At Kinder Morgan meeting, one Liberal voter delivers a blistering rebuke of absent MPs

Note: The Trudeau government is preparing to make a yes or no decision on the Kinder Morgan oil tanker project in December. After being elected on a promise to restart the project review, the Liberals reversed their position and went ahead with the National Energy Board process created by Prime Minister Harper.

The new government has sent a “ministerial panel” to select communities to give residents one last chance blow off steam. This week Dogwood organizer Mary Leighton addressed the panel’s town hall meeting in Vancouver. Video of her epic speech has since been viewed tens of thousands of times online:


My name is Mary Leighton, and I’m a provincial organizer with Dogwood. I live next to City Hall.

I was born in Vancouver, but I grew up in Saudi Arabia. I’ve been to 45 countries and learned four languages. I used to think this was the ultimate privilege – to be able to travel anywhere.

A few years ago, though, I came back to Vancouver. I saw sturgeon in the reeds of the Fraser River, caught and ate salmon from the mouth of the river, collected huckleberries on the North Shore.

I have begun to learn about the First Nations people who were here long before my grandmother moved west from the prairies, including the Tsleil Waututh in Burrard Inlet who oppose Kinder Morgan’s expansion. I have learned that many of the salmon runs in streams up the coast were actually created by indigenous people.

I took it to heart when Coast Salish poet Lee Maracle said in a packed Queen Elizabeth theatre this spring, to a largely non-indigenous audience, “You belong here, because you are here. But that comes with responsibilities.”

I no longer see mobility as the ultimate privilege – as millions of Syrian refugees must agree, and others forced to abandon their homes because of events related to global warming. Privilege is to stay in a place because it sustains you, and in turn to take up the responsibilities of sustaining that place or enriching it.

So I can never accept the construction of a new Kinder Morgan pipeline, which threatens a place in which I aim to stay, and through significant contribution to climate change would threaten others in their homes around the world.

Happily, I’ve found work and camaraderie with an amazing group of people who give me hope, because they are betting their time and energy on the conviction that people organized to defend the land and water that give our lives meaning can overcome the CEOs of corporations like Kinder Morgan, and their lobbyists. This group includes my parents, my two brothers, my best friend Kath, my neighbour Hisao, more than a hundred people in the room today, and over 250,00 British Columbians that I have never met, as well as partner groups and allies, who are also here today, who share our values and our conviction.

After growing up in a petro-monarchy and living in countries with highly corrupt governments, I am grateful to live in a country with a fairly functional democracy.

Many of us voted Liberal in October.

I know I was comfortable voting Liberal when it came to Kinder Morgan, because in his run for election, Justin Trudeau explicitly committed to “overhauling” the review process for pipeline projects, including projects that were currently under review – including Kinder Morgan.

I don’t see an overhaul.

I see three people with no decision making power, or even the power to issue a recommendation. I see no audio visual recordings or even transcripts. No transparency around how our spoken messages will be transmitted or the weight of them, let alone written submissions.

This is not the leadership that I and thousands of British Columbians voted for in October.

I voted for Joyce Murray, Liberal MP in Vancouver Quadra. I want her to stand up for me on this.

Jody Wilson-Raybould – Liberal MP in Vancouver Granville, where I live now – last week you said that citizens will have confidence in decisions and policies if they are treated fairly by government. Do you call this broken commitment fair?

Harjit Sajjan – Liberal MP in Vancouver South – you were elected to replace pro-pipeline Conservative MP Wai Young. You told me about your kids and wanting to make good decisions by them.

Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, where we are in right now – where do you stand on this hasty process?

If you haven’t already, visit your MP, especially if they are one of these four Liberals in the City of Vancouver, or Pamela Goldsmith Jones in West Vancouver, or Terry Beech in Burnaby North Seymour. Visit them. Call them. Tweet them right now. Tell them this is not the leadership we voted for in October. This is not the process promised by their leader. Ask them: What are you going to do about it?

So, why are we being put through this process?

Maybe it’s an attempt to appease us. Maybe it’s political cover for a federal approval in December – so Justin Trudeau can say that communities were consulted. Or maybe it’s a political barometer – with the next federal election so far away, with oil and gas lobbyists leaning hard, and the prospect of a quick financial boost so appealing, maybe Justin Trudeau wants to know exactly how much fight is in British Columbians when it comes to the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Shall we check the weather?

If you are completely opposed to this pipeline, raise your hand.

If you recognize this process as woefully inadequate to make a decision in December, raise your hand.

Finally, will you stand up if a federal approval of Kinder Morgan this December would be just the beginning of your fight?