Enbridge’s Toronto-to-Quebec Line Brings Big Risks


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Toronto protesters hoist oily flag again Enbridge-Photo by Mark Blinch

Enbridge’s plan to ship a river of tar sands crude through southern Ontario to Quebec has got to be one of the most risky of projects. Yet I have no doubt our government is determined to see it approved. It’s as if they have lost all common sense when it comes to safeguarding our future.

Now you may be sitting there wondering what kind of risks could I be referring to. Perhaps you are even recalling a message or two saying the pipeline will be safe. So why am I calling it risky? I understand your confusion, but read on.

When I talk to people about the Enbridge pipeline they seem to know very little about it. One individual I spoke with understood the basic premise of the project but had no knowledge of the potential consequences to our health and environment. I explained to him that the company  – with government approval a foregone conclusion — wants to ship tar sands crude through heavily populated cities in Ontario and Quebec using an old pipeline . He simply asked “Why haven’t I heard about this sooner?”

And I wonder, how many people in Toronto and Montreal know Enbridge was behind the costliest pipeline spill in U.S. history?

The Background

Enbridge plans to reverse the flow of  Line 9 that runs from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal and raise the  capacity to 300,000 barrels a day from 240,000. The National Energy Board has begun hearings into the proposal, which has sparked angry protests in Montreal and Toronto. It is not expected to make a decision until next year at the earliest.

The Toronto Star said in a recent editorial it was not happy with the project: “The company rejected calls for a special pressure test on an aging and controversial pipeline through the Greater Toronto Area. And it argued against having to carry $1 billion in liability insurance coverage. By refusing those steps, Enbridge undermines public confidence in the safety of changes proposed for the pipeline that runs under communities — and across every major river — in the GTA.”

Undermining the confidence? Yes, but do you expect Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in Ottawa to step in to ensure that our communities will be safe? No, we can expect more of those silly ads extolling the virtues of breakneck oil and gas development.

Imagine yourself driving your car and a message from the Canadian government comes on and says “The Enbridge pipeline is safe. It’s a 38 year old pipeline that was not designed to transport this particular type of oil but we can make it work! We will be monitoring the pipeline at all times (when we are not conducting coffee runs to Tim Horton’s). If something goes wrong we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Your government is working for a brighter future, unless it means saving the environment. This message has been approved by the government of Canada (insert government jingle).”

Unfortunately our government is not that dense to reveal those plans so easily. No, they are very crafty, and are careful with the message that they portray to the general public. This ensures they can say that they have informed the public of their plans.

The Whole Picture

So it’s up to us to stand up and protest when we know there are big risks. Fortunately, we have many resources that we can tap in to in order to see the whole picture. Here a description of the project from the great web site, Stop Line 9:

“In addition to the extensive damage to the environment caused by the Tar Sands, the transport of the raw material (“super-hot sandpaper”) is far more susceptible to pipeline breaks and damaging spills. Not only can this toxic and corrosive mixture spread through the soil to threaten property and the water tables; it also crosses 3 major rivers leading to Lake Ontario — the source of our drinking water. And from the time it was announced, it has become a threat to local property values.”

It can be disturbing when you receive different messages from different sources. It leaves confusion and doubt when we don’t receive all the facts up front. This should never be the case with our government. We have elected these people to protect our families and help us build a brighter future. If we are given anything less than that, it puts into question our government’s ability to lead.

As Canadians we deserve to see the whole picture; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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