulations, 220 oil tankers with individual holding capacities of up to two million barrels are expected to transit through each year, without incident, and reach the open Pacific? Few locals are willing to bet on it.

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Next: “If the Northern Gateway goes through, the only
jobs we’ll get are cleaning oil off our beaches.”

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(Photo: Ilja Herb, photo of Jessie Housty: © 2012 Ecotrust)

“Enbridge keeps promising us jobs,” says Jessie Housty, a tribal councillor in Bella Bella, a cluster of several hundred homes at the north end of Campbell Island and hometown of the Heiltsuk Nation, whose territory marks the southern fringe of the tanker route. Fishing is historically a primary industry in Bella Bella; the spring herring and fall salmon runs remain a crucial source of food and money in a town where winter unemployment approaches 80 per cent. Enbridge has courted First Nations in the region with a 10 per cent stake in the pipeline and new jobs such as tugboat operator, but Housty thinks no offer can offset the risks. “If the Northern Gateway goes through,” she replies, “the only jobs we’ll get are cleaning oil off our beaches.”

At 26, Housty, the youngest tribal councillor in recent Heiltsuk history, has single-handedly spearheaded Bella Bella’s battle against Enbridge’s proposal. It was Housty who played a role in signing the Heiltsuk Nation up for the public hearings in 2010, before anyone in Bella Bella had heard the words “Northern Gateway.” It was Housty who entered local  classrooms to explain what happens when oil tankers founder, inspiring students to undertake a three-day hunger strike in protest. It was Housty who organized the town’s first anti-Enbridge rallies, and kept organizing them until hundreds were showing up. “Used to be you couldn’t get more than five or 10 people at a community meeting,” she says. “Now we’re filling rooms.”

Brian Falconer, a captain with 35 years of experience sailing through the Northern Gateway route, shares Housty’s skepticism. As head of the Marine Operations Program for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation,  he has worked closely with Housty and the Heiltsuk Tribal Council over the decades. Oil tankers, he points out, have been banned from these waters for nearly 30 years, ever since the area’s unfavourable conditions finally convinced U.S. and Canadian authorities to establish a voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone to steer oil carriers around the west side of Haida Gwaii. This zone was designed to ensure sufficient leeway for a drifting, damaged tanker to be rescued by tugs before running aground. “That’s one of the reasons we haven’t had an oil spill here of any scale,” says Falconer.

Enbridge is quick to point out that the agreement is aimed solely at tankers on their way to and from the oil terminal in Valdez-which, at the time the zone was erected, was responsible for all the tanker traffic in the region. Since there had never been an oil terminal at Kitimat, no rules were ever put in place to bar tankers from going there.

True, says Falconer, but in the next 30 years, at least 6,600 oil tankers-some twice as big as any that have come before-are expected to cross between Kitimat and the outer edge of Hecate Strait. The problem? This route provides only one emergency anchorage big enough to harbour an oil tanker in the certain event of a surprise storm.

Despite this, Housty assumes the outcome of the Northern Gateway application is a foregone conclusion. Anticipating regulatory approval, several First Nations with land claims along the pipeline and tanker routes are preparing to take Enbridge and the Harper administration to court for failing to properly consult them or accommodate their concerns-a constitutional prerequisite for all industrial development on aboriginal territory. Housty is worried about violent protests. “People will die to prevent this from happening,” she says, grimly.

Next: How a single oil spill could endager an entire coastal ecosystem.

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(Photo: Ilja Herb, photo of Jessie Housty: © 2012 Ecotrust)

Bella Bella’s opposition to Enbridge is rooted in a unique environmental        legacy. Few peoples on Earth have inhabited a place for so long, and re-establishing their relationship with the land marked a turning point in the Heiltsuk’s struggle to regain their footing in the modern world. Back in 1980, Bella Bella was in the throes of a suicide epidemic-in a town of about 1,200, an average of one teenager was killing him or herself each month. The suicides exposed the despair brought on by Canada’s residential-school system, as well as the fast decline of the herring and salmon fisheries on which the Heiltsuk have traditionally relied. Housty’s father, Larry Jorgenson, at the time director of mental health for northern Alberta, was brought in by the Bella Bella Community School to see if he could help.

Jorgenson set about working with local leaders to identify which teens were having difficulty. He would then take those kids into the surrounding wilderness: forests littered with arrowheads and spear tips; low tides revealing millennia-old stone fish traps; ancient burial grounds lurking just beneath the moss. Here, far from the abuses of home, was evidence of an ancestral link to the land that stretched back 10,000 years, connecting today’s Heiltsuk to the first humans to enter the Americas.

Heiltsuk youth who benefited from Jorgenson’s first outings went on to earn science degrees in Victoria and Vancouver, then returned to Bella Bella to become camp counsellors and expand the program into wildlife monitoring and conservation. In 1999, this became the non-profit Qqs (pronounced kuks, for “eyes”), which Housty helps run today.

Grizzlies in the Koeye River Valley, an area used by the Heiltsuk for millenia.

Qqs’s primary theatre of operations is the Koeye (pronounced Kway) River Valley, one of the few unlogged watersheds left on this coast, located 65 kilometres southeast of Bella Bella. The sockeye may have almost disappeared from these waters, but other species, in particular pink salmon, remain abundant. They course up the Koeye and hundreds of other waterways like it to lay their eggs in the gravel river bottoms each autumn. If you look west from the mouth of the Koeye, across Fitz Hugh Sound, you see a gap in the island armour that protects the mainland from the open sea. That gap is Hakai Pass, and it opens directly into Hecate Strait. If an oil tanker foundered, the currents would carry the spill straight through the pass and into Koeye.

That could destroy the watershed, says Otto Langer, a fisheries biologist who spent 32 years with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Langer points to the lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez incident-whose body count included 250,000 seabirds, almost 2,500 sea otters, 300 seals and 14 orcas-for clues of what we might expect if areas like Koeye are hit. “That spill was in 1989, and many populations of sea life have yet to recover,” he says.

Koeye is also known as an estuary, or an “intertidal environment,” an area key to a healthy wildlife habitat. “Some of our most productive intertidal areas are the eelgrass and marsh beds,” Langer says-precisely what you find at the mouth of the Koeye River. “Young salmon feed on shrimp and other small organisms that live in these shallow-water marine habitats. But once oil gets into these areas it can kill the plants,” along with everything that depends on them, all the way up the food chain.

The economic cost of killing such estuaries is incalculable: they help power the entire coastal ecosystem. But Koeye is also key to the psychological and spiritual health of the Heiltsuk. It’s been over a decade since anyone has committed suicide in Bella Bella, but this cultural revival-like that of the environment bound up with it-is fragile. All it could take to undo decades of collective effort, to say nothing of thousands of years of evolution, is one ruptured tanker.

Next: The contested risk analysis Enbridge is using
to defend its environmental promises.

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Photo: Ilja Herb

Over 1,200 marine traffic “incidents” have been recorded off British                Columbia’s coast in the past decade, but the crisis on Foxy, our waterlogged sailboat, will not be among them. Ilja Herb turns a valve that stops the water coming in; no longer sinking, we unfurl the jib and sail toward a narrow bay sheltered from the wind by a steep mountain. Foxy drifts to a halt in time for us to drop anchor in 12 metres of water: safe.

No sooner have we done this than a guttural howl boils out of the woods. Fifty metres from us, a pack of pale wolves scamper across the rocks at the ocean’s edge, then melt back into the forest. We’d heard about the wolves. They are unique among their kind, like so many creatures here, for this is the land of the Only: the only place on Earth where wolves still feed on salmon; the only place on Earth where black bears are sometimes white; the only place on Earth where five species of salmon fertilize the forest with their bodies, hauled in by wolves, bears and birds who leave the half- eaten carcasses of coho, chinook, chum, sockeye and pink salmon to rot into the moss and feed the trees. (Salmon-specific isotopes have even been discovered in the uppermost needles of these conifers.) Other superlatives work, too: this is one of the biggest stretches of temperate rainforest. The trees here are among the world’s oldest. Combined, ocean and woods harbour the greatest biomass density of any ecosystem on Earth.

Enbridge-responsible for six of the 10 largest pipeline spills in the United States since 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation-claims none of that will be threatened. The scientific data for that confidence can be found in the Quantitative Risk Analysis carried out by the consulting branch of Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a Norwegian firm that describes itself as a provider of “services for managing risk.” Founded in 1864 to verify the seaworthiness of Norwegian merchant vessels, DNV enjoys a stellar reputation. It was hired by the U.S. government to study the BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, and in the case of the Northern Gateway, the company was chosen not just by Enbridge but also by stakeholders, including several First Nations and industry groups. Last year, Transport Canada gave its imprimatur to the findings in a report signed off on by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada and the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA).

“We look at it from a strictly navigational perspective,” says Kevin Obermeyer, president and CEO of the PPA, which supplies the pilots who guide all vessels on Canada’s Pacific coast. “The bottom line is you can get these vessels from deep sea to Kitimat and back very safely.” (Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Environment Canada all declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Obermeyer stresses that the PPA’s support for the Northern Gateway was contingent on Enbridge’s following through with all the promises made in its marine-safety strategy-such as only using double-hulled tankers, with two tugs apiece. “People are going to jail for causing oil spills,” he points out. “You’ve got to look at this and make damn sure that you’re not going to be one of them.”

Last year, three B.C. engineers-who had spent their careers assessing risk probabilities for industrial projects ranging from iceberg impacts on Arctic oil platforms to ship collisions on the Fraser River-became concerned that no independent authorities had assessed DNV’s analysis. They decided to tackle the job themselves. Among the quirks they discovered in DNV’s methodology was a reliance on oil-tanker statistics that excluded other kinds of shipping figures from the Northern Gateway route itself. Why? Because there have never been oil tankers allowed in the Tanker Exclusion Zone.

“The reason they didn’t use the local data,” counters John Carruthers, president of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, “is that there hasn’t been an incident on the coast of British Columbia.” Using numbers from “comparable locations” like Norway’s North Sea or Canada’s East Coast, which share the same weather, claims Carruthers, “actually gave us better data.”

Not so, says Mal Walsh, a retired master mariner with 40 years of experience in the international oil and shipping industry. Walsh, now living in Comox, B.C., commanded vessels in Norway for six years and believes Northern Gateway oil tankers will be battling more brutal conditions. “The seas generated in the Pacific in winter cannot by any stretch of the imagination be compared to those in the North Sea,” he says. “Nor does Norway have anything like the Arctic outflows that sweep out of Kitimat.” 

Walsh also doubts the Canadian Coast Guard’s vessels are powerful enough to rescue a disabled tanker; should an emergency overwhelm what is known as a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and both its escort tugs, there will be no one to call for help. “Could you take a tanker up to Kitimat with two tugs and not have an accident?” Walsh asks. “Yes, of course. Could you do it nearly every day of the year? That’s another question. In the event of power loss or steering malfunction, trying to stop a laden VLCC doing 10 knots-that would take everything in the world going right for you.”

 Next: Weighing the Northern Gateway’s risks and benefits
– a small British Columbia city’s battle.

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Photo: Ilja Herb

Up we go through Seaforth Channel, the ocean’s swell rising as we enter Milbanke Sound, on the exposed outer edge of the Inside Passage. Soon Caamaño Sound opens up ahead, a circular hub of ocean from which channels jut out like spokes on a wheel. It’s the tide sloshing in and out of these inlets that creates the currents and whirlpools for which this zone is infamous. Still, if the weather was always as fair as we have it this summer, tankers might indeed be a viable option. 

A little further north, past Gil Island, we enter Douglas Channel. Eighty-three kilometres long, 3.5 kilometres wide, over 300 metres deep-this is the portion of the proposed route Enbridge depicts on its website. It’s the one relatively straight and simple part of the path, and it leads to Kitimat.

Born in the 1950s as a workers’ camp for Alcan-then one of the largest aluminum plants in the world-Kitimat slipped into a malaise when the town’s methanol plant closed in 2006, with the pulp-and-paper mill following four years later.

Today, Kitimat is resurgent. In 2007, Alcan was bought by Rio Tinto, which plans to ramp up production; more significantly, liquid-natural-gas production is booming throughout northern British Columbia and Alberta, and a number of corporations are eyeing Kitimat as the ideal port from which to ship their products. Workers are now flooding back to the town, and city council has declared itself officially neutral on the subject of the Northern Gateway. Mayor Joanne Monaghan has even discouraged councillors from speaking to journalists about it.

Phil Germuth is a mechanic and first-term Kitimat councillor whose frustration has led him to defy his mayor’s wishes. Forty-six with a chestnut goatee and hands that are permanently oil-stained, Germuth loves machines, loves industry, loves to work. “When I first heard about the Northern Gateway, I thought, Hey, great! Jobs! Money! But when you educate yourself about it, you realize, holy crap, this isn’t such a good deal for 50 jobs.” Fifty-two jobs, actually-that’s the number Enbridge has promised Kitimat, about the same number of people a single, large B.C. ferry would employ. Nationally, once construction is finished, Enbridge expects the pipeline will lead to no more than 269 full-time positions.

“I hate being neutral, because it means you’re neutralized,” says Germuth. “We’ve got more to lose than any other community-no one else is at risk of both a pipeline spill and a tanker spill.” In fact, Kitimat may soon be a hive of increased tanker traffic. Three liquid-natural-gas projects are being considered for the town, which could add three times as many tankers to the Northern Gateway route. DNV’s models for calculating the odds of a coastal accident don’t consider this addition.

Humpack whales feed on herring and krill in Bishop Bay, south of Kitimat.

Kitimat is full of people who feel the way Germuth does. There’s Murray Minchin, a local postman, who overcame a debilitating stutter to deliver a flawless testimony at the public hearings into the Northern Gateway. There’s Manny Arruda, an emergency-response team leader at Rio Tinto Alcan, who testified at the same hearings about the difficulties of dealing with emergencies in Kitimat’s harsh climate. There’s Kelly Marsh, Kitimat’s lean and boy-faced chief millwright who, with the help of a mathematician, believes he has caught a flaw in Enbridge’s risk analysis. When Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist from Valdez and international specialist in community responses to oil spills, delivers a talk at the Riverlodge Recreation Centre, the room is packed to capacity.

“I pushed council to have a survey done to know where Kitimat citizens truly stand,” says Germuth, “but they shot the motion down. I’d estimate this town is about 70/30 against the proposal. Everyone but our council has caught on that we have everything to lose, and nothing to gain.”

Next: The Northern Gateway’s massive
economic and ecologic impacts

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Photo: Ilja Herb

We turn Foxy around and head for home. It’s September now, and the creeks are choked with salmon, the banks lined with bears, and the trees stacked with eagles-nature well-fed and indifferent to humans. Indifference, however, isn’t a trait exhibited by many of British Columbia’s coastal residents, who wonder why they should welcome the Northern Gateway when the pitfalls seem so real.

“It’s a legitimate question,” says Enbridge’s John Carruthers in response. “Certainly the project has huge benefits for Canada, and those benefits are widely distributed through government revenues and increased GDP, but maybe we have to better articulate how those benefits flow to the province of British Columbia.” The trickle- down argument is fundamental to the Northern Gateway’s appeal: this project could make our country richer.

About 0.001 per cent of Canada’s population lives along the tanker route. So long as the debate is framed in GDP ticks and royalty rates, Enbridge will have an edge. But the Northern Gateway also imperils economic projects already creating huge amounts of money and jobs for Canada. Nature-based tourism in British Columbia generates $1.6 billion a year and creates 25,000 jobs, while the province’s commercial fisheries create almost 2,200 jobs and are worth $330 million a year. With a little care, these industries could go on forever-unlike the oil motivating the Northern Gateway, which will last only one generation. Two, at most.

“Are we really going to put at risk tens of thousands of existing jobs in fishing and tourism, the watersheds and the internationally renowned Great Bear Rainforest for a couple hundred jobs promised by Enbridge?” asks Caitlyn Vernon, coastal campaigner with Sierra Club B.C.

We just might. But in an age of rational hubris, Canada’s West Coast is one of the few places that reminds us of the unreasoning primacy of nature. Coastal residents believe they can win the Northern Gateway debate if they can get their fellow citizens to understand value in larger terms than money-to see it, instead, in terms of functioning ecosystems, a healthy climate and a democracy that respects its minorities.

Would Enbridge build the pipeline without consent from the Coastal First Nations, should the Harper administration decide in its favour? Carruthers refuses to say, observing instead: “History has shown that where engagement has been possible, we’ve been able to reach an agreement. The issue doesn’t end with the decision.” On that last point, even his greatest critics would agree.

WATCH IT ON TV : On Friday January 18, Global TV’s news magazine program 16×9 will air a segment about Arno Kopecky and Ilja Herb’s three-month sailing trip up British Columbia’s central coast. 10 p.m. ET/AT, 9 p.m. CT, 8 p.m. AT/MT.

Foxy anchored in Chief Mathews Bay.