Oil sands pipelines not good for BC economy

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Jenny Uechi
It was a business advocate’s perspective on oil pipelines in BC that sparked a spontaneous round of applause at a public discussion themed “Will new oil pipelines benefit BC businesses?”

Dressed in a suit and tie, Hastings Crossing BIA executive director Wes Regan spoke at the Wednesday event, hosted by Citizens for Responsible Economic Development (CRED).

“I don’t think Vancouver in particular, or British Columbia in general, benefits from being a simple conduit for Alberta’s corrosive bitumen oil products to traverse our beautiful geography – just so that it go over can choke Chinese cities with pollution,” Regan said.

“I think that’s completely backwards thinking.”

Wes Regan

People packed into the Creekside Community Centre to talk about whether or not proposed oil pipelines such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway or the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would bring in new jobs and economic benefits for BC.

Panelists agreed that while the pipelines could increase jobs — 50 permanent positions and 4,000 temporary construction jobs, according to Kinder Morgan — there was a huge amount of economic activity that would be debilitated in the event of a major oil spill.

Regan spoke about the diverse BC economy and the “incredible wealth of pristine wildlife” in the province, which he said would increase in value as other regions become more polluted.

Far from being a choice between economy versus environment, the prevailing sentiment in the room was that a clean environment was intrinsically linked to BC’s economic future.

BC: not a resource economy

While Premier Christy Clark touted BC as a resource economy during the election campaign, the vast majority of British Columbians — around 80 per cent — have jobs in the service sector, CRED spokesperson Liz McDowell said. In fact, she added, the oil, gas, and mining industry employs just one per cent of the population in BC.

Many of the biggest job sectors in BC — including the film industry, tourism, fisheries and real estate — would suffer huge losses in the event of a major oil spill along the coast, she said.

Ecojustice lawyer Karen Campbell told the audience that while she often hears the oil industry’s arguments for pipelines, they leave her unconvinced.

“When we’re looking at a lot of the aggressive federal government promotion of the oil and gas sector, it’s important that we put that perspective in the real context,” she said.

Pointing to a report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, she said that in terms of job numbers (direct and indirect) created per million dollars invested, oil and gas sectors don’t measure up.

“Transit creates 20 jobs per million dollars invested, and professions in science and tech create 13 jobs per million dollars invested. Oil and gas extraction — three jobs, ” she said.