"We do not believe any proposal should transform Vancouver into a major port for oil export." With these words, B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix marked Earth Day on Monday by explaining his party's opposition to Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion plans.
This announcement was welcome news -- a nice Earth Day Kinder (Morgan) surprise. Unfortunately, the B.C. Liberals and Christy Clark have yet to make their position on Kinder Morgan and the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal clear at all.
For years, I've been taking part in town hall meetings along the Kinder Morgan pipeline route, and participating in rallies and other events about Enbridge's plan. People are really alarmed about these dangerous pipeline plans, yet they've heard nothing specific to date from the Christy Clark's Liberals.
On Monday, I did a number of media interviews about Dix's statement. Leaving the studios of Global TV, it occurred to me that we hadn't heard directly from Christy Clark on this matter. So I decided to ask her myself -- on Twitter. I asked, "@ChristyClarkBC Will today's NDP Kinder Morgan announcement lead to your party now taking a position?"
She replied within minutes: "@BenWest The 5 conditions are clear, consistent. Wont waffle. Wont back down. Apply to KM, Black, NGP. Wont back down."
Frankly, I always found Clark's "five conditions" for the pipelines to be ridiculous. Her Twitter comment was bizarre. How do you "not back down" from not actually taking a position? The B.C. Liberals are still firmly on the fence, it seems.
But the voters of B.C. deserve to know what this really means, so I sent a follow-up question.
Clark's fourth condition for the approval of these pipelines reads as follows: "Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights must be addressed and First Nations be provided with the opportunities to benefit from these projects."
I was hoping that Clark would explain how they would ever decide if the conditions had been met. If these conditions had any real credibility, she would have rejected the pipelines already based on the opposition from First Nations alone. Over 130 Nations have now signed the historic Save The Fraser Declaration opposing tar sands pipelines through their territory.
Not surprisingly, I didn't get a response. This calls into question all of the conditions Clark has suggested. If the bar is so low that unprecedented First Nations opposition isn't enough to show condition four hasn't been met, then how low would the bar be in regards to any of the other conditions?
I'm glad the NDP has now taken a firm position on both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan. This will clearly spell trouble for the B.C. Liberal Party and Christy Clark, as this issue has become central to the B.C. election campaign.
Like Enbridge, Kinder Morgan plans to bring massive amounts of dangerous tar sands oil across BC for export. Enbridge plans to export bitumen in tankers leaving from Kitimat on the north coast; Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based multinational founded by former Enron executives, plans to export bitumen right through Vancouver's narrow harbour, which is already one of the busiest ports in North America. If the Kinder Morgan proposal were to go through, estimates are that there would be more than 400 tankers a year leaving Vancouver – more than one a day!
On Thursday, Dix further clarified the NDP's position, when asked if they would accept tankers coming in to Deltaport, south of Vancouver harbour, or elsewhere in the Salish Sea. Speaking on the Bill Good Show on CKNW, Dix said he was opposed to increased tanker traffic in "Vancouver, Delta or anywhere else."
This is the kind of clear leadership to defend our coast that we have been looking for. We need someone with the chutzpah to stand up to the bullying of the Stephen Harper government as they try to push these projects through against our will.
The Liberals are trying to spin this as the NDP being 'opposed to everything.' The way I see it, there's nothing wrong with being against everything Stephen Harper proposes that would bring this kind of risk to our coast and our local economy.
Only a handful of jobs would be created long-term by either pipeline, yet thousands of jobs would be put at risk. Once this election is over and these pipelines are dead, then we can all shift our focus to creating the kind of infrastructure and economy we can all be proud of.
If the B.C. Liberals keep spinning, and sitting on the fence, that will only make the vote on May 14 all that more important for everyone concerned about Kinder Morgan and Enbridge's reckless tar sands pipeline plans.
Ben West is Tar Sands Campaign Director at Forest Ethics Advocacy.
Photo: Tsleil-Waututh Nation