A group of First Nations activists in northwestern Ontario are walking 125 kilometers of the proposed Energy East pipeline route to demonstrate their opposition to TransCanada's plan to convert the natural gas pipeline to transport oil. The walk began at Eagle Lake First Nation, near Dryden, Ont., on Aug. 3 and is expected to arrive at Shoal Lake 39 First Nation, west of Kenora, Ont. this weekend. The Anishinaabe protesters cite concerns for the region's waters in the event of pipeline leaks, and are calling the cross-country march the "Water Walk." TransCanada on July 29 announced that the company has reached an "engagement" agreement with Grand Council Treaty 3, which represents First Nations in the region. But Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White said the agreement does not mean that the Treaty 3 nations support the project, only that the company will "share information and listen to the people." At least one Treaty 3 chief is openly opposed to the pipeline. Shoal Lake 39 First Nation Chief Fawn Wapioke is taking part in the Water Walk. "Water is life," she said in a news release at the start of the walk. "Our Anishinaabe laws and values tell us everything we need to know about Energy East that is why we say no." (CBC, Aug. 5)
Concerns are meanwhile rising over costs of the project. TransCanada had been estimating the pipeline would cost $12 billion (Canadian), but this week admitted it could be much higher, without providing a figure. The line would be among the costliest infrastructure projects in Canadian history. For two thirds of the way, TransCanada aims to convert a gas pipeline to facilitate pumping of shale oil from from Alberta and Saskatchewan. A new section would extend the line through Quebec to New Brunswick. (Energy Global, Aug. 3)
The project has divided Canada's opposition in the current federal elections. Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe this week urged the New Democratic Party's Tom Mulcair to clarify his position on Energy East, accusing him of delivering different messages depending on where he is speaking. Duceppe said the NDP leader came out in support of the pipeline project during a speech in Toronto while saying he opposed it in an interview with Quebec's L'Actualité magazine. The Bloc leader accused Mulcair of not wanting to "lose votes in the West…. You can't be for and against at the very same time."
Duceppe was speaking in Vaudreuil-Dorion, one of the communities the pipeline would cross. Mulcair, campaigning in Montreal, said Energy East or any other such project couldn't be approved without a thorough and credible environmental evaluation. But he said the notion of bringing oil from west to east could "accomplish a lot of positive things," such as replacing supertankers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well as dangerous oil trains. (Montreal Gazette, Aug. 4)