Enbridge Inc. is hiring a full-time Ottawa-based lobbyist as the Canadian government nears a decision on the C$6.5-billion ($6 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline project, said a person familiar with the matter.
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp.’s vice president of public affairs Sean Webster, a one-time aide to former Progressive Conservative Finance Minister Michael Wilson, will represent the company, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
Enbridge is increasing lobbying efforts as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet prepares to rule on Northern Gateway, which would carry crude from the oil sands to the nation’s Pacific Coast. Even if it gains federal cabinet approval, the project will probably be challenging for Enbridge as it deals with a skeptical provincial government in British Columbia, hostile environmentalists and aboriginal groups, some of which are vehemently opposed to the proposal.
Webster has also served in government relations roles for pharmaceutical firms UCB SA and Eli Lilly & Co., as well as chemical manufacturer Solvay SA. He will continue working for Shoppers Drug Mart until next week, said Lana Gogas, a spokeswoman for the pharmacy chain.
Webster didn’t immediately return a voice mail seeking comment. Graham White, a spokesman for Calgary-based Enbridge, declined to comment.
Harper’s cabinet has until June 17 to rule on Northern Gateway, after a regulatory panel recommended in December that the project be approved, subject to 209 conditions.
While crude producers say the route is needed to ease bottlenecks that are depressing the price of Canadian heavy oil, environmentalists and aboriginal groups have raised concerns about the risk of spills.
Premier Christy Clark has said British Columbia will only back the pipeline if it satisfies five conditions, including that the province receive a “fair share” of the financial benefits.
In an interview last month, Enbridge Chief Executive Officer Al Monaco said the company may have mishandled aspects of the project. “We probably should have spent more time building trust,” he said.
Enbridge has been using ENSight Canada and Hill+Knowlton Strategies for support with public and government relations. Last month, the company lobbied Industry Minister James Moore, who represents a British Columbia district in Parliament, according to federal lobbying records.