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Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013


Transport Canada A partially loaded crude oil tanker is guided out of Burrard Inlet from Burnaby’s Westridge Terminal next to the Chevron oil refinery, visible at left. Dredging of Second Narrows would be required to carry larger loads.

Ottawa vows world-class oil spill prevention and response in B.C. Tom Fletcher Black Press Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver assured a Vancouver business audience last month that the federal government is committed to “world-class” oil spill prevention and response on the B.C. coast. In a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Oliver stopped short of specifically endorsing the 45 recommendations in a new survey of marine and land oil transport safety, but repeated a vow from last summer to make “polluter pays” the law for pipelines in Canada. “There has never been a serious tanker accident on the West Coast,” Oliver said. “Nevertheless, we are committed to building a world-class system to prevent marine accidents. In the unlikely event there is an accident, we need to respond rapidly and comprehensively and make sure the polluter pays, not the taxpayer.” Earlier, Oliver and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt released

a report by a tanker safety expert panel chaired by Gordon Houston, former president of Port Metro Vancouver and Prince Rupert harbourmaster. The panel’s report calls for adequate funding to the Canadian Coast Guard to make it the lead agency in any oil spill response at sea. Potential polluters and their delegated spill response agencies should be prepared for a “worst case” incident like the Exxon Valdez grounding in Alaska in 1989, the report says. B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said it remains to be seen if Ottawa will take the necessary steps to meet the province’s conditions for approving new heavy oil pipelines. A federal review panel is due to issue recommendations by the end of December on whether the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal for a double pipeline from northern Alberta to Kitimat should be allowed to proceed. The federal report looks only at current traffic, including crude and other petroleum products. It identifies the south end of Vancouver Island and the adjacent coast, including Vancouver harbour, as being at “very high risk due to the

large volumes of vessel traffic and bulk oil movements that occur within close proximity of environmentally sensitive areas.” That is the region where Alaska crude oil tankers enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca to reach Washington state refineries, and the oil tanker exclusion zone ends. Between 30 and 60 tankers a year filled with crude oil or diluted bitumen also sail out from the Kinder Morgan Canada oil terminal at Burnaby through the same waters. Traffic from Burnaby would increase to about one tanker per day if Kinder Morgan’s proposed twinning of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta proceeds. Currently 30 to 60 tankers a year load at the Westridge Terminal in Burnaby. The tanker exclusion zone, a voluntary agreement between Canada and the U.S., extends 200 nautical miles west from the northern tip of Haida Gwaii to southern Vancouver Island. The federal report rates oil spill risk as “medium” on the northern and southern ends of the exclusion zone, and low in the central portion.


Special Edition: The Northern Report

Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013

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Special Edition: The Northern Report

Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013


Study looks at agricultural land use “Are governments doing what Canadians want with respect to farmland?” This is the question under investigation in a new study led by the University of Northern British Columbia. The three year project, headed by UNBC Environmental Planning Associate Professor David Connell, will examine how the changing role and value of farming in Canada may affect agricultural land use within and across national, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions. “The average person shopping at a grocery store does not know where his food comes from. And the average Vancouverite visiting a farmers’ market because she values ‘eating local’ might be surprised at how much prime farmland has been overtaken in the Fraser Valley for commercial, residential, and industrial interests,” says Dr. Connell, who is investigating the issue with researchers from across Canada, including fellow UNBC International Studies Assistant Professor Matias Margulis. Dr. Connell says the biggest cities in Canada are situated where they are in part because that is where the best farmland is located. Consequently, as cities expand, land identified as being some of the most fertile in Canada is being replaced by developments such as golf courses, condominiums, and shopping malls. “In BC, the area of greatest impact is in the Fraser Valley Photo courtesy of UNBC UNBC professors Mattias Margulis and David Connell are examining how the changing role and value of farmbecause that’s where there is the greatest level of urbanization and also the greatest quantity and quality of farmland,” ing in Canada may affect agricultural land use within and across national, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions. says Dr. Connell. the best farmland in the Lower Mainland is being replaced nadian agriculture land use planning such as globalization, “How important is the preservation of our best farmland with less productive land in the North. So while it looks like policies affecting farmland preservation, and issues of food to the public in BC and to the citizens of communities the total amount of farmland has not changed the quality of sovereignty, or the right of people to define their own food across Canada? Are local, provincial, and federal bodies the land has deteriorated.” systems. implementing policies that reflect the priorities of citizens? Dr. Connell says the growing local food movement will The research findings will be presented to all three levels We are going to try to measure that.” be one of the factors evaluated in the study. That movement of government, distributed to agricultural advisory commit“Prior to 1972, local governments approved the converargues that there are social, economic, and environmental tees, and will culminate in a national forum to discuss the sion of about 5000 hectares of prime agricultural land to final results, and weigh possible best practices for commuurban use each year,” says Dr. Connell. “The quality of farm- consequences for bringing food to communities from far nities and governing bodies. land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) has decreased, away. Proponents also claim the food is healthier, fresher, and more nutritious. “If this movement continues to grow Funding for the study comes from a Social Sciences with more prime farmland (Class 1, 2, and 3) being excludthen there is a corresponding need to strengthen legislation and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant worth ed than being included. Likewise, most of the additions to that protects local farmland,” says Dr. Connell. $464,000. The proposal was selected from 1,799 submisthe ALR have taken place in Northern BC, which growing The research will also examine other issues affecting Casions from across Canada. conditions and soil quality are not as good. This means that

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Special Edition: The Northern Report

Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013

Premier in P.G. for forum Mike Morris Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Prince George is on the cusp of the most exciting timee in its history! Not since the Klondike Gold Rush, over 125 25 years ago, has the region experienced such strong interest esst and unparalleled opportunities. Northern B.C. has perhaps haaps the highest number of planned and proposed resource development and intense economic investment activity in in North America at the present time. Conservative estimates put planned and proposed capital pitaal investments in the region for the next decade at over $700 billion. This investment will be spread across a large nummber of new and emerging sectors, including natural gas, mineral exploration and mining, coal, energy (includingg the completion of the largest new Highway 37 transmis-n sion line), oil and gas, and a revival and strengthening in forestry. It will be taking place under a world-class regulalaatory regime, which will ensure that our natural environment ment d is protected for the enjoyment of future generations and that First Nations are consulted and share in the economic micc benefits of resource development. ur,, Prince George’s key position as a transportation, labour, and service and supply hub ensures it will play a key rolee th hat as these exciting projects move forward. It is estimated that nthese projects could create over 40,000 long term sustainable jobs in the north, with very high family incomes. ade d . It is surprising how much has changed in the last decade. Back in the 1990s, the forest sector was in turmoil, facing softwood lumber issues, collapsing U.S. markets, the closure of a large number of processing facilities, and last, but certainly not least, the beetle kill. During that period, more mines were closing than opening, mineral exploration was at a historic low, beef markets collapsed, and tourism was down. Unemployment rates in the north hit historic highs, and housing prices in places like Tumbler Ridge and Mackenzie collapsed. Throughout the turmoil in the resource sector and the economic challenges we faced, we in the north remained positive and optimistic. Leaders from First Nations com-

mu niti iti ties,, allll levels levells off government, g vernment, go t, stakeholders, sttakkeh hold lders r , and d the th munities, resource sector continued to discuss challenges, and shared opportunities and success stories. They pushed to introduce innovations in technology and transportation, to improve environmental protection, and to explore new opportunities in the service and supply sector. Our strength has always been our positive attitudes, our entrepreneurial spirit, and our close ties with the land and the resources. Our positive attitudes coupled with our will and commitment to put the welcome mat out to investors has been a key foundation in the emerging economic revolution we now face. As Prince George is poised to become the hub for B.C’.s future economic success, it is time for all of us to play an ac-

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Special Edition: The Northern Report

Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013


Hydro poll finds support for Site C Kyla Corpuz Northern Report FORT ST. JOHN – Almost nine out of 10 people approve of Site C, according to a new poll commissioned by BC Hydro. Anderson Insight conducted the survey of just over 1,250 British Columbians. Eight-hundred people were called throughout the province, including the north and northeast, to partake in the poll. In addition 250 more participants were interviewed specifically in the north and northeast region to ensure a more reliable sample. Interviewing more people in the area that is affected by the project proposal reduces the margin of error, said Bruce Anderson, the polling company’s principal. The interviews took place in September. “We wanted to have a picture, as we have over the last few years, where presently the project sits and this is a way for us to find what the general attitude is towards the project – to get a snapshot, at both a provincial and regional level,” said Site C’s communication manager Dave Conway. Forty-two per cent said they support Site C, 13 per cent opposed it, and another 42 per cent said they could support it under certain circumstances. The level of support and opposition were very similar on a regional level, stated the Anderson Insight report. On a provincial scale, four out of 10 were aware of the project and 59 per cent were unaware. Regionally, the awareness was much higher at 78 per cent reporting that they had heard, read or seen material about Site C. Despite the difference in awareness levels, Conway said the support didn’t waver. “This is very typical in large infrastructure projects. The important thing to note from this is despite the awareness level of being higher regionally; the support hasn’t changed…” he said. “I think the poll shows that there is a strong base of support for the project.” However Andrea Morison from the Peace Valley Environment Association questions the legitimacy of the questions

formed to gain a provincial perspective on Site C. “Obviously BC Hydro isn’t putting out information on the impacts and they do have quite a big budget to talk about how great the project will be,” said Morison, “and we are operating on a shoe-string budget to let people know about what some of the impacts will be.” Anderson initially put the questions together in the poll. “It’s fairly typical of how I do my work, so I Dave Conway drafted questions of what I thought would be a good range … to explore perceptions on the project proposal.” BC Hydro representatives gave him feedback and together they designed the survey. Conway added that the more an individual knew about the project, the more they were inclined to support it. But Morison believes the opposite. “I think if people really knew more about this project and the real impacts they wouldn’t even be sitting on the fence about it,” she argued, “I think if they understood more impacts of the dam they would come to the conclusion that the project is not in the interest of British Columbians.” The building of Site C would cause numerous disturbances to the environment. Approximately 5,500 hectares of the Peace valley would be flooded, and a number of at-risk fish species may be lost completely. The flooding would permanently impact access to land considered significant and traditional to First Nations, and various migratory birds would be affected by the construction of the reservoir. About 30 homes would be displaced through the necessary realignment of Highway 29, to accommodate the flood line from the reservoir.

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Despite these changes, BC Hydro has maintained that “the overall impacts of the project and the net benefit to the province of British Columbia and BC Hydro rate payers, that the project should proceed.” The poll was also a means to get feedback from residents regarding support on various generating projects. “[The survey] was a little broader on the scope of just focused on [Site C],” said Conway. It showed that a majority of residents supported buying from independent producers (73 per cent) to increase B.C.’s energy production, followed by adding new hydroelectric dams (69 per cent) and building new natural gas power plants (54 per cent). Due to an anticipated population increase of one million people over the next 20 years and the potential for the liquefied natural gas industry, BC Hydro says Site C is the answer to the province’s growing energy demands. This mega project would produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 450,000 homes per year. However, the Wilderness Committee believes the province already has more electrical power than it currently needs, “and has access to even more hydro power through the Columbia River Treaty and the United States, as well as cheap hydro power imports from the Pacific Northwest.” “The only uses for Site C would be to subsidize coal mines and gas fracing operations – and people in B.C. do not want that,” said the Committee’s national campaign director Joe Foy. The project is currently in the third and last stage of the environmental assessment; an independent joint review panel made up of three experts is reviewing it. So far, the panel has issued BC Hydro to submit further answers to their Environmental Impact Statement. “The JRP has come up with good comprehensive questions and identifying significant gaps in the proposal,” said Morison, “and I hope they will recognize … that this project shouldn’t be going ahead, it shouldn’t be approved.” Should the project proceed and be approved, it would take seven years to build the facility, which could be forecasted to begin as early as 2015. Site C has a price tag of $8 billion.


Special Edition: The Northern Report

Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013

Poll highlights economic impact of pipes A new study released by the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) shows that the economic benefits of transmission pipelines add billions to the Canadian economy annually. The study, the first of its kind in Canada, entitled “The Economic Impacts from Operations of Canada’s Energy Pipelines,” was prepared by Angevine Economic Consulting Ltd. This study details the economic impact that crude oil, natural gas liquids, and natural gas transmission lines contribute to the Canadian economy. According to the report, the industry is expected to add $130 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) over the next 30 years based on current operations. This does not include what the transmission pipeline industry could add to the Canadian economy, if some of the major pipeline projects currently being planned were to become operational. “Canada’s energy pipelines are an overlooked source of economic prosperity,” said Brenda Kenny, President and CEO of CEPA, in a press release. “Not only do they add billions to our GDP, they’re also a source of highincome jobs for many thousands of Canadians.” All told, the pipeline industry is responsible for over 25,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs across Canada, accounting for approximately $1.9 billion in labour income in 2012. Of the 25,000 FTE jobs created by the pipeline industry, 30 per cent are located in Alberta, 21 per cent in Ontario, and 20 per cent in Saskatchewan, with the remaining 29% spread across the rest of Canada. “There’s a perception that only Alberta and their workers benefit from the energy industry as a whole and from pipelines in particular,” said Kenny. “This report

clearly shows that the economic benefits of pipelines are spread across the entire country and contribute to the prosperity of all Canadians.” Not captured in the report are the spin-off benefits of pipeline infrastructure. Upstream, energy producers are able to move more of their product and invest more heavily in expanding their operations. Downstream, Canadian refineries, petrochemical plants and distribution companies generate GDP contributions and provide employment and income. This is due, in great part, to the energy transported by Canada’s transmission pipelines. It is estimated that 21 percent of the total value of Canadian exports of goods are generated by the transportation of energy products via pipelines. “Pipelines generate significant spin-off benefits that far exceed the direct investment made in them,” said Kenny. “Our member companies are committed to building and operating a safe, socially and environmentally responsible pipeline infrastructure that will contribute to a strong and prosperous Canada for many decades to come.” CEPA members are committed to advancing a safety culture, throughout the industry, based on a strong foundation of leadership and continual improvement leading to zero incidents. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.

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Special Edition: The Northern Report

Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013


The trials and tribulations Life in and around northern work camps Kyla Corpus and Jill Earl Northern Report When a husband or dad left for work, he was usually home in time for supper. These days and in industry towns, such as those that make up the Peace region, that’s no longer the normal expectation. Whether it’s the mom, dad, husband, wife, son or daughter, coming home for dinner may take weeks or months. This shift in the average household can be attributed to worker camps, where a labourer will work, sleep and eat. Camps have become a necessary component to meet the growing demands of the natural resource sector, and along with it comes a trickle-down effect that hits the heart of a community. Though it’s not a new phenomenon, the effects of the camp lifestyle have captured the attention of governments, regulators, head offices, and health authorities. Open, closed, isolated, communal, temporary and long-term camps have left a footprint on Peace region communities. “Fort St. John is certainly no stranger to large industry and work camps, that’s been a part of our history for many, many years and it’s something that we have certainly learned to live with and in the last couple of years. It’s an emerging topic … the impact of camps on communities and families,” says Fort St. John’s city manager Dianne Hunter. Though Hunter doesn’t consider herself an expert on worker camps, she can attest to its effect on family life. “I guess I’m more of a person both as a position of city manager, mother and grandmother that lives it, that’s impacted by it, and I see our community is impacted by it, and I have colleagues now who are impacted by it,” said Hunter. During the BC Energy Conference that the city hosted in early October, Hunter gave a presentation on worker camps, highlighting a new perspective to the already complex issue. “I had a conversation with another city manager from another community … there was dismay in their community as a result of the work that was happening [in Fort St. John] and her comments were focused on a deterioration of the quality of lifestyle and community,” said Hunter. Fort St. John, Dawson Creek or Fort Nelson could be viewed as host communities. Workers flock to the north for a desirable wage, but leave their families at home. Hunter said this is the first time in a long time that a large percentage of workers are choosing where they want to settle their roots over where the work is. While the host communities experience a transient population influx, wear and tear on infrastructure, and housing inflation, the home communities are left to cope with their own challenges. “Her sense is that [they’re] left with older people, retirees, fatherless families … lack of volunteerism, all the things that knit a community together,” explained Hunter. Coincidentally households in northeast B.C. can also identify with those struggles: one parent at home, while the other is away. “Families are struggling with how to keep the family nucleus together … so it was a sense that communities are really changing and perhaps not for the better,” said Hunter. “Some families are more resilient and some

are not and so all the benefits are lost when you have a broken family.” Clarice Eckford, the Peace Project coordinator with the Women’s Resource Centre in Fort St. John, has spent the past year studying the cause and effects of worker camps on society, among other topics regarding violence against women in Fort St. John. The worker camp lifestyle is akin to golden handcuffs, Eckford says. The financial rewards of working an industy job may take precedent over nurturing a family’s wellbeing. While camps don’t have a carbon copy effect on each worker, she has seen how it positively and negatively contributes to society, families and marriages. Lori Heins is a mother of four and until recently was a resident of Fort St. John since 1997, and is what others would call a camp wife. The Heins family recently moved to Enderby in the Okanagan. Her husband Steve works as an electrician journeyman in the oil and gas industry, and is often away from home months at a time, 138 days being the longest. Heins admits that living without her husband is challenging at times, but is altogether worthwhile. “There’s always those hard times. It’s never easy, but then you work together, and it’s made our family really strong,” she said. Heins said it can be tiring being responsible for the all the day-to-day activities and chores, but her children are helping out as they get older. She also said that having Steve away has showed her how independent she is, and believes her children have a great relationship with their father. The family stays in touch using text messaging, video messaging and daily calls. According to Heins, her children really take advantage of their father being home, while other ‘9-5 families’ may not appreciate all that time together. “When papa is coming home, everything stops… so everything in our lives shuts off so that we can hang out with him. We don’t get a lot of quantity of time, but we get huge quality time,” said Heins. “We tried the 9 to 5 thing and it kind of sucked,” she added. Since having children, Steve has only missed two birthdays and one Thanksgiving. She said that there’s a misconception of all camp families being rich, and while she said that it has allowed them to move to the Okanagan, it didn’t come without hard work and sacrifice. “At the end of the day, we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done for ourselves and for our family. It is hard, but there is a good payoff in the end,” she said. The worker camp paradigm is complex. Trying to simplify it would be futile. Understanding how worker camps contribute to society, the impressions it leaves on family life and how it simultaneously stimulates the economy will take years, maybe decades to grasp. “It truly is a Pandora’s box. As far as all the little impacts that occur to an individual, on a worksite, in a community, on a health region, on other service providers: be it the RCMP, or mental health, who knows – the list is endless,” says Greg Thibault, manager of public health protection with Northern Health. Thibault is a key researcher on a series of reports that Northern Health has tackled regarding worker camps. From Northern Health’s permits alone,

they knew of approximately 4,000 workers and 1,800 work sites approved by a regulatory government agency. Thibault explained that 1,800 work sites doesn’t equate to 1,800 campsites. One day a camp could be located at a site and the next week they can pick up and move down the road – that’s two sites – same company. Therefore what remains a mystery is how many camp operations have been, and are currently, established. “There is not one jurisdiction that oversees camps,” said Hunter. While some research has been done on worker camps, there is still a huge chunk of data missing. Northern Health has completed two research papers, each one hoping to unfold more information about this phenomenon. The first paper looked at the state of industrial camps and the second looked at potential impacts on communities. “It’s really morphed into, ‘Gee we should be getting out to inspect these things more often,’ to, ‘Holy what the heck is going on out there’, to, ‘We’ve got a really good opportunity with all the resource development that currently exists with the tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure about to come swooping down on northern B.C. and all the workers associated with it,’” Thibault added. Thibault is in the process of writing a third paper, to focus on how Northern Health could potentially be affected in

terms of health service delivery. Thibault said that Northern Health has recognized that they need to start working with industry in order to address health issues in camps, and has since reached out to several different companies. Diet, exercise, substance abuse, health promotion, and prevention could be topics of programs that companies choose to implement in their camps. Thibault believes the health needs of workers are dependent on the type of camp, worker, and industry served. In the last decade the standard of camp life has improved. The trend, according to camp construction company PTI, shows that living spaces are more generous with a variety of food and entertainment. Catering to workers’ needs to stay connected to family or friends can contribute to their overall well-being. “And if we can have a positive impact on camp life in general, it’s going to have a positive impact on home life, and that’s not only going to be in the north, but potentially across B.C.,” said Thibault. It starts with recognizing that a community, like Fort St. John, should take a leadership role and start the conversation, or participate in the conversation, said Hunter. “As a community we need to build communities … that makes it a community of choice. If we don’t do it, it’ll happen regardless and it’ll happen in a vacuum policy … and there’s going to be long-term implications of some of that.”


Special Edition: The Northern Report

Prince George Free Press - DECEMBER 2013

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December 27, 2013  
December 27, 2013  

Section Y of the December 27, 2013 edition of the Prince George Free Press