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Stop Trudeau's pipeline

Protesters at Trudeau town hall in BC
Lisa Descary

February 7, 2018

Ever since the BC NDP government’s approval of the hated Site C dam project, many climate justice activists have felt that the NDP has betrayed them. So we welcomed the January 30 announcement by BC Environment Minister George Heyman that BC will restrict any increase in Tar Sands diluted bitumen shipments until it conducts more spill response studies.

Heyman stated that given the huge risks to the BC coast from potential spills of dilbit, the government needed better assurances that the oil companies could properly clean up any spills in an effective and timely way.

Environmental activists celebrate every roadblock like this that slows down Kinder Morgan’s hated pipeline expansion. The NDP have promised that they would use every “tool in the toolbox” to stop the pipeline. Activists are hopeful that this will prove to be an effective tool.

However, it didn’t take long for pro-pipeline critics to slam this decision by John Horgan’s NDP government. Trudeau was in Nanaimo on one of his selfie-taking promotional tours soon after the NDP announcement, and was quick to state his opposition to the NDP decision.

Our supposedly pro-reconciliation Prime Minister was quick to reiterate his past assertion that we couldn’t restrict pipelines, as this would hurt the economy. Apparently, the effect of a spill on BC’s salmon fishery and Indigenous peoples’ territories, and the flooding, increased pine beetle infestations and negative effects on agriculture caused by global warming are things Trudeau thinks aren’t worth worrying about.

Fortunately, climate activists were there at Trudeau’s Town Hall/ Love-In in Nanaimo, and demonstrators did an excellent job of calling attention to the hypocrisy of Trudeau’s pro-pipeline position.

Bizarre argument
Trudeau’s argument that we need pipelines to be part of Canada’s plan to fight climate change seems even more bizarre than in the past. Trudeau almost seemed to be blackmailing BC when he warned that spill protection programs and programs to fight climate change could only proceed if the pipeline project went through.

According to Trudeau, selling Tar Sands oil is necessary to pay for any programs to protect our environment, a pro-austerity argument that is totally dishonest. No one argued that we could only invest in new fighter planes if the government first did the math to see if we could afford them; it is only environmental and social programs and the rights of Indigenous people that are eternally put on the chopping block and touted as somehow too expensive unless we destroy our environment to pay for them.

Unfortunately, the NDP in BC paved the way for this argument when they made a similar one about the need to approve Site C to ensure that we could afford social programs. But we know that we should reject both these arguments. We can have jobs and climate justice, if we tax the wealthy and invest public money in green alternatives.

Notley retaliates
Shamefully, another vocal opponent of the BC NDP decision was Alberta’s NDP premier Rachel Notley. Notley has threatened to retaliate economically by cancelling negotiations with BC over electricity sales.
Notley stated that “rash actions like this send a message to the world that in BC, and as a result also in Canada, the rules are not what they might seem and therefore jeopardize investment decisions in hundreds of thousands of jobs across a range of important industries. And when I talk about investor confidence, I’m not only speaking about oil and gas development, I’m talking about all cases where investors engage with lawmakers.”

Because social democrats like Notley see the need to ensure profits are made to fund their social programs, they end up championing investors, or as Notley called them, ‘job creators,’ over all else, including the environment and workers’ futures.

We need to defend this BC NDP decision against critics like Notley and Trudeau. Anyone with the most basic understanding of climate science and pipeline risks knows that it makes no sense to build this pipeline expansion.

Build pressure
But will this NDP proposal really stop the project? A look at the details of the plan shows us that what the NDP is proposing here is really just a temporary delay, “until [the BC government] conducts more spill response studies.”

Those of us who followed the Site C decision will recall that Site C was also delayed while a commission studied the issue. And we know how that turned out.

But in the details of the NDP announcement, they do inadvertently provide us with a way we might have more chance of stopping the pipeline. Minister Heyman mentioned that they were seeking input from Indigenous people and from other BC residents.

Now is the time to increase the pressure from the social movements on the NDP government. That is the ‘input’ they need to hear so that they feel they have no choice but to kill this project.

• What's next? March 10th marks the beginning of Kwekwecnewtxw -- an Indigenous-led initiative to protect the land, water and climate from Kinder Morgan. Sign up to Protect the Inlet.


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