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Northern Gateway Holds Little Positive Economic Impact for Kitimat, According to City

In spite of the ink that has been devoted to arguing about how many jobs Enbridge Northern Gateway is promising to Kitimat residents, one of the most compelling bits of evidence may be an update to a community planning document produced by the District of Kitimat in 2008. 

Updated most recently in 2012, the Official Community Plan outlines the history of population growth and decline in Kitimat and makes projections for the next decade based on a few different scenarios. One scenario uses percentages from previous years, another posits a steady two per cent increase and the third looks at the impact of major industrial development.
 
Gwendolyn Sewell, Director of Community Planning and Development for the district, said the numerous LNG proposals currently in the works for the town could have an enormous impact on the population. But predictions based on Northern Gateway don’t appear anywhere in the report.

 
“It won’t make much difference whether [Northern Gateway] comes through or not,” Sewell told DeSmog recently when asked why the project wasn’t a part of the report. She added that if the pipeline isn’t built, the town could likely rely on another project of similar size and scope. If Northern Gateway is built, she said, the impact of thousands of construction jobs would certainly offer a boost, but it would leave behind very few of the long-term industrial jobs that have historically been a key indicator of Kitimat’s growth.
 
Sewell said the town expects a huge influx of temporary workers and residents during the construction phase of any new development, but the majority of them will be housed by companies in work camps and will leave once the project is finished.
 
Enbridge is promising 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs.
 
The population of Kitimat peaked in 1986 at just under 13,000 people and bottomed out in 2006 at just over 8,000. With a population driven primarily by industrial development, the town’s future numbers could vary a huge amount depending on the kinds of projects that make it through to the construction phase.
 
Many of the construction jobs associated with Northern Gateway are expected to be filled by people finishing temporary work on other projects.
 
Representatives at the Enbridge office in downtown Kitimat said most of the visiting workers they receive are workers facing layoffs as the Kitimat Modernization Project, the $3.5 billion upgrade to the Alcan aluminum smelter, comes to a close. These workers hope to transition into a temporary job with Enbridge building Northern Gateway.
 
Enbridge’s multi-billion-dollar project has been touted as “one of the largest private infrastructure investments in the history of British Columbia,” though it may be telling that Kitimat, a town recently recognized by the Canadian Institute of Planners for its success in creating an economically sustainable community, has put little stock in Enbridge’s projections.
 
Kitimat is one of very few examples of what are known as 'fully planned' communities (others include Tumbler Ridge and Gold River). When Clarence Stein, the planner Alcan hired to design the community in 1950, laid out the town, he made provisions to allow for future growth.
 
While the promise of becoming B.C.’s third-largest urban centre after Vancouver and Victoria didn’t pan out, the city has grown rapidly and is set to expand with the addition of two potential new residential neighbourhoods to alleviate a housing-crisis (that has thus far been solved by housing workers on a cruise ship).
 
Final investment decisions are still pending for the Chevron Canada’s $4.5 billion Kitimat LNG project—Texas-based partner Apache announced this morning they would pull out of the project—but early works have begun on both the Pacific Trail Pipeline from Summit Lake to Kitimat and a terminal on the west side of the Douglas Channel.
 
At Bish Cove on Haisla traditional territory, Chevron has begun clearing the site for the Kitimat LNG terminal, one of two major terminals proposed for the area and one of four LNG terminal proposals in total. Contractors have also begun clearing the pipeline right-of-way east of Kitimat as well as east of Terrace up to Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory.
 
Image Credit: Erin Flegg
 

Erin Flegg is a freelance writer and journalist, and her work appears in the Vancouver Observer, Xtra West and This…

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