By R. Bruce Striegler

“When it comes to transparency, I’ve been accused of being a lot of things, but not being open and honest isn’t one of them,” says Ian Anderson, President of Kinder Morgan Canada. “This is a different role for our industry. Five or six years ago, you wouldn’t have had a pipeline person at this discussion.” Anderson is speaking to a Vancouver audience at the fall conference of the Pacific Chapter of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILTNA). From three distinct perspectives, the day-long discussion explored the complexities of the relationships intertwined by development and transport of resources.

“The Rewards and Risks of Western Resource Trade: Towards a Meeting of Minds,” brought together senior representatives of groups who are usually foes on these topics. Along with the President of a pipeline company there was a former First Nation Chief, now a business professor, and a respected former senior bureaucrat, now in academia. The conference line-up included seven representatives from local government, citizen and environmental activists, transportation interests as well as Port Metro Vancouver and unions.

As most are aware, Alberta oil pipeline development through British Columbia has stalled in the face of public resistance. Not only is Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline years away, if it will ever be built, but Kinder Morgan is also running into stiff opposition. The company’s existing Trans Mountain Pipeline is undergoing formal approval processes through the National Energy Board, to increase capacity of the existing 980-kilometre pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day. With an estimated $5.4 billion cost, the dual-line operation and its Pacific terminal located on Vancouver’s Howe Sound has, for the past year, been the target for of near-constant protest from First Nations’ and environmentalists.

Decision-making process driving people further apart

Ian Anderson says the CILTNA conference provided an opportunity and audience to discuss how the company considers risk and reward, “How we balance national interests and local interests and how we spend a good bit of our time understanding and appreciating the components of public interest, what makes them up, who are we talking to and what are we talking about.”

Anderson continues, “There are a lot of mistruths, there are statements made that aren’t accurate, and it is a hard job to correct them, but it is something we are resigned to do, get out the facts of our story so the public can make informed decisions, not emotional decisions. There will be value-based views that are principled and I respect that and appreciate those views for what they are. I may not agree, but even here in this room, not all of us agree.”

Tom Gunton, former Deputy Minister B.C. Ministry of Environment, and now Director of Simon Fraser University’s resource and environmental planning program told the audience, “The way we’re going about making decisions today is driving us apart, not bringing us together. There are alternative ways of structuring decision-making, which have the opposite effect.” He cautions that if B.C. continues on the course it is on, there will be enormous repercussions for everyone involved, including the companies, the government and First Nations. “The degree of conflict is so great over a number of these projects that they simply cannot be built in such a conflicted environment. We really have to think about a different way of doing things.”

Gunton calls for fuller and more open examination of costs and benefits, transportation requirements and the need for proponents and government to make the case for diversifying markets within the overarching goal of creating strong healthy economy. He questions the process of project evaluation, asking, “Is it better to look at these projects from an integrated point of view, rather than the current case-by-case method?”

Is an alternate process the answer to current confrontations?

“If we pursued an integrated transportation strategy, we’d look at them all together and ask the question: what mix of these will give us the best for all Canadians?” He argues that this approach would prevent creating surplus. Gunton outlines figures that indicate companies are building overcapacity to the west coast in relation to existing oil processing and shipping hubs such as Louisiana. Prof. Gunton says we need better analysis of markets to determine best diversification opportunities, greater understanding of world prices and today’s integrated markets. “We need to present factual information around jobs, part of an informed discussion of economic benefits,” he says. Both the Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s expansion have been subject to exaggerated and wildly differing jobs numbers when being promoted by industry or government.

“We need to have to have greater dialogue. People need information to assess benefits and risk around these projects. Who gets the benefits and who shoulders the bulk of the risk?” He describes one of the major issues in B.C. as compensation in the event of an accident. Explaining that total damages from a spill can cost upwards of $10 to 15 billion and liability is capped at $1.2 billion, “The question is, if there’s a major spill, who will pick up the difference?”

That’s the difference between what the oil companies provide, and what’s available from the various international and Canadian clean-up funds, noting the disparity could be as high as $18 or $19 billion. “And the answer is probably the taxpayer,” he says. “Some people suggest if companies are so confident that the risk is so low, they should step up bear 100 percent of the liability.”

“Let’s set up an alternative process that brings together all the stakeholders and Frist Nations. We can set up independent review tables, a research secretariat to do joint fact-finding so the evidence that came forward would be supported by everyone around the table. That way we’d at least have common facts and information we could agree on. Gunton is enthusiastic, saying, “Let’s do an integrated analysis, instead of looking at only one project, let’s look at a strategic plan with all these projects together.” He suggests a tool, a multiple accounts analysis program, which integrates all social, economic and environmental information in a single framework. “Does it take time? Yes, but an even longer time is the route we’re going right now which will put us in court for years, with far more protests and blockades.”

Respect the land, decrease the pace of development says First Nations

Judith Sayers, PhD, strategic advisor, member and former Chief of the Hupacasath First Nation, Adjunct Professor at Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria began, “We believe we own the land, we have title to our land, we’ve always lived on the land a certain way, it’s from the land we found a way to survive.” First Nations’ way of life includes the ability to hunt, fish and trap as well as use the land for spiritual and cultural purposes while preserving historic and burial sites. This position was strengthened by the June 2014 Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in Decision that gives First Nations right of consent on a project.

“First Nations’ rights are recognized and affirmed in the Constitution Act, s. 35,” says Sayers, “And the only restrictions on aboriginal title is that it is a collective right of all the people and must be treated as such, and be used in such a way that does not deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.” It’s Sayers’ contention that increased development will further erode aboriginal rights until they are extinguished, unless steps are taken to decrease both the pace and degree of development. “I often think, we’re looking at non-renewable resources. The government now has the responsibility, industry as well I believe, to ensure those non-renewable resources aren’t just all taken out of the ground straight away, but they’re going to be done moderately, over a number of years, to ensure that future generations and First Nations people can use, enjoy and benefit from the land.”

In B.C. there are numerous major projects that First Nations oppose. They include the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, the proposed Site C Dam in northern B.C. which will flood approximately 5,340 hectares and more than 100 km of river valley, removing over 3,000 hectares of wildlife habitat, heritage sites and agricultural land. Further, First Nations are opposing any number of proposed or under-construction mines. This has led to access road blockades, court challenges to Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, media and education campaigns, presentations at the Joint Review Panels and National Energy Board hearings as well as appeals to shareholders of the companies involved to divest.

Sayers, points out, “We’re not mining or pipeline experts, and there is a huge process for the community to understand what companies actually want to do, and how they plan on doing it. We need to understand a project before we can say yes to it.” She continues noting that if development is done with the consent of First Nations, as well as adherence to high environmental standards, and in locations that do not affect the important sites then, “First Nations can have sustainable economic development which includes revenues, training and education and jobs and can manage their territory by ensuring high environmental standards and become part of the economy.”

“Can there be a meeting of minds,” she asks? “Only if project proponents do not assume or tell us that a project is good for us. Paternalistic assumptions, like those taken by the federal and provincial governments aren’t a good start.” Sayers raised eyebrows when she said, “Don’t call First Nations stakeholders, we’re rights holders and must be respected as such.” She defines successful endeavours as those marked by early contact and encourages companies to begin talking to a First Nation when a project is still an idea. Sayers recommends businesses set up protocols early so as to formally recognize they’re operating in First Nations territories. “Meet the Chief and Council, understand how closely First Nations are connected to the land, create a community development fund, sponsor events or other such initiatives and talk about the project challenges and potential successes. Do not rely on governments to do your consultations; properly build your own relationships.”

Sayers concedes that a ‘meeting of minds’ can be possible if First Nations are approached early and properly and if First Nations values are not destroyed or negatively impacted. “However, there may be some projects that are just unacceptable and you will never get First Nations on side.” She adds that if a First Nation is adamantly opposed to a project, the best decision is to walk away. “Timing can vary from the beginning of a relationship to when the studies are done, but you must acknowledge that a First Nation has the right of consent and you will not operate on their territory without their consent.”

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport; a global organization

Marian Robson, Chair of the Pacific Chapter of CILTNA describes the organization, based in the U.K. as one designed to educate and promote professionalism within the logistics and transportation fields. “The Institute is not well-known in North America although we have about 30,000 members worldwide in 100 countries. Our goals are to educate and promote professionalism, and we work closely with the international business and logistics programs at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia and Capilano College.”

Ms Robson says that the Pacific Chapter’s focus is primarily operational issues within the marine and rail areas. “With this conference, we’ve moved into an area we’re not all that familiar with. Getting all these people together has been a lengthy and complex project.” Marion Robson says that with the huge volume of resource shipments from the west coast and increases expected, there are those pointing out the hazards and unsustainable aspects of these activities from local and global perspectives. Some residents, municipalities and First Nations around ports and near road, rail and pipeline corridors express concern over more industrial activity, including the potential for dangerous commodity spills. “We felt it an opportune moment to bring together key participants in this debate, in a non-aggressive environment, to look for new opportunities or methods of choosing what rewards to pursue, and what risks are acceptable.”