EDITORIAL – Political arithmetic of pipeline, dam and Ajax is worrisome

(Kinder Morgan photo)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

IS ANYONE ELSE feeling a little nervous about a possible unfortunate connection between the Trans Mountain pipeline, Site C dam and Ajax copper mine projects?

The provincial government announced yesterday it has hired Tom Berger as external counsel in a legal action on the pipeline.

“We are committed to fighting for B.C.’s interests and it is government’s desire to seek intervenor status in legal challenges to federal approval of the pipeline expansion and increased oil tanker traffic off B.C.’s coast,” said Attorney General David Eby.

“Mr. Berger will provide legal advice to government on the options for participation in legal challenges, and those hearings are scheduled to begin in federal court later this fall.”

The government also said work on the project can’t proceed on public lands until meaningful consultation with Indigenous people has been properly completed. Kinder Morgan had planned to have shovels in the ground next month.

Peter Milobar, the BC Liberals’ environment critic (this appointment, by the way, is one of the more baffling ones for the Liberals in their new role as opposition, for nothing in Milobar’s background suggests environment as a particular interest or skill set of his) issued the expected response that the NDP government’s actions will drive away investment. And tankers are safer these days, he said.

“One has to question, what project is next?” he asked in a CFJC Today story. He mentioned Site C, adding, “One has to wonder where in the Interior of B.C. the NDP are talking about all of these jobs that they’re planning on creating. So far, all they keep announcing are ways to slow down and hinder the economy, not expand and grow it.”

Milobar may have put his finger on a political conundrum facing the New Democrats.

One has to wonder, if the John Horgan government is successful in stopping both Trans Mountain and Site C, whether it will be looking around for something to approve. A three-up three-down record on major industrial projects might not be the kind of thing the new government wants to wear.

So, giving the green light to Ajax would allow it to say, “See, we aren’t against all industry, just some.”

Which, of course, would be a terrible result for Kamloops. The Ajax decision simply must be made independent of the outcomes on Trans Mountain and Site C, but the arithmetic is worrisome.


About Mel Rothenburger (6011 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

12 Comments on EDITORIAL – Political arithmetic of pipeline, dam and Ajax is worrisome

  1. Cindy Ross Friedman // August 12, 2017 at 3:17 PM // Reply

    I have been trying to restrain myself from commenting any more on Ajax, because after six years of this nonsense, the topic has become physically painful to me. But regarding this column: I really hope the government does not cater to perception and public image, and instead does its job in being ethical and diligent. If politicians merely act to cultivate how they are viewed, then we are really in trouble. Guess I am still pretty naive: I want to believe the government is working for its people, not for itself.

  2. This was something that I wrote about over a week ago. That there is a linkage between the 3 items. That given the present political situation in BC, that this would be the direction that the province would go given the NDP/GREEN PARTY alliance and given the fact of who is supporting this alliance. This writer also finds it interesting that the last Environmental Assessment Report dated August 8th, 2017. spent a fair amount of time discussing the need to protect the hunting grounds, fishing territory, the environment and historical heritage of the First Nations. (I think that it is wonderful that all of this should protected) However, I question why the Assessment did not the environmental harm that could be done to the residents of Kamloops and area due to the mine. How can this project be harmful to one environment and not to the other. I am finding rather amusing that Dr. Weaver is saying if the pipe line project goes ahead, there will a 28% increase in the number of ships plying the waters off the coast of BC. Why does he not object to the number of American ships plying the same water between Seattle and Alaska. In regards to Ajax and its possible air pollution, how come we are not talking about Domtar and its pollution, is it because it is a cash cow.

  3. The connection to jobs is a false dichotomy. In all three examples.

    Trans Mountain. Jobs during construction, yes. Out of province workers will comprise a large proportion of that number. Additional jobs after construction? Hardly any. Does anyone talk about the jobs that are lost by selling raw product, rather a value-added (refined) product? Apparently not. The proponents aren’t interested in discussing the jobs lost in the refining process, which I would feel confident in suggesting will be in bigger number than the dozen permanent jobs added by Trans Mountain. And if there’s a spill, that can’t reasonably be cleaned up, who’s on the hook for that? How many jobs dependent on a clean coastline would be impacted? Those are the external costs nobody wants to consider. What is the net job impact to BC when everything is factored in?? One spill could conceivably cost the province more than the construction benefits would offset. The ironic part of this project is, it will likely become a stranded asset much quicker than most expect… even the shareholders will take a loss on this one.

    Site C. This one is so dumb, it boggles my mind. If you can’t sell the power at a profit, the dam is simply a huge make-work welfare project. The jobs are essentially subsidized by the rate-payer, with the added insult of huge profits made by the construction companies supplying heavy equipment by the hour, gravel, concrete, not to mention the turbines and related infrastructure. We’d be better off paying the workers to sit on their butts and do nothing… and save the material and equipment costs completely.

    Ajax. Nobody is talking about automation. There is zero chance that KGHM is going to keep people employed in positions that can be automated. News flash – Caterpillar is already making autonomous haul trucks, and mines in Australia are using autonomous equipment today. This trend will accelerate, not reverse. Take the projected job numbers with a very large dose of salt.

    So, false dichotomy – times three. If you don’t take the projects, you won’t have jobs. Wrong!

    Anyone with an Internet connection can do a little sleuthing and work out very quickly where the largest growth in jobs are happening… renewables. Solar PV. Wind. Right now, ‘wind turbine technician’ is one of the best skill sets to have if you want to get hired. So why not put the Site C money into power that we can afford in the future AND will employ people? It’s not an all or nothing proposition!!

  4. The First Nations hold a lot of political influence in the whole Ajax picture.
    If it comes down to civil disobedience (is that the right term) taking place by the FN people, I will join them in any protest or demonstration that I am able to attend.
    The new coalition government doesn’t want to have a huge fight on their hands with our indigenous people; that would be suicidal. The FN people came to an educated decision about Ajax and we would be wise to honour their wisdom.
    Mr. Milobar is out of his familiar environment at 7 Victoria Street West. He wasn’t a champion of a particular environmental issue that is still alive and ongoing in his own riding. With any luck at all, he will find himself trying to deal with a lot of unanswered questions over it.
    We have a new Minister of Environment who may be willing to investigate.

  5. Well there are plenty of projects which have been approved — just go to the BCEAO website.
    The election result reflected our concerns about our environment. Political calculations notwithstanding, the Green party is exerting its influence and it will continue to do so and the newly appointed environmental minister is in fact an environmentalist. I think he will look at the BCEAO’s assessment in the way that some of us do — a process rigged in favour of big business.

  6. Good thing the final decision is left up to the federal government and not someone who got into power by some screwed up system malfunction!

  7. I agree with your hypothesis Mel. It is worrisome. I would like to point out though that Milobar is every inch the environmentalist that Polak was before him… which is to say NOT AT ALL. I would go so far as to say if one had any respect for the environment, one by definition could NOT be a BC Liberal.

  8. I think you’re right to link in the decision over Ajax as a created balance point for politicization purposes. I’m just not sold on the other two being dead projects. I doubt the courts will rule against Trans Mountain, and Site C is basically a done deal, too expensive to get out of.
    I think what matters here and could put a dent in your thinking, is the timing; Calendar wise, an Ajax decision will be dealt with BEFORE any action will be decided on, regarding the other issues; court, utility reviews or otherwise.

    • Mel Rothenburger // August 11, 2017 at 7:31 AM // Reply

      Good point, but there’s still the issue of political perceptions. Does a government want to seem to be against everything, or create an appearance of balance, regardless of the eventual outcome with those projects?

      • Pierre Filisetti // August 11, 2017 at 12:06 PM //

        Peter Milobar as the environment critic…it brings tears to my eyes…both from laughter and sadness of how unreal today’s BC Liberals really are.

      • To be short; Yes, it appears as if this govt wants to be seen as against everything, AND actually eventually submit to the appearance of balance, regardless of outcomes.

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