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Tofino-Long Beach chamber clarifies pipeline position

Oct 25 2012

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce is brushing off criticism from some members over the organization's support for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

In an interview, B.C. Chamber president John Winter said the dissension in the ranks is limited, and tried to clarify the position it has taken on the pipeline.

"We have a process that enables members to develop policy for us that culminates in a resolution being passed by the membership at the annual meeting ... and it doesn't require unanimous support from all the chamber," Winter said.

He noted the only chamber that has publicly taken issue is the Tofino and Long Beach Chamber.

In a letter sent this week to the B.C. Chamber and media outlets, Tofino chamber president Don Travers wrote to reiterate his chamber's opposition to the pipeline and to request any statements made by the provincial organization on the Gateway project acknowledge there is opposition from within the provincial chamber's membership.

Travers also said his chamber takes exception to the B.C. Chamber's assertion the public discourse around the project has become distorted by a lack of understanding of the facts.

Winter stands by the assertion the debate over the pipeline has glossed over some of the facts.

"The opposition is often coming from people not connecting the dots to the overall need for economic stimulus," Winter said, noting B.C. has a resource-based export economy that requires expanding its products and markets.

"The concern I have is we have opposition to these kinds of things that don't recognize some of the economic realities and they're not offering much in the way of options."

According to Travers' letter, the Tofino Chamber is against the pipeline because the "risk of an oil spill is too high, and the resulting environmental and economic consequences are far too great for Tofino's businesses."

Winter also noted the B.C. Chamber's own position on the pipeline has been misunderstood as offering unquestioned support for the project.

"Our support is not unconditional. Our support is based on the outcome of the joint review panel hearings; our support is for the economic aspects of the thing," Winter said.

He added the B.C. Chamber wants assurances the project is an environmentally sensitive and economically sustainable venture. "We are reserving judgment, but we are not closing the door on it."

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is waiting for the results of the joint review panel hearings before making its position on the pipeline known, and CEO Bruce Carter said that would be good advice to follow for any business organization.

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