The president of a national union was "shocked" and "dismayed" this morning to learn of the federal government's approval of two pipelines via a phone call from Today.
A further twist shortly after that phone call revealed the National Energy Board had also not been informed of the government's decision. That board gives final approval for pipeline applications.
These applications, according to Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, were not supposed to have been approved before considering a request from the federal natural resources standing committee. CEP has a formal petition before cabinet asking that the pipelines not be approved.
A press release issued by Enbridge Tuesday lauding the decision is what prompted the call to CEP, a known opponent of the pipelines, citing the need for better Canadian energy security.
One pipeline will run from Hardisty, Alta. to Superior, Wis.; its initial capacity will be 450,000 barrels per day of crude oil.
The other pipeline will transport diluent, a liquid used to allow non-upgraded oilsands to travel by pipeline, from the U.S. Midwest to Edmonton.
The standing committee urged the federal government to delay the decision of the two applications "until the standing committee has reviewed all of the implications on this, and other proposed pipelines on Canada's energy security ... development, public interest, and that the standing committee has reported its findings to the house."
The request was only tabled, not passed, and remains on the books.
"This is an official government standing committee (asking) the gov to hold on until they get to look at it, and make recommendations to the government -- they get the centre finger .... they gave them the royal salute," said Coles from his Ottawa office.
A response from the federal government about the approvals isn't expected until later this afternoon.
Coles said he can't understand why the prime minister wouldn't listen to his own standing committee, chaired by a Conservative, on such an important issue.
"These guys are like drunken sailors just doing the bidding for big oil.
"I was in Louisiana when (Stephen) Harper went on about the huge role Canada has to play in the energy security of the United States ... Canada has no national energy security; people in eastern Canada are completely at the mercy of the Yanks.
"What is going on here?"
Asked what he was going to do now, Coles replied first, "Get over the shock of having you tell me."
Then "We are not going to sit on our hands," he promised. "Why is the prime minister concerned about the energy needs of the U.S. and not the energy needs of Canada? Why is that question not in the public eye?"
The Alberta Federation of Labour is another opponent to the pipelines which it has likened to a bitumen superhighway, taking Alberta resources and jobs south.
Disappointed but not surprised at the federal approval, Gil McGowan, president, said the federal and provincial governments seem to be blind to what's going on.
"The energy companies are in the process of establishing a continental energy system in which Alberta is being assigned the role of low value extractor, and the Americans are reserving for themselves, the role of high value upgrader and refiner."
And that is neither in the Alberta public interest nor the broader Canadian public interest, said McGowan.
"Our leaders, both at the federal and provincial level, don't seem to care. We feel very strongly they're letting the public down."
"Instead of letting energy companies, and the American state department determine our energy future, our leaders should be blazing their own path, but clearly that's not happening."
Fort McMurray Today, Page A1, Wed May 14 2008
Byline: Carol Christian