* Oliver says it's possible to win over critics
* Regulatory approval could help sway opponents, he says
* Commentator urges Harper to convene pipeline summit
* Controversy spurs proposal for rail line to Alaska
OTTAWA, Jan 3 Proponents of the planned Northern
Gateway pipeline from Alberta's oil sands to Canada's West Coast
can still carry the day even though the project has generated a
wave of opposition, the country's natural resources minister
"I am still of the belief that we can get this done, on the
assumption, of course, that it passes regulatory muster," Joe
Oliver told Postmedia News in an interview published on
"If the conclusion is this project can be safe for
Canadians, safe for the environment ... that, I hope, will go a
long way in respect at least to people who are kind of
open-minded to the facts."
Both the federal and Alberta governments, as well as the oil
industry, are keen for the C$6 billion Enbridge Inc
pipeline to be built to enable the increasing supply of crude
from the oil sands to satisfy thirsty Asian markets.
A glut of Albertan oil relative to current pipeline capacity
has forced deep discounts that are taking a toll on provincial
and federal coffers as well as oil company
But the Liberal government of the province of British
Columbia, the main opposition New Democratic Party, aboriginal
groups and environmental groups have raised strong opposition to
the 550,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) line.
It is currently undergoing an environmental review, which is
to conclude at the end of the year. Oliver said Ottawa had much
work to do to convince British Columbians of the value of the
pipeline but said that if environmental concerns were allayed,
the provincial government should not be opposed.
Ian MacDonald, editor of Macdonald-Laurier Institute's
Inside Policy magazine, said in an op-ed piece on Thursday that
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper should convene a meeting
of provincial premiers and aboriginal leaders to push for
pipelines as part of a Canadian Energy Strategy.
The difficulties in getting approval for pipelines from
Alberta have prompted a proposal to send oil by rail to the
Valdez terminal on Alaska's southern coast, though studies show
rail is proportionately more likely to record spillages and
The Alaska rail project is being promoted by Generating for
Seven Generations, a group that advocates extensive
collaboration with native groups. It says it could transport 1.5
million to 4 million barrels per day, far more than pipelines
Mike Deising, spokesman for Alberta Energy Minister Ken
Hughes, said the province advocates for market diversification
without endorsing one project over another.
"We support the need to get the product to market and work
with other provinces and stakeholders to help ensure Canadians
understand the benefits of our oil," he said.
Canada is also awaiting a verdict from U.S. President Barack
Obama on whether to allow TransCanada Corp's Keystone
XL pipeline into the United States. He rejected an initial
application last year.