Langley anti-pipeline activists aren’t backing down as the federal government and business community ramp up their support for the controversial Trans Mountain expansion.
Brandon Gabriel, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation and a key organizer of several anti-pipeline protests in Langley, argued against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement that the pipeline expansion is in the national interest.
“Trudeau and [Alberta Premier Rachel] Notley are preparing to bailout Kinder-Morgan Canada with a $2 billion package from the tax payer’s coffers… and the pipeline hasn’t even been built yet,” said Gabriel. “Why should the public come to the rescue for a company that has annual revenues in excess of $60 billion worldwide?”
He argued that the market for bitumen overseas is already declining, damaging the economic rationale for expanding the pipeline.
On the environmental front, Gabriel said not nearly enough has been done to mitigate or contain any possible future spills, saying that previous BC Liberal and federal governments had “gutted” environmental protection and disaster response.
“Think back to the English Bay spill a couple years back,” said Gabriel. “That was just 1,100 litres of oil and no level of government could respond to it. Not to mention sensitive salmon habitats that dot the entire length of the proposed pipeline all through BC that are not considered in these decisions being made by Ottawa.”
He also said that very little has been said yet about the impact that Aboriginal rights and title will have on whether the pipeline goes forward. First Nations like the Kwantlen have been opposed to the project for years, holding marches and protests near the pipeline route, which runs through North Langley.
Not all B.C. First Nations oppose the project, with Cheam Chief Ernie Crey speaking in favour of it on the weekend.
“I respect Chief Ernie Crey as a leader, and I also have great love and respect for the people of Cheam First Nation,” said Gabriel. “But I feel it’s important for me to be clear that my opinion on the pipeline is not a personal attack on them.”
“Impact Benefit Agreements between band councils and third parties like Kinder-Morgan are the business of those communities and if it is the will of those people who make those decisions than they should have that liberty,” said Gabriel.
However, he noted that of the 203 registered First Nations in B.C., only 43 have signed such agreements with Kinder Morgan.
While opponents are still planning to keep up the pressure, local business groups are in favour of the project moving ahead.
The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce polled its members back in 2015 on whether they support the pipeline project, and 83 per cent said yes, said chamber president Jack Nicholson.
“This has gone well beyond the project itself and is now a governance issue, if this is a federally regulated industry and project then why is our provincial government spending tax payers dollars blocking the process,” said Nicholson.
With the government of B.C. opposed to the pipeline and Alberta and the federal government in favour, Kinder Morgan issued an ultimatum last week saying that it needed clarity by May 31.
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce both called on the federal government to move the project forward. The federal government has the authority in approving such projects.