North Vancouver volunteer team leader responds to provincial Kinder Morgan approval

By Nadine Sheppard

As a longtime Deep Cove local I have been actively watching the Kinder Morgan expansion proposal unfold, and am deeply dismayed to observe the authorities consistently and systematically “get to yes” on this unwanted project — in the face of enormous opposition. So it was no surprise when Premier Christy Clark announced that all five conditions (relating to environmental review, spill response, Aboriginal rights and title, and a “fair deal” for B.C.) have been met, giving the last provincial green light to seven times as many bitumen-laden tankers in our waters.

One hour before Premier Clark’s televised approval last month, I was sitting with my MLA, Jane Thornthwaite, in her office, to pose questions and voice concerns widely held in my community about our premier’s impending decision. We asked our MLA what her thoughts were on B.C. energy policy in the face of climate change. We asked her about the “five conditions”: did she feel they have been met? I introduced myself as her constituent and also as a volunteer with Dogwood who wants action on climate change and strongly opposes the Kinder Morgan expansion, and told her this sentiment is shared by 262,000 fellow Dogwood supporters. I also pointed out that in her riding, Dogwood has 4,103 contactable supporters, and we are just a subset of the total number of North Vancouver-Seymour constituents firmly opposed to the Kinder Morgan project and the risks it will bring to our community.

Ms. Thornthwaite was generous with her time and seemed genuinely interested in taking our questions to an upcoming meeting with her fellow MLAs. She was unaware that the provincial decision was imminent. She said that “your timing is good bringing these concerns to me now”, as we can discuss them next week. Of course, our concerns never made it onto the next week’s agenda because by the time I arrived home, the announcement had already been made by the Premier. I am confident that Jane Thornthwaite was unaware of the impending announcement. She stated that she had no knowledge of whether the five conditions had been met, and asserted (twice) that her position on the project was the same as that of MP Terry Beech, referring to the statement Mr. Beech made during the Ministerial Panel hearings where he asserted that his constituents are firmly opposed to the KM expansion:

“After speaking with tens of thousands of individuals, including local, provincial and indigenous representatives, I can tell you with confidence that the people of Burnaby North Seymour on balance stand opposed to this project, and that the community does not grant its permission for this project to proceed.”

Just two days later, Ms. Thornthwaite is quoted in the North Shore News article (Jan 13) as saying “I have to believe the experts… I have to believe the science…” , which is a complete reversal of her stance. So why the sudden change? What new “science” had come to light between our meeting and when she was interviewed for the article?

For local people who want to safeguard our waters, to uphold the idea of a true attempt at First Nations reconciliation, and to prevent the expansion of the Alberta oil sands in a time of catastrophic climate change, the blatant disregard our government — both Federal and Provincial — are exhibiting toward any sort of believable environmental assessment process, is both insulting and disheartening. Over the past three years, everyday citizens have taken thousands of hours away from their families and their jobs to take part in the onerous NEB hearings, in which every intervenor spent literally months preparing their cases, as well as tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars (yes, interveners’ lawyers were funded by the government to the tune of about $10k each), all to see the NEB reach its predictable approval of the Kinder Morgan expansion.

The Federal “add-on”, the Ministerial Hearings held this summer along the pipeline route, were again attended by thousands of concerned citizens who presented evidence and opinions (over 90 per cent opposed). I was completely floored by the amount of information brought forth by engineers, seismologists, retired refinery workers, biologists, environmental and climate experts — all of whose statements were passionately presented, and clearly not taken into consideration. In no way was this a meaningful review process. The federal approval, though expected, flew in the face of both the recommendations of the Panel itself (alas with no decision-making power), and the mountains of evidence underlining, in incredible detail, the dangers of this project.

And so it was with great dismay that I read Ms. Thornthwaite’s comments about “believing the science”. Interesting how our leaders pull out “the science” when it suits them to support their political decisions, while ignoring the mountain of science to the contrary.

As a volunteer with Dogwood, I am seeing our numbers growing rapidly. Citizens are fed up with a government that deliberately misleads the public.

Our Premier and her party are being funded by the industries they are supposed to be regulating. How can we allow this to continue? Kinder Morgan, its oil patch backers and industry associations gave the B.C. Liberals more that $700,000 before April 2016. Add to that, visits from lobbyists to all levels of government: Kinder Morgan met with federal representatives, ministers and staff 368 times in a five-year period. They specifically met with the Ministry of Natural Resources, responsible for creating the “unbiased” Ministerial Panel and modernizing the NEB, 107 times.

And so we are left to consider: what, really, were the premier’s five Conditions?

From where I stand, the Liberals have constructed their own pipeline of duplicity and dishonesty, leaving B.C. citizens and First Nations to fight for the protection of our homeland.