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      "What's a [few] billion dollars between friends?"

      By Thomas Davies

      We don't look to mainstream media for political or moral leadership, but this Maclean's magazine headline is as good as anything we could come up with: “Trans Mountain’s price tag: What’s a billion dollars between friends?” It took the government of Canada over-paying at least a billion dollars to its corporate friends for an aging pipeline and doomed expansion project to finally provoke some critical content – which given the absurdity of the situation did not get nearly enough coverage.

      Who is Benefiting?

      It was the Canadian government's own Parliamentary Budget Officer who was the bearer of bad news. His report found that while the government purchased the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and its related assets for $4.4 billion, the actual value of all those together is between $3.6 billion and $4.6 billion. Which means the government paid pretty much the highest possible price it could have. Close to a billion dollars right into the pockets of Kinder Morgan.

      More bad news from the PBO, "It’s very likely that construction will be delayed and construction costs will increase and that these two factors will probably decrease the value of the pipeline and its expansion by a billion dollars." So taxpayers look to be on the hook for two billion in straight loses right from the get-go.

      Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan Canada reported it distributed $3.98 billion of the proceeds from the Trans Mountain sale to shareholders, many of which are major Canadian banks. So while Prime Minister Trudeau repeats constantly that the pipeline purchase is in “the national interest” – the only ones benefiting are the banks and the oil corporations. It's just another indication that this tunnel vision insistence on oil pipeline construction has little to do with the interests of poor and working people.

      National Energy Board – Rubber Stamp Central

      February 22 is the deadline for the National Energy Board to release its rushed review of the possible marine impacts of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. It's worth noting that the NEB initially refused to consider these impacts in its original review – arguing that the sevenfold increase in oil tanker traffic was somehow beyond its jurisdiction. It's also worth noting that a 2017 federal report acknowledged the NEB has a serious public confidence deficit, “Canadians have serious concerns that the [board] has been ‘captured’ by the oil and gas industry, with many board members who come from the industry that the NEB regulates, and who — at the very least appear to — have an innate bias toward that industry,” the report noted.

      Leading the opposition to this process is the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, whose traditional territories are located where the pipeline would terminate, and the oil tankers would be filled. “Unfortunately, the NEB repeated many of the same errors that landed the government in court last time,” said Rueben George, spokesperson for Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative. “The ridiculously short timeline, the limited scope of the review, and limited testing of evidence made this re-do even worse than the first hearing.”

      Ahead of the NEB's final report, it released some of its draft recommendations. They look more like suggestions for something they've already decided to go ahead with. This includes requiring a vague “marine mammal protection plan”, and the hapless proposal to limit whale-watching ships. The NEB purposely ignores the relevant issues: there is no known cleanup for the “diluted bitumen” oil product the seven-fold increase in tankers would be carrying, and that there is a greater than 50% chance that the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population would go completely extinct from the increased oil tanker traffic.

      Wrong Direction

      Again, another of the government's own reports demonstrates how far behind it is on its minimum United Nations climate commitments. The latest climate pollution projections report, "Canada's Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollutant Emissions Projections 2018” shows that the gap between the government’s commitments and the reality of its CO2 emissions grows larger every year. This year Canada's actual carbon dioxide emissions are projected to be 115 Megatonnes above their 2030 UN target, or less than halfway through the promised reductions with no clear plan to meet them.

      Instead of confronting the crisis head on, they are trying to rely on tricks and deception to lower that number. The government is trying to “reduce” the official number by 37 Megatonnes in "emissions credits" which would be bought from California. This is essentially trying to buy the ability to pollute more, but this move is not permitted under the UN agreement Canada is pretending to adhere to.

      Build Our Future, Not a Pipeline!

      It's understandable for many to be frustrated by a government doing so much damage to benefit so few. However, there are important signs of hope and resistance. Following the lead set by 16 year of Greta Thunberg, who skips school every Friday to protest government climate inaction in front of Sweden's parliament buildings, thousands of students around the world are doing the same thing. The rallies are urgent and they are growing. Thousands of students from over 200 schools across Australia took to the streets in coordinated protests. In Belgium an environment minister has been forced to resign after falsely claiming the country’s intelligence services held evidence that the tens of thousands of students skipping school to demonstrate over climate change were being directed by unnamed powers.

      Sophia Mathur, 11, of Sudbury, Ontario told CBC that, "I walk out of school because what's the point of going to school if I won't have a future? I want to see adults start cooperating and listening to the experts and whatever they are saying, we have to do because my life, my family's life, everyone's life is at risk."

      The accelerated international response to the attempts to begin building the Coastal Gas Link LNG pipeline on Wet'suwet'en territories is another indication of the power and potential of climate justice and Indigenous solidarity organizing. More than 55 coordinated protests happened on days notice. This ensured that a police raid on a checkpoint established by local Indigenous Nations was news around the world. Solidarity actions are ongoing, while construction has been halted as Coastal GasLink is trying to find a way to justify destroying Indigenous hunting trap lines during construction.

      For Who and For What

      “Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we will have created, but that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.” - Greta Thunberg at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

      Sometimes it takes a 16 year old to stand up in front of government and corporate leaders and speak truth to power, and remind the world that the climate crisis wasn't created by an unforeseen accident. Kinder Morgan, PM Trudeau, the National Energy Board members – they all know the consequences of their actions and have decided to continue to push the planet to the brink for short-term and short-sighted corporate profits. We too need to understand the consequences of our actions, and that we have a fighting chance to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion if we organize together. While Trudeau and the NEB try and revive the disaster project, we need to do everything we can to ensure it ends up in the dust heap of history. We're are committed to building a better world, not dirty oil pipelines.

      No Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion – Not Now, Not Ever!
      System Change Not Climate Change!

      Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomasdavies59

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