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COMMENTARY · 25th March 2010
Merv Ritchie

Short and sweet, this shouldn’t take long, we just need to address a few simple matters that some think are difficult.

As my best friend Moon used to say, ‘Keep it simple sweetheart!” (KISS), unlike me and most people, she didn’t like insulting people or denigrating them by using the other ‘KISS’ ‘S’ term.

Point one – Pipeline of Crude Oil from the Tar Sands to offshore locations.

Right now we have the capacity on the Rail line to ship by tanker 10 times the oil, which the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will ever carry. Put another way, the pipeline will only move 10% of what we could ship by rail today. If we shipped it by tanker cars, they could be lifted off of the rail cars at Prince Rupert and placed onto container ships just like all the other containers at the Port in Prince Rupert. If the ship ran aground the spill clean up would be picking up a bunch of floating barrels. At the destination port the containers could be put on rail cars and shipped to the refinery.

Coming back the other way these same containers/barrels could bring back the condensate that the Tar Sands require for shipping their bulk crude south in their present pipelines. For an extra measure of security the tanker cars could be double skinned with an inch or two space between the second layer so that only a very violent derailment might see one or two tanks spill a part of their load. Not like a continuous high pressure 30 meter tower of crude spewing untold millions of liters before it is noticed and stopped. Not like a huge bathtub of crude bitumen breaking apart and fouling every bit of pristine ocean front and spawning grounds, food source and habitat for millions of species of life.

The rail tankers could be filled and sealed and never risk the spill of a drop, not see the light of day, until they are opened at the destination. Unlike opening the pipe at Kitimat to load the holding tanks, then out of the tanks to the ships, then exposed to the environment until the next shore, then unloaded at that shore, then again at a destination. Right across the globe this reveals multiple risks. Sealed rail tankers only expose the crude to the environment during filling at the Tar Sands and the opening at the refinery.

Seems like this is the first simple answer; anything else is reckless endangerment of life and the life giving environment, a criminal activity.

This should be a requirement around the world. All crude should be shipped this way. The current bathtub tankers single and double hulled, should be cleaned and painted, as has been done, with an epoxy sealer, filled with fresh Canadian river water which flows, wastefully into the Pacific Ocean, and then shipped free to hardship destinations as part of Canada’s economic contribution to the 3rd world and drought regions of the world population.

The Second Issue – Point Two - Run of River Hydro Electric Projects.

It would almost appear as though someone or some group is funding the anti-run of river environmental protest groups. These hydro electric projects are by far the most environmentally safe, the cleanest, the greenest, sources of electricity anywhere. They even beat Solar and wind by any and every measure. Making a Photovoltaic panel (Solar Electric) creates huge environmental toxic waste. Sure it creates power from the sun, but this is not a good trade off. Wind will only supplement, not be a prime mover for creating electricity. Once installed a run of river project runs trouble free for a century and more, never requiring much of anything except a shot of crude on the bearings and maybe the intake cleaned of debris.

There is only one thing to protest, which those who are funding the protest groups divert their attention from. They should be protesting private ownership. This is a government (THE PEOPLES OWN) resource. No one but the people of BC should own this clean green unlimited source of valuable electricity.

As the new transmission lines are constructed up the Valleys of Beautiful British Columbia, every river and stream could provide 40% of their available water to generate electricity. At the outfalls, spawning beds could be fashioned and all the rivers could be repopulated even after the Atlantic fish farmed salmon continue invading the natural species. This is a government resource. Our present Government is committing a seditious activity against itself and the people they have the duty to work on behalf of. The question is, which one (or more) of our present government’s corporate friends are funding the protest groups?

Number three – Big Industry.

Our local business groups have their heads in the sand. Yes, like buying the 649 once a week, and maybe more times, like going down to the local gaming hall and pressing the gambling machine buttons, we might just strike it rich and get a big player to come into the region and set up shop. But, by all accounts this isn’t likely to happen. Sometimes you need to create a welcoming environment first. Currently we are displaying a desperate hurting environment, like a lonely guy at the bar attempting to pick up any girl that comes along. What he will end up with is a user. Just like the girl who appears to want a guy, any guy, she isn’t discerning, and she gets found by an abuser. This is our economic development community, “Please, come here, anyone, but please, we’ll even give you stuff, even land, please just come here.”

No! What needs to be done is we need to look at ourselves, brush our teeth, comb our hair, tie up our boots and get a job. Then when we are taking care of ourselves and we have a social group of friends we will likely meet someone attractive that just rocks our socks. Next thing you know we’re married and having kids, building a new home and soon building additions.

There is no mystery to this. And here is how it can work.

Step one. Throw all of those who do not respect the native culture out of town; those in the local clubs; the chamber etc that have no time for the ‘indians’, turf em. Not to be too harsh but I do not care if all of the Native culture is hog wash, made up, or real. I don’t care if you believe in Great Spirit or the sacred headwaters, or if mother earth is all just a made up fallacy. Everyone, almost everyone, of the traveling, upstanding, western world loves it, admires it and wants to be close to it. Jeepers, we even have some weird white bear that just happens to be here.

The redneck, idiotic, bigoted person who believes the Natives have destroyed all the economic opportunity is just that, an idiot. And a good percentage of those in the local business community believe just that. And further the Gordon Campbell Government is happy they think that; gets the extreme right wing buffoons looking the wrong direction, at least not the correct direction, the government.

Step two. Redesign everything about this region, every market brochure, every ad, all in, everywhere one goes, all we promote is, 'This is where you can walk next to Great Spirit', 'This is the land of the Feast Halls and Totem Poles',' This is the Sacred Circle'.

Market it to California, to England and Germany; market it to Japan, Africa and India. This is where you can come and see the real First Nations Culture that which they still practice and enjoy. Nurture it, develop it, build it, fund it and the tourists will fill the streets to enjoy it.

Our shops, restaurants, motels and communities will be full of the traveling baby boomers and wealthy travelers. In amongst these travelers and tourists will be shareholders of large corporations. Those who might go home and tell their colleagues about the fabulous time they had in the Sacred Circle. They’ll talk about the great time they had fishing, the superb ski hill, the beautiful people. “Did you know the community has built mountain biking trails all through the hills around the town?”

And then during a board meeting when they are talking about expansion and where they should set up their next manufacturing facility, one will say, “Hey, why not up in the Sacred Circle. They have the land, a great location next to their airport; there are deep water ports and a rail line. Why don’t we set up there?”

And you know those of their friends who also came up to the Sacred Circle after hearing about it from some of their other colleagues and friends, or who saw it on the news or in a brochure might just think perfect, “You have my vote Jim!”

Boom Times Are Coming. Build it and they will come. You just need to be part of the game.

You can stand in the way or climb on board and be part of the fun. It is all up to the individual. We have everything here. The local Native groups, the Nisga’a the Haisla, the Tsimshian, the Taltan, the Gitzsan and so many more are all striving to pull it together. They all want economic security too. Most do not want it at the expense of destroying the environment. The spin offs are for everyone.

It is unlikely the shipment of crude oil to locations off shore can be stopped. It is growth and development, which simply will go on. Stand in the way and get run over. The best one can expect to do is to provide the best alternative or method. If we don’t stand in the way but demand it be done a better way, there is clearly a better chance of success in protecting the environment.

The whole topic of even using crude oil for plastics and paints etc. is convoluted; even Henry Ford knew to use hemp for all these products and even for making auto body parts is way better than anything crude oil could produce. With some of his original designs he demonstrated the strength by taking a baseball bat to the hood of a car to show how strong it was. But that is a whole other story for another day; except for the baseball bat part of it. Sometimes that is what is needed to get some peoples attention.

Pretty simple eh sweetheart?

Footnote: You do not really believe Terrace won Hockeyville 2009 by voting do you? It was at NWCC when the Native dancers came in drumming and singing at a welcome dinner. CBC wet themselves (sorry that was a bit crude) when they came in in their dress and gear. They even used hockey sticks and more to show off the culture.

Hockeyville was and is marketing. The CBC crews from Toronto were completely blown away, just like everyone (who is not from here) will be. Use it or lose it.
Who is deceivng who?
Comment by Shawn Ksisiiaks on 30th March 2010
No attempt was made to deceive, I just tried to put things into perspective (and underestimated in doing so). To simply say the “... the pipeline will only move 10% of what we could ship by rail today” is deception. Fact is there in no way the current rail line between Terrace and Kitimat (for example) could handle 20,000 additional cars and move that much product with major upgrades.
A dangerous metaphor
Comment by Carrie La Porte on 28th March 2010
By and large, I enjoyed this article and thought you made some very good points but was troubled by one of your remarks.

I was concerned by your use of the metaphor of the dating game to illustrate point #3 which says, in part, "Just like the girl who appears to want a guy, any guy, she isn’t discerning, and she gets found by an abuser. " Discerning? It is not as though abusers wear a sign on their forehead. This smacks of blaming the victim. Abuse will continue to be pepetrated so long as we make excuses for it.

I know you were not actually writing about domestic abuse but I still feel that such comparisons speak to a greater social ill.
Comment by Shawn Ksisiiaks on 28th March 2010
Please provide the the source that Cn can move 42,000,000 gallons of oil per day between edmonton and rupert?

I don't see it.

Ed Note: No one said 42 million gallons but converting barrels to litres to gallons and all the other measurements seems meant to decieve not enlighten. The current maximum proposed Northern Gateway, Enbridge Pipeline capacity is, from there own website -

◦Will carry an average of 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day west and 2nd pipe - 193,000 barrels of condensate per day, east bound.

These following two articles describe the easy current capacity with no upgrades, just added rail cars.

(The cost of a pipeline expansion from Edmonton to Kitimat, B. C., is estimated at $4-billion to handle nearly 600,000 barrels per day of bitumen and diluent. But producers will have to sign on, and take the pricing risk, for 20 years and wait years to get it built.

CN estimates it could ship and have the capacity to handle 2.6 million barrels a day of oil products to the West Coast if 20,000 railcars were added to its fleet). - (Shipping four millions barrels per day is possible with current rail capacity, said Foote.)

A CN spokesman was quoted over a year ago making this statement (10 times the proposed pipeline capacity), to a local radio station. What also needs to be factored in is the second pipeline going east with the condensate, now with the CN method the return crude tankers could carry the condensate, further making the concept more viable and cost effective.
oil by rail
Comment by Petri Nystrom on 28th March 2010
I like that concept of shipping in sealed containers. Now take it one step further and setup the manufactering of those containers in the northwest. Pros, small footprint, requires skilled workers (read good paying jobs).
just one reservation
Comment by Thomas La Porte on 27th March 2010
Many excellent ideas, Merv.

My only reservation pertains to the tar sands developments. Although you are right that our chances of stopping these projects is unlikely, the long-term effects of not doing so may prove disastrous.

The Pembina Institute has focused on three key issues: (1) insufficient protection of water flows on the Athabasca River during low flow periods, (2) inadequate management of toxic tailings, and (3) a lack of transparency in the monitoring of water quality and quantity, as well as in oil sands development and reclamation.

See: Simon Dyer, Written Submission: Federal Parliamentary Committee Hearing, May 13, 2009:

Comment by David Russell on 26th March 2010
I agree with the points here... I think they also represent how a lot of people in our community feel. I have hope we can move forward with intelligence in our economic development and some of it will just take people standing up and saying no to the businesses that just are here to exploit and saying yes to the people and businesses that are here to develop a sustainable community
Great Commentary
Comment by C. Arnold on 26th March 2010
Very good points. Look at the successful transformation of our local NWCC after their focus on the richness of the local first nations culture.
Comment by Diana Lemay on 26th March 2010
What a breath of fresh air, lateral thinking, hope others read this article and climb out of the box. Great article!!
Comment by James Wold on 26th March 2010
Well done Merv to put this in so simple words how could a real thinker not take notice. We have so much to offer everyone in the world sitting here in front of our nose.