Ottawa may try emotional tack for pipeline support

Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:57pm EST
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Ottawa may try to tug at Canadians' emotions as a way to build public support for building pipelines to ship growing crude production to the West, East and South, the federal natural resources minister said on Friday.

The International Energy Agency's new forecast of booming U.S. light oil production has only added urgency to the need to build pipelines so Western Canadian crude can get to new markets, such as Asia and Eastern Canada, as the United States edges closer to self-sufficiency over the next 15 years, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said.

But many Canadians, enamored with their country's natural beauty, remain wary of the environmental impacts of such proposed projects as Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific Coast from Alberta and new pipeline capacity to Montreal and points east, Oliver said.

Having already devoted major efforts to explaining the economic reasons for such developments with statistics and forecasts, it is time to communicate "at an emotive level", he told a Calgary business audience.

"I think we have to realize that this is a huge challenge, because if we don't get people on side, if we don't get the social license, politics often follows opinion," he said. "We could well get a positive regulatory conclusion from the joint panel that's looking at Northern Gateway, but if the population is not on side there's a big problem."

He described shifting public opinion as the biggest challenge facing the need to build energy infrastructure in Canada.

Oliver decried some environmental groups that he said will oppose any and all energy developments out of hand. They would not be the target of such communications.

He has already delved into the emotive. At the start of the Northern Gateway hearings early this year, he issued a statement blasting "environmental and other radical groups" who only want to block Canada's aims at diversifying energy trade.   Continued...