Decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project. And that's how we conduct our business," Harper said.This is not exactly a science supporting Prime Minister or government so it is an alien thing to hear him use the science word twice in any public appearance. See his government's ozone station cuts, Environmental Lakes Area closure, and their negligent climate change policy writ large. So what was he on about yesterday?
"The only way that governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically and not simply on political criteria," the prime minister added.
The government may be playing for a win on the project at the Joint Review Panel level so they can point to the "science" as winning the day with no need to be overruled by the cabinet. The panel now has to weigh in by the end of 2013 according to that recent letter from the National Energy Board to the panel of August 3rd. That newly tightened window may be part of putting a squeeze on the panel.
Or, if Harper views the B.C. situation as politically perilous for Conservatives, as James Moore's recent performance suggests, maybe he thinks circumstances surrounding opposition to the pipeline could change by the end of 2013 and into 2014 (if the Harper cabinet did in fact override the panel, it would have six months to do so). It's hard to see that happening but why not dial back the aggression in the mean time and talk up words like science? Recall that poll from last week: "An Angus Reid poll released last week showed more than half of British Columbians oppose the Northern Gateway, but could be swayed to eventually support it, with opposition also strong against the Kinder Morgan line." Harper sounded like he could be playing to those who could be swayed.
In any event, there was another story on Northern Gateway in the news yesterday that is probably just as significant as any remarks made by Harper in B.C. That was the latest report of Enbridge bumbling with First Nations in B.C. First Nations are a huge factor in the pipeline's future and could very well be the determinative factor. Something to be kept in mind irrespective of whatever the evolving Harper strategy may be.