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Video: Five takeaways from Global’s interview with Enbridge EVP, Western Access, Janet Holder

Video: Extended interview with Enbridge EVP, Western Access, Janet Holder

Janet Holder, Enbridge Executive Vice President, Western Access, is the company’s point person on the Northern Gateway Project.

The proposal, which would see a twin pipeline built from Alberta’s oil sands to a marine terminal in Kitimat, has been incredibly controversial, with environmental groups and First Nations vocally against the project.

In December, a federal review panel recommended the project go ahead if over 200 conditions are met – but the company still has many steps to go, and many stakeholders to negotiate with, before construction can begin.

Global anchor Chris Gailus sat down with Holder last week for an exclusive interview that will air tonight on the News Hour. Here are five things that we learned.

One: They admit they didn’t do a good job talking to the entire province at first.

Holder says she was aware of the debate around Northern Gateway when she became the lead on the project in 2011. What she wasn’t fully aware of was how impassioned it would become.

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“It’s been an eye-opener. I wasn’t totally naive, but it was definitely different then I thought it would be,” she says.

“The communities of the North were well aware of who we were, were seeing us on a regular basis, and we adapted to their concerns. What we weren’t doing is spending time in the rest of British Columbia. I’ve had to step up to that,” she admitted.

Two: It’s fair to bring up past spills – but Enbridge wants people to mention their safety improvements too.

When asked about a pipeline spill that put 3.3 million litres of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, Holder said “it’s something we talked about very openly in our application”.

At the same time, she says Enbridge has dramatically improved their safety measures, including recovery guidelines three times faster than Canadian standards.

“That situation happened, we know why it happened, and we talk about with great pride what we’re doing differently today that will prevent this from happening in the future. We made a lot of changes as an organization, and those changes are incorporated into this application.”

Three: Enbridge wants to deal with First Nations groups one-on-one, rather than as a group.

The Leaders of the First Nations Summit and Union of BC Indian Chiefs have called on the provincial government to reject the federal panel conditional recommendation. However, Holder remains optimistic.

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“It has always been our philosophy to bring them on as partners. We talk to each First Nation as an individual nation,” she says.

“What’s important is we spend the time to understand what it is they can do, what they want to do, what their concerns are, and how we can address them. We need to engage with each nation and understand their individual issues.”

Four: The province hasn’t discussed with Enbridge what getting a “fair share” of benefits tangibly means.

Premier Christy Clark has long said that five conditions must be met for the pipeline to get the government’s approval, the most subjective one being that the province “receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits”.

However, Holder says the topic of extra money beyond tax revenue hasn’t been discussed by the two parties yet.

“We haven’t had those discussions with the government,” she says.

“We’ve been having discussions about what we will bring to the project, the value, what we’re bringing to the First Nations, what we’re bringing to the province’s tax revenue and employment, but we haven’t had any discussions outside of that.”

Five: She draws upon her experience as a world-class power lifter when keeping a positive mindset.

Holder, who once regularly dead-lifted over 300 pounds in her competitive days, says that getting a massive project on the scope of Northern Gateway approved takes the same sort of discipline that become a top athlete does.

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“To be a star athlete of any kind, you don’t do that by saying ‘I’m going to be a star athlete and I’ll be that tomorrow,'” she says.

“It’s small increments, keeping focus, working through the issues, working through the changes that are necessary to get to that end point.”