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COMMENTARY · 31st March 2011
Walter McFarlane
Listening to the recent Enbridge presentation to City Council reminded me of some of the questions which were asked of Joyce Murray when she was in Kitimat earlier this month. Quite a few of them had been on the number of jobs and the person years of employment.

At one point, Murray asked if anyone was aware that the Premiers of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan had written a letter asking the Prime Minister to stop her bill. She thought this was funny.

A week before, she had sat down with lobbyists representing Enbridge including the president of Northern Gateway and two of their lobbyists. They had presented a package of information to her and members of her Caucus.

“It was mysterious how you get from the forty permanent jobs in Kitimat to 200 permanent jobs which was Enbridge’s presentation 2 years ago to our caucus. It since has ballooned to 1100 permanent jobs, but in their lobbying package how many work years would you think that represent? 359,000. They were lobbying that my bill would cost the country 359 thousand person years of employment in permanent jobs,” said Murray.

She said the premiers took the information at face value because the facts and figures were all in the Premiers letters.

A little later in the meeting, one of attendees pointed out a professor from the University of Alberta had looked into oil spill protection booms and found they were ineffective where the ocean currents are greater than one knot. Murray stated during the Gulf of Mexico Spill, oil was being washed over the booms into the wetlands by the waves. Then, the booms prevented the oil from getting back out.

“If we have a spill, and inevitably we will, there will be no going back and Canada will be changed for the worse,” said Murray. She encouraged people to talk to their MLA’s.

One of the other participants wondered about the education. She said during the 70’s, when oil tankers again proposed with a pipeline for Kitimat (an importation of diesel fuel proposal), the High School had participated in the protesting to the point where students were wearing “Save the Whales” shirts. She said when she did her Halloween display in 2010, a majority of the kids who came to her door were not even aware of the potential for a spill.

Murray stated society was turning towards their immediate interests and she was unsure on how to answer it. She said there are growing populations and some areas do not have the green space they used to have; in Vancouver there are kids who do not know what nature is.

A question came from Councillor Rob Goffinet on the employment provided by Enbridge. He wanted to know, in her analysis, the numbers for local employment and employment for BC and how hers differ from the Enbridge numbers.

Murray explained she was not contesting the forty jobs in Kitimat, the 200 jobs they talked about nor the 1100 jobs. She said the construction labour council did a multiplier on the 1100 jobs and did not come near the ‘person years’ of employment Enbridge claimed. She said it not a reasonable conclusion.

She added Enbridge’s responsibility ended when the oil reached the terminal. She suspected the crews on the tankers would not be Canadian jobs. Goffinet said they have been told about the 50 jobs for Kitimat but that was it.

Murray asked the audience if they knew who would be responsible in the case of the spill. The audience replied they had no idea and were trying to find out. Murray replied it would be the taxpayer. The spill fund is only a fraction of the fund for the Exxon Valdez.

One parent questioned how Enbridge was misleading the young people of the community. She said Enbridge had them convinced they would be able to find jobs in Kitimat and if Enbridge did not come, the community would not grow.

“We need jobs, but we want them to be sustainable and not ones that risk so many jobs in the future,” said Murray.

The final question was about why there was so much discrepancy in the number of jobs. Murray stated it was an example of parliament where the conservative government was not telling the people the cost of things they had to vote on. She questioned how people could make informed decisions.

“People might not like what they hear if they were told the truth and that might be the case in this situation as well,” said Murray.

There was a bit of discussion, after the meeting, about the role of the media and method in which only the party who is in power seems to attract the headlines. This was also discussed in more detail the next day when Adrian Dix was in Kitimat.