There was a time when the approval of a pipeline project would have been as controversial as a common rezoning application. No longer. Both Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project and TransCanada’s Keystone XL have become objects of deep and abiding suspicion, and it’s not clear whether either, much less both, will ever get approved. And while Kinder Morgan Canada’s proposed $5.4-billion expansion of its TransMountain pipeline is hardly in the bag, the fact that it’s gotten as far as it has is largely a testament to Ian Anderson’s approach to consultation and consensus building. Where the most urgent objections to both Keystone XL and Northern Gateway are coming from individuals and communities directly affected by their proposed paths, those along and astride the TransMountain line are largely satisfied with its details.

Dave Collyer, the president of CAPP, says that’s a direct reflection of the work Anderson has done. “The thing that stands out to me about Ian is the amount of personal effort and commitment that he’s put into being on the ground,” he says. “He really does walk the talk with respect to consultation, both with First Nations and communities. A lot of executives talk about consultation. Not all are good at doing it.” And make no mistake: Anderson is the one in there consulting, for better and for worse. “It’s demonstrative of Ian’s commitment,” Collyer says, “but it’s also demonstrative of his personal style and approachability and willingness to engage – and go into some spots where you know not everybody’s going to be on your side or aligned with what you want to accomplish.”

For Anderson, that’s meant spending 20 to 30 per cent of his time engaging directly with people who might be personally affected by the project, including the 103 aboriginal communities along the proposed route. That stands out from other pipeline proponents, which have leaned more heavily on media and advertising campaigns. “Part of the lesson is that you can’t build social licence through an air campaign alone – and you can’t build it through the media or through bought-advertising,” Collyer says. “The senior people need to be out there. People want to talk to decision-makers. They want to talk to people who they know can influence outcomes. And I think Ian has a willingness to do that.”