Pipeline looms large as Canada's British Columbia votes

Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:29pm EDT
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By Jennifer Kwan

VICTORIA, British Columbia (Reuters) - The left-leaning New Democratic Party is leading the election race in Canada's Pacific province of British Columbia, raising new doubts about a pipeline that would take Canadian crude oil from neighboring Alberta to the coast for export to Asia.

The NDP, about 17 percent ahead of the ruling Liberals in recent opinion polls, promises a new review of the $6 billion Northern Gateway pipeline if it wins the May 14 election, a process that would likely bring new legal challenges and delays.

"Northern Gateway is not in our economic or environmental interest," NDP leader Adrian Dix told Reuters in an interview. "We obviously think this decision should be made in British Columbia."

The pipeline, proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc, is a key plank of efforts by the federal and Alberta governments to promote oil exports to Asia as a way to boost economic activity and create jobs. It would bring Canadian crude to the deepwater Pacific port of Kitimat for export to Asia.

Northern Gateway could also serve as a key link for export markets if the U.S. government denies TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, designed to take Alberta oil sands crude to U.S. markets. President Barack Obama is under heavy pressure from environmentalists to block the project.

Environmental and aboriginal groups also oppose Northern Gateway, and a poll released in February by Insights West showed 61 percent of adults in the province oppose the project.

The Liberals, led by Christy Clark, are also unenthusiastic and say they would only let the pipeline be built if Alberta and Enbridge meet a series of fiscal and environmental conditions.

But the Liberals have already signed a so-called "equivalency agreement" with Ottawa, agreeing that any decision by the federal government following the existing review of the pipeline constitutes B.C.'s stance as well.   Continued...

NDP leader Adrian Dix talks to supporters at the Museum of Anthropology while starting the provincial election campaign in Vancouver, British Columbia April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Clark