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Mulcair says Northern Gateway a non-starter

Mulcair says Northern Gateway a non-starterNDP leader Tom Mulcair speaks with the media during an end of session availability Wednesday December 18, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - Tom Mulcair predicts the Northern Gateway pipeline will never be built, even if it passes environmental muster.

Indeed, the NDP leader says the controversial project should have been vetoed outright, without wasting public money on an environmental assessment.

The National Energy Board is poised to release Thursday the results of its environmental review of Enbridge's proposed $5.5-billion pipeline to carry Alberta oilsands bitumen to the northwest Pacific Coast for export to Asia.

Mulcair says the project is a non-starter because it would require supertanker traffic through British Columbia's Douglas Channel.

The NDP is also adamantly opposed to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to carry oilsands bitumen to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Mulcair says he recognizes the oilsands are the motor of Canada's economy and there has to be a way to get the product to overseas markets; but he prefers the idea of a west-east pipeline, provided it is supported by a thorough, credible environmental assessment.

In the case of Northern Gateway, however, Mulcair said no assessment can make it palatable.

"Allowing supertankers into the Douglas Channel is madness and it should not take place," Mulcair told a news conference Wednesday.

One need not look further than the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska, the environmental impact of which is still being felt decades later, to understand why supertanker traffic in the Douglas Channel makes no sense, Mulcair added.

"It's a non-starter. We should never even have sent this thing to a study."

Mulcair said the NDP will not budge in its opposition to the proposal, whether or not it wins NEB approval.

Even if the pipeline project is approved by the NEB, he predicted vehement opposition from First Nations along the proposed route will eventually kill it.

"This is not going to be allowed to go through without a peep," Mulcair said, faulting the Conservative government for ignoring the rights and concerns of aboriginal communities.

"You can no longer impose these things from the top down. This is another era. You need social adhesion, you need to work with people. You can't just bark at them and say, 'This is going through.'

"This is the Conservative way and, by the way, that's why Northern Gateway is never going to get built."

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is cautiously optimistic that the panel will recommend the project be approved.

"We expect that along with that approval could come a number of conditions that probably reflect a lot of input from communities in British Columbia and perhaps in other parts of the country with respect to the project," Redford said Wednesday.

Redford says the line is critical to breaking a bottleneck that is forcing Alberta to ship oil to the United States at discounted prices.

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