IN THE NEWS ~ NDP critic attacks minister's defence of pipeline review

Peter Julian, The Vancouver Sun (Final, Weekend Review, Page C3.

Re: Minister defends limits at energy board hearing, Letters, Aug. 19 The characterization of the review process for pipelines in Canada by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver skates over the facts.

The NEB's (National Energy Board) new convoluted process for public participation imposed by the Conservatives, which requires hopeful applicants to draft an extensive submission that is required to go to multiple addresses, is a barrier that has discouraged hundreds of Canadians from even applying to have their say.

Comparing the more than 4,000 concerned Canadians who participated in Northern Gateway's hearings with the 120 or so allowed to appear on the more recent Enbridge Line 9 application illustrates how well the government's exclusionary tactic worked. Few Canadians can take the many days required to fill out endless pages of Conservative red tape.

Conservatives claim the NEB undertakes extensive, science-based environmental reviews to ensure projects are environmentally safe. Yet the Harper government gutted Canada's environmental laws, and 99 per cent of the environmental assessments which used to be required are no longer done. This grave concern was articulated by Canada's Environment Commissioner during testimony on Bill C-38.

Conservatives stress the NEB is mandated to hear witnesses who are directly affected or have relevant expertise in its quasi-judicial hearings. But the health and safety of every Canadian is directly or indirectly affected by the degradation of our environment and the lowering of the safety regime.

Conservatives assert the NEB is strong and independent, but Harper's Conservative cabinet can overturn any NEB decision privately.

A truly independent environmental assessment system and transparent, open and inclusive public hearings are critically important to responsible decision making. Just ask residents of Alaska about the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Or people in Michigan confronting the Kalamazoo River spill. Or Americans living on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico as they still work to overcome the profound impact of the Deep Horizon catastrophe.

Peter Julian MP for Burnaby-New Westminster