“We’re a long way from raising the white flag.”
Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has reacted strongly to Tuesday’s announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline projects. He did so, while rejecting Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. The federal government also approved Enbridge’s Energy East project between Alberta and Minnesota.
May, a staunch opponent of the Kinder Morgan pipeline that would twin an existing line from Alberta to Burnaby, said she’s not willing to stay on the sidelines should non-violent protests occur following Tuesday’s decision.
“I’m willing to stand and be counted in non-violent protest,” she said, going so far as to say if she’s arrested in the process, then so be it.
“I’ve never been arrested and would rather not. I do hope that the courts and court of public option might rule the day.”
She said the project is already facing a series of legal actions started by B.C. First Nations and environmental groups and doesn’t anticipate the pipeline will be built any time soon.
May said she was hopeful the government would have been convinced that the National Energy board process in pipeline review is flawed. She said issues such as job losses were not taken into account. And as it stands, there will be challenges to the project over its potential impact on marine life in B.C.
May’s opposition was echoed this week by Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman. He said his party, the B.C. NDP, are on record as opposing Kinder Morgan, citing the lack of credibility in the NEB review process in being able to examine information put forth by the proponent. He added the province, under the BC Liberals, lost its own environmental review process when it signed an equivalency agreement with the then-Conservative government in Ottawa.
Holman said his main concern is over the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on the coast and its impact on orca whale populations — not to mention the threat of oil spills.
“Our spill response system isn’t adequate to handle even current spills,” he said.
Holman added he’s not interested in seeking ways to mitigate potential environmental damage because of the pipeline expansion, adding too that litigation is the next battleground.
Before the Kinder Morgan pipeline can proceed, it must meet hundreds of federal and provincial pre-conditions. One of those is the creation of a spill response system.
Sidney Mayor Steve Price said that means he’s taking a wait-and-see position on whether the pipeline meets those conditions. Price said creating a “world-class” spill response centre — one of both B.C. and Ottawa’s conditions — could benefit Sidney. Price said as a Capital Regional District intervenor in an NEB hearing, he suggested that Sidney was “perfectly positioned geographically” to be the base for spill response capabilities.
“It is my understanding, with yesterday’s federal announcement that they have also considered my suggestion, as I am aware of discussions, that may see the location of an emergency response centre in Sidney as part of the federal government’s ocean protection plan.”
Price added the Saanich Peninsula in general “will be better served and protected in the case of any marine shipping disaster.”
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said he’s “significantly concerned” about the risk of a spill in the Salish Sea.
“Salmon and herring and shellfish among other marine life are at serious risk already,” he stated in an email, “and are further at risk from a spill. Historically and presently these are vital to the function of the marine ecosystem and serve as a cultural food source to the WSANEC community on the Peninsula.”
Windsor added no evidence has been provided that a bitumen spill can be contained in the waters in and around the Salish Sea.
“Municipalities in the Capital Region, including Central Saanich, are already overburdened in addressing existing marine pollution from commercial and recreational activities,” he said.
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall did not respond to PNR emails.
Stephen Roberts, BC Liberal candidate in the 2017 provincial election, said Premier, Christy Clark has been consistent with her approach to new heavy oil pipeline proposals for B.C., setting out five conditions for any to proceed.
“… Her leadership and perseverance have spurred the federal government finally to step up and meet its obligations to the West Coast, with its announcement of a world class Oceans Protection Plan.”
Roberts added the Peninsula is likely to see jobs and economic activity and become a “centre of excellence in marine protection.”
BC Green Party candidate in this riding next year, Adam Olsen, added his disappointment with the approval.
“As an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearings I witnessed first-hand that the process was fundamentally flawed.
“Mr. Trudeau’s political decision once again excludes Indigenous people, including the WSÁNEC in Saanich North and the Islands. The protracted and costly court battles that this decision forces Indigenous communities to undertake is not how a responsible government should be doing business.”
Olsen said tanker traffic, wildlife impacts and quality of life issues are all areas of local concern.