Last week our Member of Parliament Cathy McLeod spoke in the House, saying, “We have great support for Kinder Morgan, the 980 kilometres through Alberta and through the communities I represent.” That’s an overstatement at best or maybe wishful thinking. Her remarks were posted June 2 on ArmchairMayor.ca.
There are mixed opinions in the B.C. Interior about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, owned by a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan.
McLeod referred to pipeline support from many mayors and regional district directors in the Interior. I’m sure she knows them personally. It’s true that many cities in the Interior have signed community benefit agreements with Kinder Morgan. Such agreements compensate communities for the disruption and inconvenience that result from an industrial project. The agreements set out expectations so the cities and the company can work together and find benefits and cost savings for both parties. The agreements don’t necessarily indicate support for the project.
The City of Kamloops signed a memorandum of understanding for a Community Benefit Agreement with Trans Mountain in February of 2015. It says that the City will receive $700,000 in benefits if and when the second Trans Mountain pipeline goes ahead. The agreement doesn’t mean support. Our Mayor and Councillors now and over the last few years have held a wide range of opinions about the pipeline expansion, and Kamloops City Council has never taken a formal position on the Trans Mountain proposal.
McLeod also referred to support from First Nations communities and said 51 of these have signed agreements with Kinder Morgan for various community benefits. 51 is not a majority of the 120 Aboriginal groups that were consulted by Kinder Morgan (according to a CBC story of November 8, 2016). My interpretation is that the First Nations leaders who made those agreements felt that the pipeline is inevitable, so they wanted to make the best of a bad situation by securing benefits for their people and keeping the communication channel open with the company.
The Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Squamish, Coldwater and other Indigenous communities have launched court challenges, claiming that the Crown failed in its duty to consult and accommodate their constitutional rights in the pipeline review. Even the Stk’emlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation has a court challenge underway – here in McLeod’s electoral district.
It’s unfortunate that our laws allow a company like Kinder Morgan to offer large sums as they negotiate with communities before a project is approved. The company certainly needs to compensate communities; however, the way this is done gives a false picture of support and can cause bias in the decision-making process. This is yet another example of big money having too much influence in government decisions.
I understand that many of my neighbours here in the BC Interior are in favour of the pipeline expansion. Do those people know there have been more than 82 spills from the existing pipeline? Or that after the construction period, B.C. would have only 50 new fulltime direct pipeline jobs? This information comes from the company’s application. The new pipeline would carry diluted bitumen, which is far more dangerous to our health, rivers and coastline than the existing pipeline’s contents. And all of this is proposed at a time when we need to level off and reduce oilsands production to avoid dangerous climate impacts.
McLeod should remember that in the recent BC election, the combined NDP & Green votes were 51% in North Kamloops and 43% in South Kamloops. Both of those parties were very clear in their platforms that they oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. On the other hand, about half of us voted BC Liberal and probably support the pipeline expansion. That doesn’t look like “great support” for Kinder Morgan to me.
I applaud the NDP-Green coalition for their plan to use every tool available to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. I’m also very grateful to the First Nations that are pursuing court cases in an effort to protect us all.