Prince George picking sides on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline buyout

Melanie Bellwood | News Director

Citizens of Prince George gathered together in the front entrance of MP Todd Doherty’s office on June 4, 2018, to express their perceptions of the $15 billion Kinder Morgan Buyout plan proposed only days earlier to the Canadian federal government. Armed with warm clothes and drinks to survive the rainstorm, as well as drums and signs to rally passers-by to their cause, the approximately fifty in attendance made their case to the city in a very public way. This event, hosted by the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, saw the participation of young and old folks from all over Prince George, and from a variety of public spheres, including university students, employees of downtown businesses, and senior citizens; they were all there to provide resistance against the buyout for their own reasons.

One protester, Bob Cormack, believes that Canada’s decisions today reflect mistakes that have been made elsewhere in the past:

“The concerns I’m having are that if a pipeline or an oil company can’t build it in the business, then it is not worth building. By [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau bailing this mess out and saying to the people that ‘we’re only gonna be short term and sell it later on,’ he is offering something ludicrous. The figures don’t make sense. When Britain did this during nationalisation in the 50’s and 60’s [to bail out Chrysler and GM], it failed and was never tried again” (Cormack 2018).

Cormack’s fears are echoed by fellow protesters Danielea Castell and Erin Bauman, who look at the Kinder Morgan buyout from two varying perspectives. Bauman, who co-organized this “No Kinder Morgan” rally, seeks an alternative that would promote better social equality for First Nations peoples whose lands are affected by the pipeline’s presence:

“A large part of the reason we are here today is because the federal government is ignoring First Nations lands’ titles and rights in this process… the project should not continue without the consent of these people or any others whose lives are being affected. The government is also ignoring the fact that the Burrard Inlet is considered traditional and sacred territory of the coast Salish people… so, there are a lot of reasons that this is a bad investment and if we consider the fact that the Louisiana Onshore Oil Ports just opened… the global economy is moving towards that kind of oil shipping and the ports and pipeline we are building can’t service it. Whether Canada is actually going to make money off of this is pretty unlikely” (Bauman 2018).

On the other hand, Castell attributes her participation in the rally to the water itself. She hopes to instill protective measures against the potential damage that these expansions will cause to Burrard Inlet’s ecosystems and environment.

“I am a water communicator… bodies of water and water in general are my family and it’s necessary and important that we protect our family. Nature doesn’t have a voice or standing in our legal and societal processes… so it’s important to me to be an advocate for the rights of nature. Natural beings have the rights to exist and thrive regardless of their necessity to humanity. History has shown over and over that it is not ‘if’ a spill will happen, but ‘when’ and the Exxon Valdez has shown us that after a tragedy like that… we cannot ever return life to the oceans.” (Castell 2018).

Castell refers to the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24th of 1989, when a tanker bound for California struck the reef in the middle of the night, spilling approximately 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. While devastating economically and environmentally, this is only the second largest crude oil spill to happen, topped only by the Deep Horizon oil spill in 2010 that happened off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In both cases, it has been a struggle to return wildlife to those areas, even until today.

While the attendees of the June 4 protest have expressed their stance quite powerfully, there are those who are still unsure that the cancellation of this buyout is where the real problem lies. One onlooker who attends the University of Northern British Columbia as a Master’s student, and has asked to remain nameless, states the following:

“The pipeline is, as far as I’m aware, the safest way to transport fuel. We as a society decide whether we use fuel or not. If we decide to use alternate sources of fuel that will forego the pipeline, then we should fight it, but if we as a society have chosen to use this fuel, then we must accept the pipeline… I personally feel like we need to accept the pipeline and make the best of it so it would be much better if we as a community, and as a nation, could work together to make the pipeline the best that we can, rather than dividing and half of us being pro and the other half being against” (Anon. 2018).

The collective goal of these protesters was to stop the finalization of the Kinder Morgan buyout before the Transmountain pipeline stakeholders, and Prime Minister Trudeau, could push it through at the end of June. This protest acted as part of a nationwide call to action that would see over 100 MP offices in multiple provinces greeted by those looking to voice their oppositions to the federal government directly. Whether the federal government has chosen to listen to the pleas of their people, or whether the pipeline buyout has been officially accepted, is still yet to be seen. With Canada Day just past, and the possibility of keeping or cancelling this proposal hanging in the balance, the people of Prince George hope that a side will be chosen soon, so we can all better arm themselves against what is to come socially, economically, and environmentally. It is safe to say that rallies such as this one are difficult to ignore, giving a voice to those hoping to stop the buyout from being accepted.