Originally published in the Vancouver Sun, December 18 2016. Corrections by Dogwood staff.
By: Pam Goldsmith-Jones, Terry Beech, Jonathan Wilkinson
Last week, the prime minister announced the government’s decision to dismiss the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, to formalize a moratorium on oil tankers on the north coast of B.C. for ships carrying crude or persistent oils cargo, and to approve the Trans Mountain Expansion Project with 157 binding conditions.
In January, the federal government implemented interim principles that would guide environmental assessments in the near term. Central to these principles are robust consultations that go well beyond the requirements of the NEB politically appointed panels with no decision-making power as well as the consideration of direct and upstream greenhouse gas impacts.
In making the recent Trans Mountain decision, our government took into consideration:
- the National Energy Board’s report on the project (rigged by Stephen Harper);
- the report of the ministerial panel established by the minister of natural resources to conduct additional public consultation (although we ignored the panel’s six concluding questions);
- Environment and Climate Change Canada’s assessment of upstream greenhouse gas emissions (which omits the 89 per cent of emissions created by actually burning the oil);
- the views of the public gathered through the ministerial panel and an online questionnaire (one of 432 such “public consultations” launched in 2016); and
- input received through enhanced Crown consultations with Indigenous peoples (although we decided to override the First Nations that withheld their consent, which are now suing us).
The scale of additional consultations held — along with the 1,600 Canadians who participated in the NEB hearings (452 of whom were downgraded from intervenors to letter-writers, while 468 were rejected outright), — was significant. Consultations were held with 117 potentially affected Indigenous groups; 44 public meetings were held in 11 different communities; we received more than 35,000 questionnaire submissions and more than 20,000 e-mail submissions (98 per cent of which opposed the project).
In making any major public-policy decision, we know that the government has a responsibility to consider and assess potential risks and concerns as well as potential benefits — especially political benefits for our party in other provinces.
Important concerns were raised by residents of the Lower Mainland with regard to the Trans Mountain project, many of which were addressed in the decision announced on Nov. 29 (through sound bites and shallow, non-science-based statements).
The recently announced Ocean Protections Plan addresses concerns relating to spill prevention and response, including an enhanced Coast Guard role. (All in all, a $1.5 billion taxpayer subsidy to facilitate oil exports.) The Coastal Restoration Fund and wild salmon policies will make substantive improvements to the marine environment and the creeks and rivers that feed into the Salish Sea soon be gutted after surviving the Harper years unscathed. Our government has committed to a comprehensive recovery strategy for the South Resident Orca pod — something that is required irrespective of a decision relating to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (After three deaths in the last months, there are now 78 surviving whales. Even the National Energy Board says the Kinder Morgan expansion will do serious, irreversible damage to this endangered population.) Our government undertook significant consultations with Indigenous communities (although their lawsuits claim the opposite) and invested in efforts to address concerns raised during these consultations. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions associated with upstream oil development are accounted for and fit within our government’s climate action plan, the Pan Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth (thanks to Harper’s very loose targets, which we have kept, and still don’t have a plan to meet).
The Trans Mountain project will generate significant short-term benefits for British Columbians Albertans and Canadians international oil companies. These include:
- Providing a transportation mechanism for getting oil more safely cheaply to market vs. rail (not that anybody is proposing rail-to-tanker shipments across B.C., nor is there infrastructure in place to scale up anyway);
- $4.5 billion in government revenues generated over 20 years (which, if accurate, would amount to $6.43 per Canadian per year);
- $300 million in impact benefit agreements for First Nations communities (which many felt they had no choice but to sign, since approval was inevitable);
- $6.8 billion in capital investments (not that Kinder Morgan has the cash on hand. That’s why they’re trying to find a partner to take 50 per cent of the risk);
- The creation of more than 15,000 jobs “direct plus induced person-years of employment” during construction (much of which will go to Temporary Foreign Workers) and 440 50 permanent positions in B.C.;
- Enabling strategic access to new markets California refineries for Canadian resources (which we then buy back as refined fuels).
Over the past several months, we have listened to ensure a clear understanding of the most significant concerns relating to the Trans Mountain proposal.
The prime minister and our government have been very clear that economic progress and environmental sustainability can be achieved together. (We’re hoping if we say this enough times, people will forget massive tar sands expansion undermines all of Canada’s climate commitments.) We have made this decision in the context of historic investments in the health of our oceans and in science research and an ambitious and far-reaching climate strategy. We have been working and are continuing to work to ensure that the questions and concerns of British Columbians are addressed. There remains much to be done, but as British Columbians, we are united in working together to ensure that we fully protect our air, soil and water.
Pam Goldsmith-Jones is MP for West Vancouver Sea to Sky-Sunshine Coast; Terry Beech is MP for Burnaby North-Seymour; and Jonathan Wilkinson is North Vancouver MP.
Overall grade: D-
Next time please check facts and your own campaign promises before forcing PMO talking points on your constituents.