Liberals ready to sacrifice three MPs for Kinder Morgan

Gains in Alberta will offset B.C. blowback, sources say

Trudeau government officials believe approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline and oil tanker project will jeopardize three Liberal seats in B.C. in the next election, according to a source who requested anonymity. However, the Liberals believe the move could also make them competitive in four new Calgary-area ridings, cancelling out the political hit on the West Coast.

This account of the raw political calculus behind a major energy decision follows on a Bloomberg News report last month that Trudeau is determined to see an oil pipeline built during his current term, with Kinder Morgan being the favourite.

Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan Canada executive Ian Anderson is confident of an approval “soon,” according to a source in the shipping industry. Anderson is reportedly pleased with the progress his company has made with the Liberal government, a theme echoed by his superiors in Texas.

Once again, all signs point to a federal approval for the Trans Mountain expansion project before Christmas. The last remaining formality is a report by the Ministerial Panel appointed to review the project, which is due in November. However, it’s become clear the real decision will be based on politics, not evidence.

Which MPs will be thrown under the bus?

If the detail about three lost ridings is accurate, it would suggest the Liberals have done some analysis of the political battlefield in British Columbia. Indeed, three MPs in the Lower Mainland stand out as particularly vulnerable, due to narrow margins of victory in the 2015 election.

Terry Beech won the new riding of Burnaby North – Seymour, ground zero for the tanker terminal, with just 36 per cent of the vote. Ron McKinnon won Coquitlam – Port Coquitlam with 35 per cent support, while next door in Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge, Dan Ruimy won less than 34 per cent of the vote.

But assuming the 2019 election is fought under the existing first-past-the-post voting system, a slight shift in support could actually cost the Liberals another half-dozen seats. Just a few thousand first-time Trudeau supporters switching back to the NDP and Greens – or staying home – would cause most of the Liberals’ current B.C. caucus to fall to a reinvigorated Conservative Party.

Liberal strategists may intuit that in ridings they won from Conservative incumbents last year, they should tack right to hang onto those blue-red voters. On the contrary, unless the Liberals consolidate progressive support (keeping young voters, infrequent voters and climate voters in the tent) their 2015 base could fragment.

Even safe-looking seats could be in jeopardy. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will likely face a fierce campaign in her riding of Vancouver Granville after flip-flopping on the Site C dam, Kinder Morgan and other Indigenous-rights issues she once championed as a regional chief.

Add to that the potential retirement of veteran MPs like Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray, and the party could be looking at a replay of the 1972 election, when it dropped from 16 seats in B.C. to four. Prior to last year’s red surge, Fry and Murray were the only Liberal MPs west of the Rockies. Trudeau’s majority government now hangs on 15 seats – the same number he picked up in British Columbia last fall.

The safe way out

Liberal advisors appear to underestimate the long-term brand damage that would come with actually building the Kinder Morgan pipeline. With a construction schedule stretching from 2017 through 2019, First Nations-led lawsuits and land defence would disrupt both the B.C. provincial election next May and the federal election two years later.

Add to that the reality that regardless who wins the B.C. election, if they betray British Columbians on the oil tanker issue, Dogwood will launch a citizens’ initiative. That means mobilizing hundreds of thousands of voters behind a law banning diluted bitumen transport across our province.

Ottawa could try to override provincial jurisdiction and force a pipeline through. But the political costs would be enormous. The better play is for Trudeau to kick the decision down the road, avoiding a legal battle with First Nations, protracted civil disobedience, and the chaotic power of a citizens’ initiative.

If you’re concerned that Ottawa is planning to approve Kinder Morgan in December, the best thing you can do is organize your friends and neighbours to change the political calculus. This month Dogwood is organizing Knock the Block, a month-long canvass blitz to gather support for a citizens’ initiative if Trudeau and Clark try to push through a pipeline.

As today’s rumours reinforce, modern politicians make decisions based less on facts than on political math. The way to shape their decisions is to show them exactly how many votes they stand to gain or lose, and where. That’s why every single signature you collect in your neighbourhood is significant. You can download a Knock the Block petition form here.

20 Responses to “Liberals ready to sacrifice three MPs for Kinder Morgan”

  1. John B says:

    Neither Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, nor the Pacific Nort West liquified natural gas terminals Neal can, in good conscience, be allowed to proceed. They are both unsupportable as the life time they would require to recoup their initial investments extends far too far into an era where the CO2 emissions they represent cannot be accepted if our existence on this planet can continue. There is no Planet B.

    • Kevin N Fenning says:

      I was about to write more or less the same thing, here, here.

    • Carol Pickup says:

      I agree John B but where have voters heads been at? The Trudeau Liberals are Tweedledee to Harper’s Conservative Tweedledums. Wake up Canada and elect an NDP government!! Carol Pickup, Victoria, B.C.

    • John Vanderlee says:

      Do NOT combine these two projects under one heading/issue – they are entirely different. LNG is an essential and
      low-carbon-based fuel for the world. Oil is a very dirty, carbon-based fuel. Renewable energy just is not, nor can it ever be reliable enough nor adequate in supply to be a full replacement. So, let us settle for the cleanest carbon-based LNG/natural gas supply. WE must remain realistic.

      • Fracking releases methane and co2 into the atmosphere. Methane then converts to CO2 at a ratio of 30-1 over several decades. This makes BC gasfields worse for the environment that the tarsands

  2. Carolyn L. Herbert says:

    You need to enlist the rest of Canada, don’t just knock the BC blocks. Climate change from expanded extractions in Alberta will impact the whole globe. Losing votes in other parts of Canada (along the route of Energy East) could hurt them too.

  3. Beverly Allen says:

    I don’t agree with the site C dam and want to vote No for whoever is making the Peace and Aboriginals land to be flooded and wreck the fisheries and environment. I also, want to vote no for whoever is creating the pipelines to be wrecking the land and maybe the fisheries if/when the oil spills; the money being spent when the demand is reclining! We don’t need either of these projects for greed; and not to benefit Canadians; but rather other countries with your and my tax dollars!

    • Cristina Ryan says:

      Despicable is the only word I can think of. How could all the promises made during the
      elections be broken? My hope is that everything we are hearing is just not true. Is it ?

  4. Donna Stewart says:

    What about Jonathan Wilkinson? On Election night he crowed, “Kinder Morgan is dead”.

  5. Marie-Andrée MIchaud says:

    life and the environement come first….saying no to big fifnance is courage and for the future of our children and Earth

  6. haymarilyn7 says:

    I’m VERY unhappy with the Liberals record so far when it comes to environmental issues. While I sympathize with Alberta, working the tar sands makes no sense, nor does building this additional pipeline. We need to be transitioning workers to renewal energy jobs. I’m also not happy with the apparent support of the TPP which is death to the environment as well as to the independence of nations ie pharmaceuticals will dictate drug prices so we won’t be able to buy in bulk at lower rates anymore under our medical plans. They’ve also not supported First Nations when it comes to the new dam that is not needed in BC. I live in Ontario but these issues are important to me because what happens to our environment impacts all of us.

  7. drbobabell says:

    The party might be drastically underestimating the backlash of “green” liberals across the country. It they think this is just a local issue, they will be sadly mistaken. Campaigning on “Real Change” and then showing same-old same-old is not going to wash with this particular Ontario native and while I have a good Liberal back-bencher who ousted a con in a traditionally con riding, I don’t vote “my party right or wrong”.

  8. Hugh Waller says:

    The Liberals are driving more nails into their electoral coffin, by throwing BC MPs under the bus. If Trudeau and his Sunny Ways gang think Albertans will ever vote for a Trudeau, they better load something else in their pipe.

  9. Charlene Simon says:

    This needs national door knocking, as according to the Globe and Mail, all Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for oil spill cleanup that exceeds $40 million dollars. The Exxon Valdes spill cost over $2 billion, and 25 years later is still not finished. The local orca pod has not produced a single calf since and is condemned to extinction. Many other species have not recovered…

    Will Amos, Globe and Mail , July 14th, 2010 (updated August 23, 2012):
    “How much would it cost to clean up an oil spill off Canada’s coastlines? More important, who pays? Take, for instance, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Damages are now being assessed at upward of $100-billion (U.S.), or roughly 20 per cent of Canada’s federal debt.

    But if such disaster struck in Canada, the oil company responsible for the spill could find itself liable for a mere $40-million and, in some cases, even less. Ultimately, governments – and, by extension, taxpayers – are the ones most likely to foot the remainder of the staggering clean-up costs.”

    This is definitely a National issue.

  10. Pierre Lortie says:

    The more aware of us all knew that Trudeau is a fake, a corporate puppet but unfortunately many fell for his hypocrisy of so called “sunny ways” They might wake up now but it is too late, we are stuck with that corporate whore for the next 3 years still and he is there to continue the destruction of our country and our future to benefit corporate pigs addicted to short term short sighted gains. DON’T FALL FOR HIS PHOTO OPS as it is the only thing he does. All style but hidden substance, hidden because the substance is there, it is just not for the people.

  11. Sheila Cano says:

    Yes, Wilkinson indeed. He now toes the party line.

  12. If Prime Minister Trudeau wishes to be seen as a man of his word, and a forward thinking Prime Minister, he would do away with the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the LNG Terminal proposals. The environment and global warming are in a much more precarious position than American millionaires who want more.
    These fossils don’t know that we have already taken enough oil from the earth and the time has come to focus on renewable energy sources. Once the water is no longer safe to drink and the air too polluted to breathe, it will be too late to back up and rethink what they should have done.

    Mr. Trudeau should realize that being the Prime Minister of Canada is more than being ” King For A Day”.
    The position carries the heavy responsibility to do what is best for all the people of Canada, not only those with the money to sponsor his party. There are so many jobs to be filled in the renewable energy sector it is not necessary to rape the land and oceans further.

  13. Denice Heather says:

    Political systems don’t work where there is corruption, lies, silencing, corporate control not ALL people control, greed motivated by profit not Traditionanal values and beliefs of First Nations, patriarchy instead of matriarchy, conflict of interest, disaster capitalism…a paradigm shift has to happen if we are all toSurvive. Start supporting what works instead of supporting what is not working out for ALL life

  14. THREE?? voters should dump the WHOLE Pacific Liberal Caucus of 15 traitors!

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