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A coalition of grassroots groups have received confirmation from 67 provincial candidates in Ontario that, if elected, they would conduct an environmental assessment (EA) on the controversial Line 9 pipeline that runs through Southern Ontario.
Line 9 is the 39 year old pipeline originally built for regular oil which Enbridge is now reversing to pump tar sands dilbit and fracked Bakken gas from Sarnia to Montreal. The pipeline passes through densely populated areas, including Toronto, as well as 18 First Nation communities, many of whom say they were not properly consulted.
In April of this year, the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation launched a court challenge regarding the National Energy Board's approval of Line 9 on the basis of their aboriginal and treaty rights. In a press release sent out yesterday, the community notes its application to the Federal Court of Appeal was approved and that the First Nation is now officially appealing the National Energy Board (NEB) decision.
"The basis of the appeal is that the Chippewas feel they were not properly consulted by the federal Crown with regard to the pipeline. The pipeline crosses the Thames River and it is the river that runs through the reserve, located near London, Ontario, and provides a source of drinking water to the First Nation. Chippewas of the Thames Chief, Joe Miskokomon, feels that this case highlights that the time is right to begin a wider dialogue on a principled approach to natural resources and safer energy projects."
A representative from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Myeengun Henry, was the featured speaker at the May 10 Toronto rally against tar sands expansion. This was the largest demonstration opposing Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline to date, with 1,500 people in attendance. A giant petition was carried, representing an online petition that has been signed by over 10,000 people demanding the Ontario Government conduct an environmental assessment on the project.
Activists say that since the federal government recently cancelled the requirement for EAs on pipeline projects, it is now up to provinces to conduct assessments themselves.
There is growing concern that Line 9 could rupture, threatening residential neighbourhoods, sensitive ecosystems, rivers, lakes and peoples' health. A pipeline safety expert, Richard Kuprewicz, has stated that the probability of Line 9 rupturing is "over 90 per cent" within the first five years of operation.
Despite this information, among other worrying evidence, being presented at the National Energy Board hearings, the NEB rubber-stamped the reversal project in March, ignoring recommendations from all non-industry intervenors, including the City of Toronto and the Ontario Ministry of Energy. The majority of conditions the agency placed on Enbridge were requirements to send paper work by particular dates.
Shortly after, in April, Toronto City Council voted to ask the province for an environmental assessment on Line 9, joining Kingston and five municipalities in the Durham Region in doing so. Two additional municipalities have motions about Line 9 before councils.
Some provincial candidates have also expressed concerns. The most vocal have been Nigel Barriffe (NDP, North Etobicoke) and James Gordon (NPD, Guelph) who have called on their fellow candidates to commit to an environmental assessment on the pipeline.
James Gordon stated in his press release calling for an EA: "This is an important issue for the province, and a vital one to the health of our environment and water supply. I am sure that all candidates recognize that the sustainability of our provincial ecosystem is a priority that crosses all party lines."
Nigel Barriffe stated in a similar release: "Enbridge pipelines have spilled across North America with serious impact. The 2010 spill from an Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan cost over $1 billion to clean up and four years later the company has still not been able to clean it up. The type of oil that may be piped through Line 9 is dangerous and much more toxic than conventional oil."
Provincial NDP environment critic, Jonah Schein, running again in Davenport, has been vocal on the project for some time, circulating his own petition on the matter last year.
In an email to the Toronto Line 9 EA coalition, he said: "A spill would risk the health and drinking water of millions of Ontarians like us, and cause permanent damage to ecosystems. The provincial government has a responsibility to watch out for the well-being of all Ontarians, and an environmental assessment is needed."
Despite the many calls from politicians and residents, as well as an open letter from 35 NGOs, community groups and unions, the government of Kathleen Wynne has refused to conduct an EA, deferring the matter to the federal government.
Unfortunately, as most know, the Harper government is intent on expanding the tar sands mega project at any cost, including at the expense of Indigenous communities living downstream from operations who are being poisoned by carcinogenic by-products, and at the expense of people around the world who are being affected and displaced by extreme weather conditions resulting from escalating greenhouse gas emissions.
Since Harper and the former oil executives at the NEB do not care about people or planet, it is now up to provinces to step up and take action. And it is up to ordinary people to keep up the pressure on provincial politicians to ensure they act -- no matter who gets elected.
It will also be crucial in the coming months to support the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation as it embarks on a very important legal battle at the Federal level.
Lana Goldberg is a grassroots environmental justice organizer in Toronto.
Photo: Kevin Konnyu
List of candidates along Line 9 that committed to conducting an EA if elected:
Adam Narraway: Green, Ajax - Pickering
Alex Johnstone: NDP, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale
Debra Scott: Green, Beaches - East York
Michael Prue: NDP, Beaches - East York
Pauline Thornham: Green, Bramalea - Gore - Malton
Laila Zarrabi Yan: Green, Brampton - Springdale
Ken Burns: Green, Brant
Alex Felsky: NDP, Brant
Jan Mowbray: NDP, Burlington
Temara Brown: Green, Cambridge
Jonah Schein: NDP, Davenport
Chris McLeod: Green, Don Valley East
Akil Sadikali: NDP, Don Valley East
Michael Coteau: Liberal, Don Valley East
Louis Fliss: Green, Don Valley West
Halyna Zalucky: Green, Durham
John Fisher: Green, Eglin-Middlesex-London
Kathy Cornish: NDP, Eglin-Middlesex-London
Romayne Smith Fullerton: NDP, Eglin-Middlesex-London
Lucas C. McCann: Green, Eglinton - Lawrence
Chris Jones: NDP, Etobicoke Center
Nigel Barriffe: NDP, Etobicoke North
Angela Salewsky: Green, Etobicoke-Lakeshore
James Gordon: NDP, Guelph
Anne Faulkner: Green, Haldimand-Norfolk
Peter Ormond: Green, Hamilton Center
Greg Zink: Green, Hamilton East - Stoney Creek
Paul Miller: NDP, Hamilton East - Stoney Creek
Robert Kiley: Green, Kingston and the Islands
Stacey Danckert: Green, Kitchener - Waterloo
Catherine Fife: NDP, Kitchener - Waterloo
Margaret Johnston: NDP, Kitchener Center
David Weber: Green, Kitchener-Conestoga
James Armstrong: Green, Lambton - Kent - Middlesex
Keith McAlister: Green, London West
Nadine Kormos Hawkins: NDP, Markham - Unionville
Kathy Acheson: Green, Mississauga Brampton South
Gordon Kubanek: Green, Nepean - Carleton
Andrew Roblin: Green, Newmarket - Aurora
Basia Krzyzanowski: Green, Niagara West - Glanbrook
Gudrun Ludorf-Weaver: Green, Northumberland - Quinte West
Emilia Melara : Green, Oak Ridges - Markham
Kevin O'Donnell: Green, Ottawa Center
Jennifer McKenzie: NDP, Ottawa Center
Alex Cullen: NDP, Ottawa West - Nepean
Alex Hill: Green, Ottawa West - Nepean
Mike Farlow: Green, Oxford
Bryan Smith: NDP, Oxford
Kevin Shaw: Green, Sarnia Lampton
Brian White: NDP, Sarnia Lampton
Edward Yaghledjian: Green, Scarborough Cente
David Del Grande: Green, Scarborough Southwest
Jessie Macaulay: NDP, Scarborough Southwest
Lorezo Berardinetti: Liberal, Scarborough Southwest
Josh Rachlis: Green, St. Paul's
David Bergart: Green, Thornhill
Mark Daye: Green, Toronto Centre
Kate Sellar: NDP, Toronto Centre
Rachel Power: Green, Toronto Danforth
Peter Tabuns: NDP, Toronto Danforth
Tim Grant: Green, Trinity - Spadina
Rosario Marchese: NDP, Trinity - Spadina
Dave Rodgers: Green, Wellington - Halton Hills
Ryan Kelly: NDP, Whitby - Oshawa
Teresa Pun: Green, Willowdale
Josh Borenstein: Green, York Centre
Thank you to community groups Toronto East End Against Line 9, Toronto West End Against Line 9, and N