The debate over Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline (hereafter referred to as “the pipeline”) continues to rage on. Proponents and opponents of the pipeline wave around studies and statistics claiming either economic boom or ruin if the pipeline is constructed and goes into operation. This article will begin with an examination of the economic pros of the pipeline before moving on to possible economic cons. Will Canadians herald in a new era of economic prosperity of jobs and billions in economic growth, or will they struggle under increased oil prices and a rise in inflation? From here the article will make the case that the economic debate misses an important point in the analysis of the costs and benefits of the pipeline: the environmental impacts. The environmental consequences of the pipeline, which the government itself has admitted could be dire, will be considered to make the case that we must continue to look beyond economic issues. Whatever economic benefits the pipeline may bring are not worth the environmental risks. Additionally, it will be shown that although the current trend has Canada moving along a path of increased oil development such a trend is not one that ought to be taken. Canada’s leaders of today and tomorrow must begin to see the world beyond the narrow frame of economics and plan for a sustainable future.
The line repeated again and again by proponents of the pipeline is that it will bring economic prosperity to the country. “We must use Canada’s natural resources to our benefit”, they argue. Will the pipeline bring about this prosperity? In a recent study the Fraser Institute argues that it will. The pipeline, they say, would benefit the economy. “(It) will funnel billions of dollars into the national economy and create thousands of jobs.” Further, their study contends that First Nations communities “would economically benefit from the project (e.g. job growth)”. Gerry Angevine, a senior economist with the Fraser Institute said, “Canada would add $10.5 billion to its GDP with the construction of the pipeline. Operations would bring at least 1,150 long-term jobs and funnel $9 billion per year to the country’s GDP”. The report suggests that the manufacturing sector in Ontario and Quebec would, “benefit from supply steel, equipment, and other supplies to the project”. The argument by the Fraser Institute that the pipeline would benefit Ontario and Quebec is interesting to note as it runs in contradiction to comments from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair who argues that the oil sands are responsible for “Dutch disease” in the Canadian economy. Dutch disease is the term given to the situation in which, “Energy exports from the oil sands artificially raise the Canadian dollar and hollow out the manufacturing industry”. Has Canada contracted Dutch Disease? Mulcair’s concerns are echoed by a study that will now be examined.