Northern Gateway: Nathan Cullen believes the fix is already in

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The Joint Review Panel examining the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will offer its report within the next month, but Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen believes the fix is already in.

“All of it is a bit of show because it’s obvious that [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper has made his mind up about Northern Gateway, he’s made the promises to the Chinese that they’re going to get their bitumen through this pipeline, which I think was arrogant and foolish,” Cullen said Thursday during a conference call with regional media. “The decision is somewhat of a foregone conclusion, both from the [Joint Review Panel] I would argue, and the federal government.”

The panel must issue its final report by Dec. 31, but just when the report will be released is a matter of speculation. Some groups involved in the multi-year process believe the report could come out by mid-December, while others suggest it won’t be finished until the very end of the calendar year.

Once the panel issues its recommendation, it will be up to the Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq to advise her cabinet colleagues who will have the final say on granting a certificate to allow Northern Gateway to move into the next stage of the project’s development.

Whenever the review panel comes out, Cullen believes the credibility of the entire environmental assessment process is “completely in tatters.”

Opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which hopes to ship oilsands bitumen from northern Alberta to B.C.’s north coast, have long criticized the way the process has been run and some First Nations leaders said the review should have been done from an aboriginal perspective.

Meanwhile, the proponent of the New Prosperity copper and gold mine plan for the Cariboo has accused Natural Resources Canada of making an error in the evidence it presented during its environmental review process this past summer. Taseko vice-president Brian Battison said earlier this week that brings the credibility of the entire environmental review process under scrutiny.

With industry, First Nations and environmental groups upset about the way the reviews are handled, Cullen said it indicates the system needs to be fixed.

“If you undermine the process, if you undermine its credibility it hurts everybody,” Cullen said.