Remarks by Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod during emergency debate on nation-wide protests against Coastal GasLinke pipeline, Feb. 18, 2020.
I WANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE that the Speaker allowed this emergency debate tonight. It is an issue of critical importance across the country. To be frank, it did not have to be this way.
The signs have been there for many months, that we have a challenge in British Columbia, with regard to the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The government ignored it. It is responsible for the crisis that we see today, because the Liberals did not proactively deal with this issue.
What is happening across the country? I think all of us in the House appreciate that demonstrations are a part of our rights as citizens of this country. Although there are times when there are blockages of traffic or whatever, we tolerate it because it is important. There is a line that gets crossed and that is of course when we have blockades of critical infrastructure, which are clearly illegal.
What are the impacts? No one has talked much about the impact of these actions from coast to coast to coast. What is happening because of these illegal blockades? I am not talking about peaceful demonstrations to which every Canadian has a right. I am talking about a blockade of our rail lines and other actions.
There is quickly becoming a shortage of groceries and baby formula in some stores, as the products cannot move across the country. Many homes rely on propane for heat, and propane travels by rail. The lack of propane is not only impacting people’s homes, but it is also impacting senior care facilities and farmers.
We have a forestry crisis in British Columbia. The industry is on its knees. Now product is not getting from the forests to the mills and on to the customers. An already hurting industry is being doubly stabbed.
Right now there are 66 large shipping vessels sitting, stalled in the waters of British Columbia. That is at a cost of $425 million a day, which is not insignificant. Water systems will not have the chlorine they need.
Just today, the Premier of British Columbia’s house was blockaded to prevent him from getting to the legislature. Journalists had to scale the walls to get into the B.C. legislature so they could report on the speech from the throne.
Clearly, as the transport minister acknowledged today, we have dangerous acts involving destruction of our rail lines. I understand that signal lights have been vandalized and there has been significant damage to vehicles and bridges. This is not an insignificant issue.
When I listened to the Prime Minister earlier today, I heard a very peripheral acknowledgement of what was happening out there. It is so serious, and it is something I have never seen in all my time.
Thirty Canadian organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce to the aluminum and mining industries released a joint statement. It stated:
…these illegal blockades inflict serious damage on the economy, leaving countless middle-class jobs at risk, many of them in industries that must get their goods, parts, and ingredients to and from market by rail. In addition to disrupting domestic and global supply chains, the blockades undermine Canada’s reputation as a dependable partner in international trade. They also threaten public safety by preventing the distribution of essential products like chlorine for water treatment and propane for heating homes…
I will share my understanding of this project.
There was a very lengthy process for approval. It is an approximately 670-kilometre pipeline that delivers gas from the Dawson Creek area to a facility near Kitimat, B.C. for export. It is seen as something that has an opportunity not only for economic benefit for Canada, but for supporting a decrease in global emissions.
We know 20 elected chiefs have supported the project. I understand a number of hereditary chiefs have also supported it. This process included a number of communities, and the elected councils took the project to referendum for approval. This is not just the elected chiefs saying, yes. In many communities, there was a referendum process.
Clearly, a group of hereditary chiefs are opposed. However, another significant point is that some of those chiefs actually ran for elected council and did not win their seats.
There was a rally in Prince George, and I listened to Wet’suwet’en speaker after speaker talk about the importance of this project to their community, from Crystal Smith to elder Elsie Tiljoe.
It was estimated, through an internal process, by hereditary chief Theresa Tait-Day that 85 per cent of the Wet’suwet’en people in her community supported this project.
Again, clearly there has been trouble brewing for months, but the government has allowed it to grow into a full-blown crisis.
We now have groups like Extinction Rebellion, Climate Justice, among others, who play the key role in the protest. They have been described by many, including some of the Wet’suwet’en people, as outsiders exploiting a division within the first nations community in the hope of creating chaos. For many, I think this is a dress rehearsal for the Trans Mountain pipeline and any future energy project. Their goal is not to deal with the challenging governance issues of first nations communities, but it is to shut down energy infrastructure across the country.
Current MLA Ellis Ross, formerly a band council member who participated in the benefit agreement negotiation, said, “Originally it was Indian Act that oppressed us and we beat it. Now the NGOs and even Native organizations oppress us. In the middle of all this posturing and politics, average aboriginals remain in place with their social issues.”
Wet’suwet’en nation member Vernon Mitchel said, regarding some of the opposition, “They don’t even know squat about our territory and meanwhile they’re putting on roadblocks…they’re hurting my people and my kids.”
To date, the government response has been to ignore and deflect, saying it is British Columbia’s problem. Today, the speech by the Prime Minister was particularly disappointing. It was words, but it did not relay an action plan. Today Premier Moe called for a conference call with all the premiers, because he saw a lack of action and a lack of leadership.
In spite of the talk by the Prime Minister with respect to hearing different viewpoints, that different viewpoints are important, clearly there is only one viewpoint that matters, and that is his own perspective. He leaves many important people out of the conversation.
We have a crisis. We have a lack of leadership. The current government has allowed something to fester. It has not paid attention to it and it has grown into a crisis in the country. It lays at the feet of the government.