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Feds to fund Mackenzie pipeline

Brodie Thomas
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - The federal government is offering funding to the proponents of the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline, although exact details about the money and conditions are not yet known.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced on Monday that the federal government is offering the money to the companies behind the pipeline. The companies include Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Exxon Mobil, and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, among others.

Prentice said the money would help pay for infrastructure development and costs incurred by delays to the project.

The announcement had Northern leaders and Mackenzie gas pipeline stakeholders breathing a sigh of relief after the Joint Review Panel's December's announcement that it would need another year to complete its report.

Mackenzie Gas Project spokesperson Pius Rolheiser said he could not comment on specific details of the funding but said the announcement was positive.

"We look forward to a continuing constructive dialogue with the federal government on a commercial and fiscal structure for the project that will enable the project to move forward," he said.

Rolheiser said project proponents have been in discussions with the federal government for some time.

He said Imperial Oil remains committed to the project.

Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington criticized the announcement, calling it a "flip-flop" by the federal Conservative government in a press release issued Tuesday.

Bevington produced quotes made by Jim Prentice in 2007 where he said the Mackenzie Gas Project should be completed by the private sector.

Bevington said he supports the pipeline but is concerned about how the Harper government is supporting the project.

"To just give an open-ended chequing account with not any guarantees as to what tax payers' money is going for is just irresponsible," he said.

Aboriginal Pipeline Group chair Fred Carmichael said the offer was positive news in tough economic times.

"It makes the pipeline more certain and to me it's good news because the economic situation in Canada is pretty bad right now and the North is no different," he said.

The bad news from the Joint Review Panel's new December 2009 deadline caused Norman Wells mayor Peter Guther to lose hope in the project. He said this news has renewed his faith.

"I basically went into a deep funk again when I heard the JRP was going to take another year or another decade or whatever it was before they could produce a report," said Guther.

Guther said he has also heard rumors that the review panel may come out with an initial report prior to March, 2009.

"If there is any substantiation to that rumor, that to me is a step in the right direction," he said.

Inuvialuit Regional Corporation chair and CEO Nellie Cournoyea was cautiously optimistic about the news.

"We're happy about a deal finally being on the table so we can deliberate but we haven't done a total evaluation yet," she said.