Brian Sinclair inquest wraps up this week – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – It’s been almost six years since Brian Sinclair wheeled into the emergency room at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre seeking treatment for a blocked catheter.

Thirty-four hours later, the aboriginal man was found dead in the waiting room.

An inquest into his death is to conclude this week and there is frustration it didn’t delve deeper into why many assumed the double-amputee was just a homeless person seeking shelter or a drunk “sleeping it off.”

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“What’s really been missing from the equation is any analysis of the behavioural dynamic – how staff interact with the public, the assumptions that are made and the falseness of some of those assumptions when it comes to marginalized people,” said Vilko Zbogar, a lawyer representing the Sinclair family.

“Based on the way (Sinclair) looked, people assumed he was not in need of medical care.”

The final week is to include testimony from expert witnesses on how to improve patient flow and reduce long waits for care. The Sinclair family, the regional health authority and the Manitoba Nurses Union will then make final recommendations.

Two aboriginal groups and lawyers representing the family boycotted part of the inquest because Judge Tim Preston rejected calls to examine whether systemic racism played a role in Sinclair’s death.

The inquest heard Sinclair hadn’t urinated in 24 hours and so was referred to the hospital by a clinic doctor in September 2008. He wheeled up to the triage desk and spoke with an aide before taking a position in the waiting room.

Sinclair vomited several times as he languished there. A housekeeper cleaned up around him, but no one asked him if he was waiting to see a doctor.

By the time Sinclair was discovered lifeless by other patients, rigor mortis had set in. The cause of death was a treatable bladder infection.

An internal review found 17 staff members saw the man, but no one assumed he was waiting for care.

Some assumed he had been triaged already and was waiting for a bed. Others assumed he had been treated and discharged. Others thought he was drunk and was waiting for a ride or just needed a warm place to rest.

David Frayer, inquest counsel, said racism was not a recurring theme in the testimony from more than 80 witnesses.

“The only open evidence of racism was the observations made by people that they came to the conclusion that just because he was sitting there, he may have been under the influence rather than a person seeking treatment,” Frayer said. “That, I guess, has some racist undertones but racism generally has not been the focus of this inquest.”

Emily Hill, lawyer for the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto who withdrew from the inquest halfway through, said Sinclair’s case resonated with aboriginal people across the country.

“It’s important to think about continuing this conversation and making sure that this doesn’t just end this week and everyone goes back to how things were,” she said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority declined to comment until the final report comes out. Lawyers for the authority argued throughout the inquest that many of the issues that led to Sinclair’s fate have been resolved.

The layout of the emergency room has changed so it is easier for nurses to keep an eye on the waiting room and triage has changed so incoming patients wear visible wristbands while they are waiting for care.

Sandi Mowat, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said those safeguards will help.

“The flow through emergency rooms throughout the city is still a problem at times,” she said. “I think some of the recommendations that will come out of the inquest will help that.”


The Harper Doctrine: Not afraid to be “offside” of others – National

ABOVE: Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with The West Block’s Tom Clark at the Canadian War Cemetery in Bény-sur-Mer, France.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says when it comes to foreign policy he’s not concerned about where other countries stand on any given issue.

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    Putin, Obama meet for the first time in months

  • D-Day 70th Anniversary: The first building liberated in Normandy

“We’re not afraid to take stands that then put us offside others, from time to time,” Harper said in an exclusive interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “We do that because we believe that we’re working not just for Canadians but for broader objectives that we share with our fellow human beings.”

Speaking about the security situation in Ukraine, Harper reflected on the roots of his own foreign policy doctrine and the lessons he takes from his father’s generation.

“I think that generation had two views that we always should keep in mind,” he said. “One is first of all that war is a terrible thing and we should do everything in our power to avoid it. But the other thing that generation grew up with was not to turn a blind eye to potential threats.”

History shows the resulting catastrophe when world leaders look the other way, said Harper.

“I think there were many people in that era felt that as bad as World War II had been, the worst war in history … That a lot of it could have been avoided had people been aware of the threat of Hitler and his ilk in the 1930’s,” he said. “And people deliberately turned a blind eye to that partly as a consequence of the terrible carnage of World War I.  People didn’t want to repeat it.”

“Our foreign policy obviously incorporates those kinds of lessons.”

That could explain Harper’s approach to Vladimir Putin.

WATCH: Harper increasingly alone in resolve to isolate Putin says former ambassador

“The prime minister is in a minority of one in the G7 in terms of shunning Vladimir Putin,” said Christopher Westdal, Canada’s former ambassador to both Russia and Ukraine.

Harper’s distance from other G7 leaders became clearer during an official D-Day luncheon in France on Friday when the leaders of the UK, France, Germany and the US  met with Putin. While President Obama only spoke with Putin for five minutes, encounters with the other leaders were more formal and lasted longer.

Harper staunchly refused to do the same, instead characterizing Putin as an “extreme nationalist” and an “imperialist.”

“This is an individual who clearly believes that if he’s able, he has the right and ability, to invade another country, to alter borders through military force,” Harper said.

However, in his interview with Clark, Harper did pull back from previous comparisons he had made between Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Second World War in March.

“We’re not at Hitleresque proportions but this is really disconcerting,” he said. “This is a major power threatening global peace and security in this way and I don’t think it’s to be taken lightly.”

According to Westdal, that comment was a welcome change in tone. “I think that had been a reckless mistake to evoke Adolf Hitler in the context of judging Vladimir Putin and I think noteworthy that that has in effect been retracted.”

Nevertheless, Westdal said Ottawa is still a long way from good relations with Moscow.

“We’ve burned our bridges with Russia, we’ve cut our relations to a minimum.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t have a role to play, supportive of President (Petro) Poroshenko given his daunting agenda”, Westdal added. “And I was pleased to see that the prime minister alone among G7 leaders went to the inauguration of President Poroshenko. So we do have a role to play with those with whom we have credibility.”

Harper went to Kyiv directly from the ceremonies in Normandy, to attend  Ukraine President Poroshenko’s swearing-in ceremony. Harper was the first world leader to meet with the newly inaugurated president.

Harper suggested Ukraine and other Eastern European countries can count on Canada’s continued support.

Harper: looking at permanent military presence in Eastern Europe

Our East European allies “are quite frankly, beside themselves and obviously very, very worried,” Harper said.

Asked by Clark whether Canada would permanently station troops in Eastern Europe, he said it’s something the government is considering.

“We’re dialoguing with the Poles and others about what we can do as NATO allies to provide reassurance on an ongoing basis,” Harper said. “That will be something we’re examining now with those allies and obviously something we’ll discuss in Wales in September when NATO meets.”

Canada currently has troops stationed in Poland, six CF-18 fighter jets and their crew stationed in Romania, additional staff officers in Brussels, and a warship in the Mediterranean.

READ MORE: Canada sending more troops to Europe

Ottawa hasn’t released the cost of the current mission in Europe, but in light of the Russia-Ukraine tensions, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has again called on NATO allies to bring their defence spending up to two per cent of each country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Canada’s current defence spending sits at one per cent of GDP.

Asked whether Canada would increase spending, Harper suggested that wasn’t in the cards.

“I always say Tom, whether it’s military spending or development assistance or just social spending in Canada, we don’t measure things in dollars, we measure things in specifically what it is we want to do and what it is we want to achieve.  And so we’ll look at it in that context.”

 – With files from The Canadian Press

What you need to know about the NDP’s platform – National

Amended at 5:30 p.m. ET Friday, Oct. 9 to clarify that Mulcair has said he’d unilaterally stop appointing Senators, not that he’d unilaterally abolish the Senate.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair unveiled his party’s full platform in Montreal Friday as he attempted to shore up slipping support for his party and position himself as the only person who can really defeat Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

ADVANCE VOTING: How, where and when this long weekend

So what’s actually in the plan?

Browse by topic:

FamiliesHealthDemocratic ReformJobsMoney & TaxesEnvironmentImmigration and RefugeesAboriginal CanadiansSafety


The promise: $15-a-day child care for everyone.

The fine print: It’ll take a while but he’s pledged one million spaces by 2023, according to the platform. And it’ll require the co-operation of the provinces.

READ MORE: How much does child care actually cost?

WATCH: Mulcair announces plans for national pharmacare program

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The promise: A universal pharmacare program.

The fine print: This would also require provincial cooperation. And while health advocates argue this is badly needed and fiscally prudent in the long run, it would probably cost a lot more than the $2.6 billion over four years that Mulcair has pledged.

The promise: Revert to the previous formula for federal health transfers to provinces. (Health transfers keep growing under the new formula, but they grow more slowly.)

The fine print: It sounds boring, but it means big bucks — billions more over several years, potentially. The NDP wants to use that money toward its many health care promises, including:

200 new clinics7,000 new health professionalsExpanding home care for seniors

It isn’t clear whether the cash would be tied to expectations the provinces spend it the way the NDP wants them to.

READ MORE: Your election questions – health care, child care and the supersized campaign

The promise: Ensure all provinces make abortions accessible to women who need them.

The fine print: Canada’s unequal abortion access has been an issue for ages. But doing this would probably mean taking on provincial governments in the Maritimes.

The promise: Improved care for federal inmates with mental illness.

The fine print: Canada’s prisons are overwhelmed by mental illness and the feds face a class action lawsuit alleging “cruel and unusual” treatment. But it’s tough to establish effective health care in correctional facilities.

INVESTIGATION: Death Behind Bars

WATCH: NDP leader Tom Mulcair casts his vote for the federal election at an advanced poll station.

Democratic reform

The promise: Bring in a system of mixed-member proportional representation in their first mandate.

The fine print: That’s a big promise. Would it include a referendum? What if the referendum fails, as others have in the past? Would the provinces have a say?

READ MORE: What are Canada’s electoral reform options, and how might they work? 

The promise: Work with provinces to abolish the Senate.

The fine print: Mulcair has said for years he wants to abolish the Senate. But constitutionally, he needs the provinces on board. In the meantime he’s vowed not to appoint any new Senators, which Harper is also promising to do and which experts say is probably unconstitutional.

The promise: Eliminate all access-to-information fees, except the $5 filing fee.

The fine print: The Liberals have also promised this.

The promise: Create a Parliamentary Science Officer and make the Parliamentary Budget Officer more independent.

The fine print: Parties usually like oversight a lot more before they’re in power. (See: 2006 Conservatives)

The promise: Restore the long-form census.

The fine print: It’d be tough to do this before the 2016 census. And even if you could, would longitudinal data-collection have to start over from scratch, given the missed period? (This is actually a big deal for researchers, planners and public health officials.)

NATIONAL HOUSEHOLD SURVEY: What we know about what we don’t know


The promise: Reform EI, reduce the minimum number of hours you need to qualify and make eligibility “fairer in recognition of the changing nature of work.”

The fine print: Canadians have vastly different access to EI depending where they live. It isn’t clear what this reform would do to change that.

READ MORE: Federal election economy cheat sheet

The promise: Build on Automotive Innovation Fund and Auto Suppliers Innovation Fund.

The fine print: The Conservatives would do about the same thing. Economists have argued giving companies cash isn’t always the best way to create jobs.

READ MORE: But seriously, can governments create jobs?

The promise: Reform Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program, which has come under fire for worker abuses and its rapid expansion, which some argue creates a disincentive to paying Canadian workers a fair wage.

The fine print: It isn’t clear what they’d change or how they’d measure whether the program “is meeting its goals.”

READ MORE: Who hires temporary foreign workers? You’d be surprised

Money and Taxes

The promise: Cancel doubled TFSA limits and income-splitting for parents of young children.

The fine print: The Parliamentary Budget Officer has found both of these measures would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Canadians.

READ MORE: Who benefits from doubling TFSA limits?

The promise: $15 federal minimum wage.

The fine print: This wouldn’t affect the vast majority of minimum wage earners — minimum wages are the provinces’ purview.

READ MORE: 3 charts that show how Mulcair plans to balance the budget

The promise: Increase seniors’ Guaranteed Income Supplement and reduce the retirement age to 65 from 67.

The fine print: This will get expensive as Canada’s population ages.

READ MORE: Canada has more seniors than kids for the first time ever. What does that mean?

The promise: New “Consumer Protection Act” that would:

Cap ATM fees and credit card interest rates;Crack down on payday lenders;Crack down on “exorbitant” cell phone roaming fees;Create a “Gasoline Ombudsman” to “investigate complaints about practices in the gasoline market.”

The fine print: Some of these initiatives are already under way. Payday lending is also a primarily provincial jurisdiction.

CHEQUED OUT: Inside Canada’s payday loan cycle

The promise: Hike corporate tax rate from 15 to 17 per cent.

The fine print: This would kick in January, 2016.

The promise: Reduce taxes for small businesses from 11 to 9 per cent.

The fine print: This would kick in over two years.

The promise: Eliminate interest on student loans; add $250 million to Canada Student Grants program.

The fine print: Will be phased in over seven years and four years, respectively.


The promise: National cap-and-trade of carbon emissions.

The fine print: We still don’t know how this would work or what those emission limits would be.

The promise: $100 million toward renewable energy in northern and remote communities; $150 million toward “green” municipal infrastructure; $200 million toward wastewater infrastructure in smaller communities.

The fine print: Canadian communities struggling to upgrade their often woefully inadequate wastewater treatment facilities face a funding shortfall in the billions of dollars.

READ MORE: How safe is your wastewater? Environment Canada won’t tell you

The promise: Revise environmental assessment of resource projects to provide greater community involvement, consideration of environmental impacts and consultation with First Nations.

The fine print: We still don’t know how this would affect ongoing projects such as Energy East.

PIPELINE POLITICS: What you need to know about oilsands and the election

The promise: $200 million over four years to retrofit “at least: 200,000 homes and apartments, incentivize the creation of 10,000 new affordable and market-rate rental units.

The fine print: It isn’t clear how that incentive would work or how many affordable rental units that would create, or how “affordable” is defined.

Immigration and Refugees

The promise: Lift caps on family-class immigrants, reduce wait times and create an ombudsman for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

The fine print: The Immigration and Refugee Board and Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration are supposed to provide oversight and an appeals process. But the Conservatives have taken steps to limit individuals’ avenues of appeal for immigration and refugee decisions.

The promise: Restore Interim Refugee Health Program cuts; bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees by end of 2015 and 9,000 a year afterward. Expedite processing of Syrian refugee applicants.

The fine print: A Canadian federal court has already called the cuts to refugee health “cruel and unusual”; advocates have called for expedited refugee processing and less red tape, but they also argue Canada could do more to bring desperate people here — by facilitating family sponsorship of refugees, for example.

READ MORE: What could Canada actually do to alleviate refugee crisis?

Aboriginal Canadians

The promise: Call a national inquiry on missing and murdered aboriginal women within first 100 days.

The fine print: While there have been widespread calls for this for years, any inquiry would need to be backed by action to solve existing cases and prevent more women from being killed.

The promise: Implement Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations “on a priority basis established in consultation with provinces, Indigenous communities and others.”

The fine print: It isn’t clear what that “priority basis” would mean or what the time frame would be.

The promise: $1.8 billion over four years toward indigenous education.

The fine print: Canada’s aboriginal funding shortfall has been estimated at a cumulative $3 billion since 1996.


The promise: 2,500 new police officers and $30 million toward local police forces’ guns-and-gang taskforces.

The fine print: Crime is actually down across Canada; one of the primary drivers of increasing police expenditures, after salary increases, is dealing with people in emotional crisis or suffering from mental illness.

The promise: Beef up rail safety, inspections, audits and penalties.

The fine print: Would need specifics on what, exactly, this entails.

The promise: Repeal Bill C-51 and end Canada’s military mission fighting ISIS, working with the international community to stop the flow of arms to terrorists instead.

The fine print: The NDP doesn’t appear inclined to replace C-51 with anything, and it isn’t clear how much international cooperation could do to cut off ISIS’ weapons supply.

READ MORE: New book slams Canada’s anti-terror law

The promise:  Make gender identity and gender expression prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and as a basis for hate crimes in the Criminal Code.

The fine print: This was supposed to happen already, but the Senate blocked that bill.

The promise: Boost Canada’s international aid.

The fine print: The NDP originally promised to increase Canada’s aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP; now it says it will “set a timetable” to meet that goal and increase aid by $500M over four years.

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WATCH: Mulcair says the NDP is still the best party for anyone who wants to unseat the Conservatives

Transcript: Episode 40, June 8 – National


Episode 40, Season 3

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews:Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Christopher Westdal, Sergeant Ron Tucker, Corporal Have Chiasson, Brian Markham, Wayne Day

Location: Normandy, France (Juno Beach)

**Check against delivery**

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On this Sunday, 70 years after Canadians breached the wall of tyranny, a special edition of The West Block from Juno Beach.

An exclusive interview with the prime minister at the Canadian War Cemetery to reflect on Canada’s role in the freedom of Europe both then and now.

And, the last salute to the remaining veterans of D-Day. Why the world is finally paying attention.

It is Sunday, June the 8th and from Juno Beach here in Normandy, I’m Tom Clark and this, is The West Block.

Well 70 years ago, this beach was alive with the sounds and the machinery of invasion. This is where 14,000 Canadians came ashore and where in just a few hours, 350 were killed. Seventy years later, some of the survivors returned, as did 19 world leaders and thousands of admirers.

This is likely the last time there will be a major commemoration. The youngest vets are almost 90. It made this ceremony that much more significant and made the memory of their victory for freedom that much more important.

On the morning of the D-Day anniversary, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met me at the Canadian War Cemetery in Beny-Sur-Mer for exclusive interview on Europe then and now.

Prime Minister, thanks very much for taking the time to sit down. You know, just a couple of minutes ago, you and I were walking through the cemetery looking at some of the tombstones. What was going through your head when you were looking at them?

Stephen Harper:
Well I think the same thing every time I come to these Commonwealth graves of which there are Canadian graves, far too many in the world. Just how young these people were; their whole lives ahead of them. They sacrificed a great deal and the sacrifices here really are the things that have, you know, shaped the world we live in, allowed us to have almost seventy years of peace.

Tom Clark:
Talking to veterans it always amazes me. They say, no, no, I’m not the hero. The heroes are the ones here buried in these cemeteries, who were the greatest generation, as many people said.

Stephen Harper:
Yeah they really were. You know this is the generation that first defeated fascism and then you know stood strong against the communist threat for many decades later until it finally crumbled. And as they say, gave us the peace and prosperity we have. You know what I think what’s happening Tom, this anniversary and many others; we aren’t just honouring the war. I think for many of us, it’s our parents’ and our grandparents’ generation we’re really honouring all they contributed to our lives.

Tom Clark:
Let’s take a look at the Europe of today Prime Minister because it is very different. The biggest threat obviously Russia, Vladimir Putin. What do you think he’s up to? What does he want?

Stephen Harper:
Well you know, he’s obviously, we now know two things. He’s obviously a nationalist, an extreme nationalist and he’s obviously an imperialist. You know this is…we had the fighting, Milosevic in the Balkans but I think we always saw it as a – and although Canada intervened – it’s very much a localized matter. This is an individual who clearly believes that if he’s able, he has the right and the ability to invade another country, to alter borders through military force. You know we’re not at Hitleresque proportions but this is really disconcerting. This is a major power threatening global peace and security in this way and I don’t think it’s to be taken lightly.

Tom Clark:
You’ve just come from the G7 where obviously this issue is foremost in everybody’s mind, but during the celebrations here in France, I believe that the leaders of the UK, France and Germany are going to be meeting with Vladimir Putin. Is that wise in your view?

Stephen Harper:
Well I’m not meeting with Mr. Putin and neither is President Obama. Obviously this was an issue of some significant discussion at our G7 meetings. We did not invite Mr. Putin to those G7 meetings either. I think what we all agreed is that in meetings with Mr. Putin, the messages should be very clear and only those messages should be delivered. And those messages are very straightforward: get out of occupied territory, stop fomenting violence and other provocative behaviour, and recognize and work with the new government of Ukraine on the economy and on trade, and on things that unite people.

Tom Clark:
Are you concerned at all that he hasn’t made any move yet to get out of Crimea?

Stephen Harper:
Look, I’m not the least bit surprised. As I say, he’s done more than just occupy it. As you know, he has annexed it, incorporated it into Russia. So his view is obviously that he is not leaving, but I do think we need to send a message on an ongoing basis that we will never accept the illegal occupation and seizure of neighbouring territory. This was a position the allies took with regard to the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania when they were seized by the Soviet Union at the beginning of World War II. Western powers never recognized that occupation and come the 1990s, come the fall of the Soviet Union they were the very first areas to become actually independent once again.

Tom Clark:
You’ve talked in the last few weeks about a commitment to a more permanent presence in this part of world by Canada. What exactly do you mean by that? Are you thinking of participating in permanent bases over here?

Stephen Harper:
Well we’ve really only been looking at that obviously post Crimea situation. As you know, Canada has worked with our NATO allies and others to deploy ships to the Mediterranean and to deploy additional staff officers to Brussels with NATO to put some air assets in Romania and have some land operations in Poland. Obviously our East European allies are to say they are alarmed by what’s happening in Ukraine is an understatement. They are quite frankly, beside themselves and obviously very, very worried. And so obviously we’re dialoguing with the Poles and others about what we can do as NATO allies to provide reassurance on an ongoing basis, and that will be something we’re examining now with those allies and obviously something we’ll discuss in Wales in September when NATO meets.

Tom Clark:
Prime Minister we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be back right after this. Stay tuned.


Tom Clark:
Welcome back to The West Block in Juno Beach in Normady. Well 70 years ago, Canada punched way above its weight in terms of its contribution for the fight for freedom here in Europe. By the end of the war, we had the world’s third largest navy. But since then, that has changed. Today, Canada is one of smallest contributors to the defence of freedom. It’s an issue that I put to the prime minister.

Prime Minister, I wanted to ask you about going forward, NATO has asked the member countries to spend about two per cent of their GDP on defence. Now we’re well below that, I think we’re near the bottom actually of what we spend. Is it time, in light of what’s happening in Europe, is it time to start spending more on our military?

Stephen Harper:
Well as you know, we have actually as a government; we’ve made significant new investments in our military. Some of it was obviously related to Afghanistan. We significantly upgraded our army, our land capabilities. We also have upgraded our air capabilities, most notably with the big C17s. We’re now one of the few countries in the world that has a heavy lift capacity which has frankly greatly broadened both the type of operations we can undertake and the speed with which we can undertake them. And we’re now embarked on an enormous ship building program which frankly is in the nick of time because we’re at the point where most of our assets, naval assets are many decades old, coming to the end of their useful life. So we’re making significant investments. I always say Tom, whether it’s military spending or development assistance or just social spending in Canada, we don’t measure things in dollars, we measure things in specifically what it is we want to do and what it is we want to achieve. And so we’ll look at it in that context. We established what we call the Canada First Defence Strategy when we came in as a government which was the underpinning behind a lot of military investments we’ve made over the last eight years and we’re now re-examining that strategy, looking at the next phase of that and we’ll make those judgments in that context rather than just the context of the dollar target.

Tom Clark:
I want to step back a little bit as a final question to you, and ask whether…what the theme of your foreign policy is, whether there is such a thing as the Harper doctrine when it comes to Canadian foreign policy. But importantly in that, you’ve said that your dad was such an influence on your life. How did he instruct you in the formation of how you look at the world and the foreign policy that you’ve put on the table?

Stephen Harper:
Well look, my father was actually…we were talking about this earlier. He was…he would be 87 if he were living; too young to fight in the war. In fact, had the atomic bombs not been dropped on Japan he would have become eligible to fight within a couple of months, so obviously he didn’t fight but he obviously grew up with that fight and he knew many older friends who had perished in the war. So look, I think that generation had two views that we always should keep in mind. One is first of all that war is a terrible thing and we should do everything in our power to avoid it. But the other thing that generation grew up with was not to turn a blind eye to potential threats. You know, I think there were many people in that era felt that as bad as World War II had been, the worst war in history, the most dessive in history, that a lot of it could have been avoided had people been aware of the threat of Hitler and his ilk in the 1930s. People deliberately turned a blind eye to that partly as a consequence of the terrible carnage of World War I. People didn’t want to repeat it. So, I think those are the two things you walk away with. Look, our foreign policy obviously incorporates those kinds of lessons. You know, I think first and foremost, the principle we hold in Canadian foreign policy is our role is to protect the values and interest of Canadians in the world and we know we can’t do that all ourselves to the extent possible; work with likeminded countries in the pursuit of those objectives. As you know, we’re not afraid to take stands that may put us offside others from time to time but we do that because we believe that we’re working not just for Canadians but for Canadians’ broader objectives that we share with our fellow human beings.

Tom Clark:
Prime Minister, it’s awfully good to talk to you again. Thank you so much for your time.

Stephen Harper:
Thanks for having me.

Tom Clark:
Well as you’ve just heard, Stephen Harper is resolute in his determination not to engage, not even to talk to Vladimir Putin until Russia has met all the demands being put upon it. Now in that, he is in the minority in the G7. Most of those countries have or are in the process of engaging with the Russian leader. So two very different approaches to what’s being called the greatest threat to world peace today.

I’m joined now in Ottawa by Canada’s former ambassador to Russia, Christopher Westdal. Ambassador good to have you with us.

Christopher Westdal:
You’re welcome.

Tom Clark:
So in your experience, what is going to move Vladimir Putin? Is it isolation or is it engagement?

Christopher Westdal:
Well I don’t think isolation is going to move him. I think you’re right that the prime minister is in a minority of one in the G7 in terms of shunning Vladimir Putin. I did notice in your interview with the prime minister that he, though the rhetoric he sustained was quite harsh, calling Putin and extreme nationalist and an imperialist, at the same time he did go out of his way to concede that Vladimir Putin had not reached Hitleresque proportions, I think the phrase that was used. I think that had been a reckless mistake to evoke Adolph Hitler in context of judging of the bath of Vladimir Putin and I think that it’s noteworthy that that has been in affect retracted. Other leaders in the G7, and I think it was appropriate that this happened at Normandy because though the Russians didn’t play a role D-Day, they certainly played a heavy role in the Second World War and we were with them in that fight. And so it was appropriate, I think that Obama and particularly Merkel engaged with Putin, as did Cameron and Hollande and I thought it was very important that Angela Merkel spent an hour with Putin and Poreshenko. These urgently required talks are underway.

Tom Clark:
You know ambassador, what we’re hearing here, especially from the French is that these preliminary discussions may lead to a ceasefire at least in Eastern Ukraine, perhaps within the next few days. How realistic is that do you think?

Christopher Westdal:
Well I do hope it’s real. The only question arises, just who is in control of the thugs and hooligans that we have seen and their behaviour has given them away, leading the self-ascribed Republics, but I think there is a prospect that with indirect talks and talks with these full citizens and talks with other people who are powerful in the Donbass, these talks can get underway and they may have to get underway even while some violence is ensuing but they can’t get far.

Tom Clark:
One of Stephen Harper’s central demands is that Russia withdraws from Crimea. How realistic is that?

Christopher Westdal:
No, I do not see a prospect of Russian withdrawal from Crimea and I don’t think many observers do. I think that Crimea will be seen in retrospect as the cost of the overthrow of Yanukovych, which was a security calamity for Russia. I think, and it’s not surprising that President Poreshenko has insisted from the start that Crimea remains Ukrainian and I’m sure that that will be our formal position too. But a fixation on Crimea is not going to help the serious problems that need to be addressed on the mainland.

Tom Clark:
Do you think that Canada has any role in finding a solution for this or have we written ourselves out of the script?

Christopher Westdal:
I think that we have ruled ourselves out of any role that requires dealing of trust, possibly intermediation but that’s not our role with Russia. We’ve burned our bridges with Russia. We have cut our relations to a minimum. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a role to play, supportive of President Poreshenko, given his daunting agenda and I was pleased to see that the prime minister alone among G7 leaders went to the inauguration of President Poreshenko. So we do have a role to play with those with whom we have credibility but we don’t have good links with Moscow these days and that’s been a matter of intent. So we don’t have roles to play that require communication with Moscow.

Tom Clark:
Chris Westdal, Canada’s foreign ambassador to Russia and Ukraine. Thanks very much for being here, appreciate your time.

Christopher Westdal:
You’re welcome, my pleasure.

Tom Clark:
Coming up more special coverage from Normandy. We came here like thousands of others to honour those who battled on these shores 70 years ago. How their legacy lives on, that’s next.


Tom Clark:
Welcome back to The West Block on Juno Beach. Well whatever the moves towards modern peace may be, these last few days have belonged to those who breached the wall of tyranny right here, 70 years ago. Thousands of people from all over the world came here to cheer the vets and just to be part of the moment. But what were they hoping to see? What were they hoping to understand?

Well here are some sights and perhaps some insights to those questions posed last week.

There’s something almost natural about wanting to turn back the hands of time in Normandy, trying to bring back a time when the fight for freedom was black and white. But those days are gone, both the horror and the heroism now the stuff of history. But some of that history is alive in the form of the aging veterans of the D-Day campaign; one last chance for a new generation to reach out, to touch and to thank those who did so much when they were so young, and for the old to remember.

Sergeant Ron Tucker:
It just seems like yesterday to me to see the area again. Everything’s…I can see everything again. And it’s an honour to go and see the lads that are around the cemetery that I worked with and played with, went on leave with, and had a great time with. And I’ve been over a lot of times in the last few years, but I’m thinking this might be my last.

Tom Clark:
If this the last visit for many of these vets, it’s one last time to confront the demons that were born on these beaches.

Corporal Have Chiasson:
I dream these crazy dreams every night. I dream about these people being killed right here and all the way through France and Holland. You know, every night there’s something comes back to all of a sudden, you see somebody you know that was killed 70 years ago.

Tom Clark:
For the sons and the daughters and their sons and their daughters, maybe it’s the sense that time is running out to hear the stories that pulls them here. The lucky ones know what a precious gift it is when the wall comes down and memories are shared. Brian Markam’s father was a spitfire pilot who never talked about the war, until one day, his son made an effort.

Brian Markham:
I said to my dad, Dad, I want to take you to do something that I love to do. Let’s go on a canoe trip just the two of us into Algonquin Park. And I had snuck a bottle of Southern Comfort in with me, which you weren’t supposed to do and we sat around the camp fire andI got him to open up, and once the flood gates opened, he talked until the sun came up the next morning.

Tom Clark:
Others come here to help make those moments happen, to be visible and open, to ensure that the memory endures, and 70 years later, it seems to be working. But why are the crowds bigger now? Why do more people seem to care? Maybe it’s more than the remembrance of war and freedom, more than the battlefields and the graveyards. Perhaps it’s the realization, our fathers, mother, grandfathers, grandmothers are quietly leaving the stage and there is so little time left. It is our lives that will change when they are all gone. Our duty, all too soon will be to keep faith with them and honour the promises we made.

Wayne Day:
It’s emotional because it brings back a promise that I made to my father, that I would never forget and I’d always pass it on to whoever I met, like my buddies at home, and it’s just a way of continuing the legacy of all of these men. Young guys, if you look at the headstones, 18, 19, 20 years old, and they’re laying here. So many lives wasted. But had they not done what they’d done we wouldn’t be living the lives that we’re living today. So how better to pay tribute to these young guys,than never to forget. And in a small way, plant a little flag to say thank you.

Tom Clark:
Every year on the anniversary of D-Day, there’s a ceremony on Juno Beach. In the first house liberated by Canadians, a lantern is lit a dusk in memory of the Canadians who died here. A lone piper stands on the beach, calling the people to the water’s edge. The lantern is carried out into the water and then in silence it’s thrown into sea while an honour guard gives a final salute. It’s an act of remembrance and honour that that generation, the greatest generation has earned.

And that is our special edition of The West Block from Juno Beach. Thanks for watching and thanks particularly for all those who shared their stories with us. It has been a remarkable privilege.

Well next week, The West Block will come to you from Toronto and the aftermath of the Ontario election. Who is going to lead Canada’s biggest province? That’s next week on The West Block. Until then, I’m Tom Clark. Have a great week, see you next Sunday.

Stephen Harper to meet with Australian PM Tony Abbott Monday – National

OTTAWA – Geographically, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are about as far apart as two people can get.

Ideologically and politically, though, they’re practically joined at the hip.

Abbott is sure to get a warm welcome when he arrives Sunday for a two-day visit to Ottawa, a stopover on his trip to the United States – a mission to let North American investors know Australia “is open for business.”

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In a statement announcing the visit Thursday, Harper said the two countries “enjoy a special friendship, underpinned by strong social, political and historical ties.”

The two men were expected to discuss not only trade, but regional and international issues of interest, the statement said.

Australia, like Canada, is in the process of enacting a number of austerity measures aimed at eventually balancing the country’s federal budget.

Many of the cuts being made down under, however, appear to more closely mirror those made by Canada’s former Liberal government under prime minister Jean Chretien in the mid-1990s.

The Abbott government’s most recent budget saw billions of dollars in health care and education expenses transferred to state governments over several years, sparking a renewed debate over federal-state relations.

But Abbott may be able to get away with fiscally conservative measures that Harper can only dream of, said University of Ottawa professor Andre Lecours.

“(Abbott) is more conservative than Mr. Harper, I think,” said Lecours, describing Australia’s electorate as more right-leaning than the majority of Canadians.

“He reminds me a lot of (former Reform Party leader) Preston Manning.”

In the past, the Harper Conservatives took campaign cues from the government of former prime minister John Howard, going so far as to send political staffers to Sydney to study the Howard government’s political strategies.

The intertwined relationship was brought into sharp focus in 2008 when a Conservative campaign worker resigned after acknowledging that he had plagiarized a Howard speech that Harper gave while he was in Opposition in 2003.

Now, it’s Abbott’s turn to gain knowledge and strategy lessons from Harper, who has become the elder statesman of conservative leaders of industrialized nations.

It seems Abbott’s inner circle has already learned a few things about message control.

Within a few months of taking power last fall, Abbott’s office was being accused of avoiding media scrutiny to control the flow of information to the public – an oft-heard complaint about Harper’s Conservatives.

Requests for interviews with cabinet ministers need approval from the prime minister’s office. MPs and their staff are forbidden from engaging in political commentary on Facebook and 桑拿会所. Freedom of information procedures have been tightened.

With Ottawa on the verge of balancing its books, Abbott has been eyeing the Harper government’s moves to cut spending and bureaucracy as Australia looks to trim a deficit of about two per cent of GDP.

Both countries are also working to increase trade ties with other nations to move away from a dependence on their closest trading partners.

Canada relies on the U.S. for foreign investment and to keep its export sector alive; Australia does much the same with Asia.

The two nations are part of the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-led initiative aimed at negotiating a free-trade deal spanning the Pacific Ocean – although the outcome of the talks may be more crucial to Australia, said Lecours.

“Australia is much more central (to the negotiations) than Canada,” he said. In terms of its links with the Asia-Pacific region, “Australia is right smack in the middle of it.”

The Australian government has also slashed foreign aid and is selling government assets.

This is Abbott’s first official visit to Canada since being elected to power in September, although he and Harper have met and spoken over the telephone on a number of occasions – most recently in France this past week at D-Day ceremonies.

Almost immediately upon his arrival Sunday, Abbott will take a tour of the National War Museum, said the Australian High Commission.

On Monday he will take part in a roundtable discussion with business leaders from Canada and Australia before meeting with his Canadian counterpart on Parliament Hill.

©2014The Canadian Press

WATCH: Anti-Pipeline protest on World Oceans Day

VANCOUVER – Today is World Oceans Day and to mark the occasion, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs organized an anti-pipeline protest aimed at protecting our coasts, they say. With the federal government’s decision on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project expected within the next ten days, the timing is particularly poignant.

Protesters gathered at Sunset Beach and marched over the Burrard Street Bridge to Vanier Park, where a rally was held. The bridge was closed temporarily, disrupting traffic in the area. A police officer escorting the group on motorcycle was struck by a vehicle doing a U-turn. He requires surgery to repair a fractured knee resulting from the accident.

Jeremy Hunka, Global News

Jeremy Hunka, Global News

Protesters march over the Burrard Street Bridge in protest of pipelines on World Oceans Day.

Ben West, @BenWest

Protesters march over the Burrard Street Bridge in protest of pipelines on World Oceans Day.

Ben West, @BenWest

Protesters march over the Burrard Street Bridge in protest of pipelines on World Oceans Day.

Ben West, @BenWest

Protesters march over the Burrard Street Bridge in protest of pipelines on World Oceans Day.

Ben West, @BenWest

Protesters march over the Burrard Street Bridge in protest of pipelines on World Oceans Day.

Ben West, @BenWest

Protesters march over the Burrard Street Bridge, rallying against pipelines.

Jeremy Hunka, Global News

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The master of ceremonies at the rally was Cecilia Point of Musqueam Nation. According to organizers, the goal of the event was to raise awareness about the dangers the pipeline poses to the country’s waters and to send a message to the provincial and federal governments that, “we will not jeopardize our children’s future for corporate profit.”

Enbridge spokesperson Ivan Giesbrecht had the following statement about the protest: “Northern Gateway respects the fact that people want to voice their concerns on the issue of responsible resource development. We share those concerns. As an energy transportation company, we look to be part of the dialogue on these important issues. We all need to come together to find workable solutions on a shared responsibility that affects us all.”

The pipeline would carry diluted bitumen, described as a molasses-like substance. Some studies suggest it sinks in turbulent water conditions and in the event of a spill, could not be properly cleaned up. Hundreds of scientists have also taken on the cause, sending a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to reject a  federal panel report supporting the proposal. They say the analysis by the joint review panel did not properly evaluate the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, which would result from expanded oil sands production. However, supporters of the pipeline point to its economic benefits and new regulations which hold the pipeline companies liable for all costs and damages related to oil spills. In B.C., the provincial government has set out five conditions for supporting any oil pipeline project, which include a “world-leading” oil spill response and prevention on both land and at sea.

With files from the Canadian Press.

Facts and figures on the Northern Gateway pipeline

VANCOUVER – Some facts about the Northern Gateway pipeline project:

— Its estimated cost is $7 billion and rising.

— The 1,177-kilometre twin pipelines would run from Bruderheim, just outside Edmonton, to a tanker port in Kitimat, on the northern coast of B.C.

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    Federal panel approves Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline

  • More than 1,000 rally against Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver

  • Kitimat residents vote ‘no’ on Northern Gateway pipeline

  • WATCH: Anti-Pipeline protest on World Oceans Day

— One pipeline would carry up to 525,000 barrels a day of oil sands products west to Kitimat for export. A second heading east would carry 193,000 barrels per day of condensate, a form of natural gas used to dilute the molasses-like bitumen to allow it to flow through pipelines.

— The westbound pipeline would carry synbit, a blend of refined synthetic oil and bitumen, two types of dilbit and synthetic oil.

— The Kitimat Marine Terminal would include two ship berths and 19 tanks to store oil and condensate. The facility would have the capacity to serve around 220 tankers per year.

— The pipeline would be worth an estimated $300 billion in additional gross domestic product over 30 years.

— Governments would net an estimated $80 billion in tax and royalty revenues over those three decades: $36 billion for Ottawa, $32 billion for Alberta and $6.7 billion for B.C. Saskatchewan would net an estimated $4 billion.

— The company says the project would result in 3,000 new construction jobs in B.C. and 560 long-term jobs.

— Northern Gateway Pipelines is a limited partnership. Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) has a 50 per cent stake. The rest belongs to 10 private investors.

— Four of those investors remain confidential. National Energy Board documents reveal the other six are: French oil company Total; Suncor (TSX:SU); MEG Energy; Cenovus (TSX:CVE); Nexen (TSX:NXY), the Calgary company taken over last year by Chinese state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co.; and Sinopec, China’s largest oil company.

Teachers’ vote may not prompt immediate strike

VANCOUVER – A pivotal strike vote this Monday and Tuesday by British Columbia’s teachers is no schoolyard game of chicken, and experts advise that tiptoeing, rather than stampeding, towards a strike or back-to-work legislation may settle the dispute far more quickly.

Frustrations in what will likely be a strong union vote of support for a full strike could be channelled into pressure at the bargaining table, said University of the Fraser Valley Associate Prof. Fiona McQuarrie.

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“With the emotions running as high as they are, whoever decides to escalate this first is going to take a big risk,” said McQuarrie, who’s in the university’s school of business. “If the dispute then blows up totally out of hand, they’re going to be seen as the ones who made that happen.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s call-to-arms comes after weeks of incrementally rising tactics that haven’t resulted in the movement from the government to the extent the union wanted.

McQuarrie is expecting a successful vote, which she said gives union negotiators more leverage. Completely shutting down the workplace, however, she said would be the “last big thing” teachers could do.

Charles Ungerleider, a former B.C. deputy minister of education, said he, too, doesn’t expect an affirmative vote will prompt the union to issue immediate notice.

“The fact that you’re taking a strike vote doesn’t indicate that you’re necessarily going to a strike,” said Ungerleider, a bureaucrat under the New Democrats from 1998 to 2001 and now professor emeritus with the University of British Columbia.

The union has typically gone back to its members for a strike mandate over the years he’s witnessed bargaining, he said, in order to move up the ladder of escalation in a way that gives teachers some control.

But what has been different in this round of negotiations, Ungerleider said, is the “encouraging” government pledge to hold off legislating a settlement. He believes the union’s chief concern isn’t wages but getting traction around classroom conditions.

He has some sympathy for teachers, he added.

“There’s no question that teachers have lost ground in terms of their own purchasing power,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they’ve lost ground relative to other similarly educated people working in the public sector.”

The parties have appeared consistently divided over wages and whether classroom size and composition has a place in contract negotiations.

The union says it’s asking for a 9.75 per cent wage increase over four years, but the government calculates that including cost of living increases and other benefits the demand is closer to 19 per cent.

The government’s bargaining arm has offered 7.3 per cent over six years, along with a $1,200 signing bonus if the deal is made before the end of the school year.

The government is expected to save $12 million in teachers’ salaries and $4.5 million in support staff pay for each day of a potential strike, according to the education ministry.

So far, rotating strikes have saved the government $16.5 million each week. An additional $1.2 million per day has accrued by cutting teachers’ pay 10 per cent based on an employer-imposed lockout.

Teacher Aeryn Williams is still hoping a strike can be averted with a change of heart from the government.

“Everybody is emotional about this. It’s our kids and our jobs and our life being impacted,” said Williams, who teaches Grades 2 and 3 in Vancouver.

“I would support a strike where we would walk out now.”

The union initiated its first stage of job action on April 23, then launched stage two with rotating strikes a month later. It announced the prospect of a full-scale strike last Wednesday.

The employer announced late Friday it has applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board asking the tribunal to designate the marking of exams for students in Grades 10 through 12 as essential.

Results of a strike vote are expected Tuesday night. The union is required to give three days notice before members walk off the job. The earliest possible date for school closures across B.C. would be June 16.


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CFL, CFLPA reach tentative agreement

TORONTO – A tentative agreement has been reached in the CFL labour dispute, averting a possible players’ strike.

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association issued a joint statement Saturday night saying they’ve reached a tentative contract. The statement added the deal is pending ratification by players and the league’s board of governors, “which will be scheduled as soon as possible.”

“Further details will not be made public until these votes have taken place,” it concluded.

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  • CFL rejects latest offer from players’ union as labour standoff drags on

    CFL training season may be delayed by potential strike

A league source requesting anonymity said the CFL and union agreed to the deal Saturday after two days of bargaining with the help of a mediator. Then the CFLPA executive committee presented the deal to team reps during a four-plus hour conference call Saturday night.

The source said the agreement calls for a $5-million salary cap. Although the exact term of the deal wasn’t immediately known, the source added the two sides had discussed a four-year contract early Saturday that called for cap increases of $50,000 annually.

However, after the league and union ended their formal talks in the afternoon, the source said two additional options were brought into play prior to the conference call with player reps: a contract covering five years or five plus a one-year option.

The CFLPA had initially wanted a $6.24-million cap before amending its demand to $5.2 million. Last year, the CFL salary cap was $4.4 million.

Players will also reportedly receive signing bonuses of $7,500 for veterans and $1,500 for rookies. The CFL minimum salary also increases $5,000 to $50,000, something the two sides had agreed to earlier.

The league did get a major concession from the union on the gross revenue formula that would trigger the renegotiation of the cap or entire collective agreement.

The players, who initially wanted the CBA to include revenue sharing, had called for the cap or entire agreement to be renegotiated if league revenues increased by more than $18 million — excluding the Grey Cup — in the third year of the deal. The CFL wanted that figure to be $27 million and the union ultimately agreed.

The source added the agreement also calls for the elimination of the option year on CFL contracts, excluding rookies, which the union had wanted. Also, the players’ practice day goes from 4.5 hours daily to a maximum of six hours with just one padded practice a week during the season.

But that was of little solace to some players.

“There is no way we agreed to THAT,” Calgary Stampeders receiver Maurice Price tweeted.

“How it works in the 21st century: Unions are dead,” Calgary running back Jon Cornish, the CFL’s outstanding player last year, said on his 桑拿会所 account.

The players appeared to be headed towards the picket line only a couple of days ago as no face-to-face meetings had been held since May 29, the day the previous agreement expired.

But the source said they began talking Friday with the help of a mediator and continued through the night exchanging proposals before reconvening Saturday.

The tentative agreement ends tumultuous negotiations, which began in February and broke down several times along the way.

Despite the ongoing negotiations, Calgary and Edmonton Eskimos players held their respective strike votes Saturday. Players on the other seven clubs had cast their ballots already and were in a legal strike position heading into the weekend.

The union was expected to launch a work stoppage Sunday, threatening an exhibition game Monday night between the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The game will now go ahead.

If the agreement is ratified, the regular season will kick off June 26 as scheduled with Toronto visiting Winnipeg again.

Getting a new collective agreement in place is crucial for the league, which is entering the first year of a new five-year television agreement with TSN that’s reportedly worth an average of $42 million a year.

But games had to be played for the league — and ultimately its teams — to receive the money. The deal will reportedly net clubs an extra $2.75-million in revenue.

The increased cap provides some financial gains for players, who wouldn’t have received their game cheques if on strike.

The start of the season also allows the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to move into their new stadium and the CFL to celebrate the return of Ottawa to the league. The expansion Redblacks will also be playing in a refurbished facility in the Canadian capital.

Deadline nears for federal pipeline decision

VANCOUVER – Some time in the next 10 days, the federal government is supposed to announce its final decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline — the multibillion-dollar political minefield dividing the West.

Even detractors expect the federal government to give the $7-billion project the go-ahead.

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But the nod from Ottawa would not be the crest of the mountain Northern Gateway must climb before the oil — and the money — begin to flow. The path to the British Columbia coast has many hurdles left for Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and its partners.

A joint review panel of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency recommended approval of the project six months ago, subject to 209 conditions.

“The bottom line is there are 113 conditions that need to be met before construction can begin. That’s going to take a lot of time,” said company spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht.

If approved, that would be merely one more step in an ongoing process, Giesbrecht said.

“We have a lot of work to be done before we would be able to begin construction.”

There are also the five applications before the Federal Court for judicial review of the federal panel recommendation, and further court challenges are likely.

The opposition of environmental groups was always a given. Expansion of Alberta’s oil sands has become an international target for climate activists.

“Approval seems obvious. At the same time, opposition is so strong,” said Nikki Skuce, a resident of Smithers, B.C., and a campaigner for the environmental group Forest Ethics Advocacy.

“It’s going to be caught up in the courts for years and it’s going to be ugly on the ground. People are willing to do what it takes.”

That is no idle threat in a province that saw a decade-long War in the Woods over logging of old growth forests, which ended with new government regulations.

And opposition is not limited to environmentalists and First Nations.

Another crippling blow to the project came from the residents of Kitimat — the B.C. city with the most to gain as the pipeline terminus — when they voted to reject the project in a non-binding plebiscite.

Kitimat is no stranger to industry, born of an aluminum smelter in the 1950s, but for a majority of those who voted the risks outweigh the rewards.

Even the provincial government officially opposed the project at review hearings.

Victoria appears poised to reverse itself, deploying key ministers to a flurry of recent federal announcements on marine and pipeline safety. But the Liberal government may be waiting to see which way the political wind is blowing before they change direction.

“There’s a question of whether going along with the approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline will make LNG development in B.C. more challenging by angering First Nations so adamantly opposed to the oil sands pipeline,” said George Hoberg, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of forestry and founder of UBCC350, a group pressing for action on greenhouse gas emissions.

There is deep resistance in B.C., he said.

“I think it’s likely to be approved, but I would not be shocked if it was delayed or even denied,” Hoberg said.

The product that the pipeline would carry is a hurdle.

The pipeline west would transport molasses-like diluted bitumen. Studies and previous spills have found that dilbit sinks in turbulent water conditions.

Opponents like Art Sterritt, director of Coastal First Nations, have said a tanker spill is possible — even likely — and cannot be cleaned up. His coalition of nine aboriginal communities remains vehemently opposed.

The greatest obstacle is the unflagging opposition of First Nations. Hamstrung by the federal government’s failure to negotiate treaties in decades of talks, the company has been left in a legal limbo.

The company said the project has 26 aboriginal equity partners and consultations continue but Clarence Innis, acting chief of the Gitxaala Nation on the North Coast, said they haven’t heard from anyone and no talks are planned.

“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to protect our territory,” said Innis, whose community is located on an island at the mouth of the Douglas Channel.

The Gitxaala are already preparing a legal challenge.

“We played by the rules,” Innis said. “We’ve been ignored.”

The fight is far from over on either side. There are hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, the company has said.

“It’s in the national interest to be able to diversify the markets that we have for our most valuable natural resource,” Giesbrecht said.

“We believe the project is the right thing for Canada, we’ve felt that way right from the very beginning and that’s why we’ve pursued it.

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