With more than 100 pipeline protests at Liberal MPs’ offices across the country Monday, the backlash against the Trudeau government’s C$4.5-billion pipeline protest continues to grow, notwithstanding Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna’s apparent preference that everybody just move on.
“Outside the House of Commons on Monday, McKenna reiterated her government’s support for the pipeline expansion and said it’s time to move on,” Global News reports. But from Charlottetown to Whitehorse, and from Chilliwack, Calgary, Regina, and Vancouver to McKenna’s home riding of Ottawa Centre, an angry and determined climate and energy community had other ideas.
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“This movement and the strength of the opposition here in British Columbia drove a Texas oil company out of town,” said Wilderness Committee climate campaigner Peter McCartney. “We sent them back with their tail between their legs—unfortunately, with $4.5 billion—but now we need to hold the folks who did that accountable.”
“The crazy buyout of this pipeline project has actually united people from the left and the right,” he added. “There’s going to be a lot to do over the next couple months.”
“This could cost $15 to $20 billion all told,” Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy and climate justice campaigner at the Council of Canadians, told the protest outside McKenna’s constituency office.
“That is money that could solve the drinking water crisis in Canada on First Nations reserves,” Donahue added. “That is money that could halve tuition fees across the country. Think about the affordable housing that we could achieve with that money. Think about…green jobs that we could build, reduce people’s heating bills, reduce climate emissions. That is where this money should be going.”
“Let’s not subsidize our own extinction,” read one sign raised outside Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s constituency office.
“Back in 2015, there was a lot of hope—big promises, and an Indigenous justice minister,” said administrator and retired teaching assistant Fatidjah Mestman, who lives just blocks from Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s riding office in downtown Vancouver, where about 100 people gathered. “It was bad enough they were maybe going to indemnify (Trans Mountain) or something, but now they’ve bought it out. It’s disgusting. Climate leaders don’t build pipelines.”
“It’s important to show that people of B.C. don’t want this pipeline,” protester Sarah Green told Global News in Vancouver. “And we especially don’t want to be paying for it.” Green’s father, Bill Bargemen, said he’d attended the rally out of concern for his grandson’s future. “This little guy may well live into the next century, and I’m really terrified about what that’s going to look like if we don’t come to grips with climate change,” he said.
“It’s going to be done in the courts, it’s going to be done in the streets, it’s going to be done at the ballot boxes, it’s going to be done when people are willing to go to jail, and they’re doing that,” he added. “This is the line in the sand. We have to take this stand now.”
Outside the Commons Monday, McKenna responded that “a decision was made, as I say, by the federal government over a year ago. Also by the former government of British Columbia. We need to provide certainty to investors and we also need to bring people together. The environment and the economy go together, and this project will go ahead.”
Yet the federal decision last week may have actually strengthened Canada-wide opposition to the project, the Star Vancouver reported, citing a survey by Forum Research.
“We found really strong opposition to purchasing the pipeline—in fact, 52% opposed, only 25% in favour,” said Forum President Lorne Bozinoff.
“We’d run a similar poll about a week ago, and there were more people in favour of the pipeline than against it. But that was before the government purchase. Even in Alberta, they don’t like the idea of the government buying a pipeline. No one really likes this idea. With a federal election next year, what’s going to happen to the Liberals in B.C. seats?”
The coverage in Climate Liability News, meanwhile, focused on the legal jeopardy the federal government might face as a result of the buyout.
“The government has an obligation to fulfill our international treaty agreement. The building of this pipeline is counter to that,” said Greenpeace Canada senior energy strategist Keith Stewart. “My government has turned itself into a pipeline company.”
While the Canadian Constitution has no provision recognizing the right to a healthy environment, added West Coast Environmental Law staff lawyer Eugene Kung, it does guarantee the “right to life, liberty and security of the person”. That provision “could be used to hold the government to account for failing to address climate change, which threatens the lives of its people,” Climate Liability News states.
But however that argument eventually goes, Kung said the buyout is a sweet deal for the Houston-based pipeliner that will be the recipient of taxpayers’ involuntary largesse.
“Kinder Morgan has pulled an Enron on Canadian taxpayers,” he said. “They have fleeced the federal government, which paid a premium for the assets and the project, and now assumes the greatest amount of risk in trying to get this thing built.”
In the House of Commons, Trudeau faced questions about the $1.5 million retention bonuses to two Kinder Morgan Canada executives that were included in the buyout deal. And New Democrats in the House criticized the government for opposing a motion reaffirming Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—which would require consent for projects like the pipeline. Less than a week ago, amid much fanfare, the House adopted a private member’s bill requiring Canadian laws to conform to the Declaration.
The government “seem to believe in Aboriginal rights and title if Aboriginal people happen to agree with Liberals,” said NDP MP Nathan Cullen. “That’s not the way rights work.”
Trudeau was, however, amenable to meeting with the climate-denying chief of the Cheam First Nation, Ernie Crey, who earlier captured headlines for his interest in buying a stake in the project. According to Vice News, Crey violated “basic” decorum by keeping the visit secret from community Elders.
While Crey signed a mutual benefit agreement with Kinder Morgan, he declined to hold a referendum first. Protesters this week said half the community opposes the project, and accused Trudeau of forcing the pipeline through their territory.
“When he comes out [of the meeting with Crey], they’re going to treat him like a rapist, Justin Trudeau,” Elder Denise Iyeselwep Douglas told Vice. “They’re going to tell him he’s raping our land, and they’re going to tell him ‘no means no.’”
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