A pro-oil-sands lobby group is calling on politicians to support a proposal that would see an existing Southwestern Ontario pipeline reversed to send oil from west to east.
"This decision should be a no-brainer," said Jamie Ellerton, executive director of Ethical Oil. "But it will still be opposed – it will face opposition from radical environmental groups."
The section of pipeline in question runs from Sarnia to just outside Hamilton and is owned by Enbridge. It currently moves crude oil westbound but the company says it wants to reverse the flow, allowing for the eastward transportation of oil from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The proposal has been in the works since 2008 and the decision rests with the National Energy Board. But Mr. Ellerton demanded politicians back the idea Tuesday at a Parliament Hill news conference, saying Ontario will no longer need to rely on foreign oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
"Canadians have a tremendous opportunity to chose ethical oil over conflict oil from OPEC's tyrants," he said.
He not only requested support from Prime Minister Stephen Harper but challenged politicians of all stripes, including NDP chief Thomas Mulcair. The Opposition Leader recently created an uproar by saying the oil sands are artificially inflating the dollar and hollowing out Canada's manufacturing sector.
Enbridge's proposal wouldn't require new pipeline construction, the company says, and would return it to its original eastward direction, for which it was built in the mid-1970s. Mr. Ellerton said the proposal will face opposition from environmental groups because of their political stand.
Environmental Defence is likely one of the "radical environmental groups" Mr. Ellerton was referring to, deputy campaign director Gillian McEachern told The Globe. Changing the direction is not about getting Canadian oil to Ontario, she said, suggesting the real goal is to export south to the United States.
"This means more risk of oil spills into water for Ontarians for no benefit," Ms. McEachern said. "We don't need to pick dirty energy like tar sands, we can instead move towards renewable energy sources like wind."
Her group has intervened in the proposal already and plans to voice opposition at hearings scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday in London, Ont. So far, she said, her group hasn't got answers to questions about the economic implications of a reversal.
Ethical Oil launched a radio ad Tuesday that will run throughout Ontario flaunting the proposal as a way to lower oil prices and create jobs.
Mr. Ellerton said he couldn't immediately provide an estimate for how much the group is spending on the campaign. He also refused to reveal who funds the lobby group, other than to say: "Ethical Oil accepts donations from Canadians and Canadian businesses."
The group has supported the Conservatives move to end foreign funding of environmental groups, including those that oppose the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipeline projects. Mr. Ellerton has campaigned to expose the funding behind those groups but said he could not shed more light on his own organization.
"We have an organizational policy not to disclose who are donors because we've faced lawsuits in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he said, "and we don't want to expose our donors to that kind of litigation."