David Suzuki isn’t surprised the federal government approved the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline Tuesday, but he is surprised Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t have the “courage” to announce the decision to Canadians.
Suzuki described the approval as “totally expected,” yet expressed dismay at the Prime Minister’s absence.
“Harper indicated before the joint review panel even started its sessions he wanted that pipeline through,” Suzuki told DeSmog Canada. “What surprises me is he didn’t even have the courage to present his approval and defend it.”
“This is such a craven thing, for the Prime Minister of the country to push through that agenda and then not even defend it, not even having any ministers out there defending it. I find that astounding.”
Northern Gateway is opposed by a majority of British Columbians, including most of the province’s First Nations.
Critics are saying the Harper government is insulating itself from political backlash associated with the pipeline's approval. Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford even claimed it inaccurate to suggest the federal government approved the pipeline.
The announcement of the pipeline’s conditional approval was made on “Government of Canada” letterhead, rather than under the Harper government’s signature brand.
Amid heated opposition responses Wednesday in the House of Commons, Harper merely stated the “government is obliged by law to respond to the findings of an expert scientific, independent panel that spent many, many months examining this project and consulting the public and other affected interests. As a consequence the government has imposed some 200 conditions on the project and the regulator is now tasked with ensuring the company, the proponent, fulfills those conditions moving forward.”
Former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, now Minister of Finance, said the government is not “creating distance,” adding “in this case, the regulator said this is good for the country, there isn’t an environmental problem. So we said yes.”