GENOA, Italy — An open microphone and a slip-of-the-tongue by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Canadian truckers now know there may be a flood of activity in the Great White North.
Chretien revealed his stand on the debate over where to build a natural gas pipeline from the Arctic to the U.S., indicating he wants a pipeline through the Northwest Territories to get Canadian gas to market.
The PM’s much sought after support had eluded two competing pipeline proposals until his private conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush was broadcast to journalists over a microphone left on at the Group of Eight summit in Genoa.
“One pipeline — we could save a lot of money,” Chretien told Bush.
Bush replied, “There’s only so much capital.”
Chretien later explained his comment to the media.
“We have Canadian gas from the Canadian Arctic from the (Mackenzie) Delta that we want to get into the market,” he said. “No doubt about it that there will be a pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley. It’s the only way you can get the gas from the Delta down to the market. There is no other way. There will be a pipeline there.”
Until yesterday, the Canadian government had remained scrupulously neutral on the competing pipeline proposals. The Mackenzie Valley proposal is expected to cost $3 billion while the competing route — which would take gas south along the Alaska Highway — has been pegged at $9 billion.
The pipeline debate has fueled a war of words between Alaska and Yukon on one side and the Northwest Territories on the other. The NWT argues that if the Alaska Highway route is built, it will kill the need for a pipeline project into the Canadian gas fields for years to come.
Both regions are in line for a big economic windfall as a pipeline brings with it everything from massive job creation to new infrastructure, economic opportunities and tax revenue.