The contrast was incredible. On November 19 over 5000 people marched, drummed, chanted and stood together in Vancouver demanding that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government deny approval to the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline. The march was so long that those at the front never saw the end, and so energetic that chants were still echoing off downtown buildings well after sunset.
Ten days later Justin Trudeau stood on a podium in Ottawa in a finely pressed suit to announce that not only was he approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline, but also another called the “Line 3” in Eastern Canada.
Most of the questions in the press conference following the announcement asked Trudeau to justify the decision in the face of broad and widespread opposition. Especially after his famous statement that, “Governments grant permits, only communities grant permission.” He cynically tried to dismiss concerns by constantly repeating, “You can't please everyone.” That's not enough. The consequences of new pipeline construction are very real and very dangerous. However, if the initial response and anger to this announcement is any indication, he will have a lot more than 5000 protesters in Vancouver to worry about if the pipeline project tries to move forward.
What's the Big Deal?
The 6.8 billion dollar pipeline would “twin” an already existing pipeline to move heavy tar sands oil from Edmonton to Burnaby for export. This would triple the amount of oil being moved on the route to 890,000 barrels a day, while crossing approximately 900 watercourses between Edmonton and Burnaby. The pipeline would increase oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet from 60 to more than 400 a year.
Kinder Morgan's environmental record is downright terrible. A report by environmental advocacy group STAND documented that Kinder-Morgan has been responsible for least 1,800 oil and chemical spill violations since its incorporation in 1997. That's almost two every week for 20 years!
In exchange for assuming the inevitable environmental consequences, Kinder Morgan has promised billions in economic benefits and 35,800 direct and spinoff jobs during construction in B.C alone. Not so fast though. A 2014 Simon Fraser University report found they were overplaying the economic benefits. Construction jobs in BC would be close to 12,000, with only about 50 permanent jobs created. All that for 50 permanent jobs?
The Bigger Issue
There's more to it than that though. This isn't a debate over how many jobs are justified per anticipated oil spill. The simple fact is that these pipelines represent a longterm commitment to the fossil-fuel industry centred economy which the vast majority of scientists, and even Justin Trudeau himself, say cannot continue if we want to save the planet from human caused global warming in the immediate future.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline would add over 100 megatonnes and Line 3 another 90 megatonnes of global warming causing carbon dioxide emissions. This makes it impossible for Canada to achieve its already lacklustre commitment to reduce national emissions 200 megatonnes by 2030.
If developed countries like Canada continue with this “business as usual” approach, it will lead to an increase in the average planetary surface temperature to above 2 degrees Celsius in the coming decades. This is the conservative scientific consensus as the “point of no return” after which there is no reliable guarantee of sustaining life on this planet on it as floods, droughts and other environmental disasters lock into an unstoppable domino effect.
As Grand Chief Steward Phillip said in an editoral published in the Globe and Mail newspaper, “You also must have known that allowing two pipelines to carry over a million barrels a day of additional tar sands production is not the way we are going to solve the climate crisis. No one could truly believe that more oil will help us get off oil. It’s too ludicrous to even contemplate.”
The Lies and the Fightback
So that's why the fightback is so strong. It's not just an issue of people not wanting a pipeline in their own backyards, but a growing awareness that we need to make important changes immediately if we literally want to save the planet.
Trudeau and his Minster of Environment and (ironically) Climate Change Catherine Mckenna are lying when they say they have approval from indigenous nations for these projects. Despite the combination of bullying and million dollar promises, less than a third of the indigenous groups consulted by Kinder Morgan have written letters of support. The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands now has over 100 participating First Nation and Tribal signatories. The alliance has held signing ceremonies in Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia. It was formed to create coordinated opposition against the Kinder Morgan, Line 3, Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines.
Trudeau isn't lying when he says they consulted with impacted communities. He's just leaving out the parts about the consultations being minimal, flawed and that even then the vast majority of feedback received was against the new pipeline construction.
In Vancouver, the Climate Convergence, a grassroots coalition of individuals and groups, organized the 5000 strong rally relying entirely on volunteer organizers and community support. Opposition to the pipeline has become a consistent part of the national news cycles as communities in Nanaimo, Victoria, Chilliwack, Langely and Kamloops have all held or are organizing large demonstrations as well.
Discussions are already beginning on the next coordinated day of action against the new pipeline construction as organizers across Canada and beyond are undaunted by the government's negative decisions.
The government is so spooked and combative that, without any provocation, National Resource Minister Jim Carr already threatened to bring in the military to subdue climate justice rallies. “If people choose for their own reasons not to be peaceful, then the government of Canada—through its defence forces, through its police forces—will ensure that people are kept safe.”
We are the Ones We've Been Waiting For
If they are trying to scare us, it hasn't worked. Launched at the rally on November 19th, the Coast Protectors Pledge led by the Union of BC Chiefs has already been signed by over 18,000 people in three weeks. The message is simple and powerful, "With our voice, in the courts or the streets, on the water or the land. Whatever it takes, we will stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion."
The strength of organizing against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock has also given inspiration to many who see what a united, consistent and determined campaign can do against huge odds. The more than 500 people who came rallied together in Vancouver on less than 3 hours notice on the night of Trudeau's announcement know that this fight is just beginning. Despite the news and the cold, the mood was energetic and defiant. We cannot allow this current momentum to slow down or fade away. Now is the time to continue educating, organizing and mobilizing. Now is the time to stop the pipelines and build a sustainable future.
No Kinder Morgan Pipeline!
People and Planet Before Pipelines and Profit!
System Change Not Climate Change!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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