MORE than 200 protesters descended on the office of North Vancouver MLA Naomi Yamamoto Wednesday as part of a province-wide effort to derail plans for new and larger oil pipelines to B.C.'s coast.
Waving placards and carrying umbrellas against the rain, the demonstrators gathered at midday outside the East 15th Street office block to voice their opposition to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and plans by oil giant Kinder Morgan to expand another line on Burrard Inlet.
"Over the past few years, we've mobilized hundreds of thousands of people against these pipeline and tanker projects," said Calvin deGroot, speaking into a megaphone. "And our politicians aren't listening to us."
The Capilano student - a leader of the rally who describes himself as a former climate change denier - said the projects come with a "huge risk" of oil spills and tanker disasters on the coast, and that the associated approval process is an erosion of democracy. "We've unified in a way we haven't seen before, and we're only going to get louder," he said. "We will not be silenced until the death certificates of Enbridge and Kinder Morgan are in our hands."
The event was among several dozen organized by activists outside selected MLA offices across the province Wednesday. The co-ordinated protests came two days after a larger rally outside the provincial legislature in Victoria, which drew several thousand demonstrators.
Megan Martin, a North Vancouver resident and another of the event's organizers, also spoke at the rally, saying the pipeline plans must be scrapped for the benefit of coming generations.
"We are standing up to make sure our coast, our environment, our communities and our global climate future aren't put at risk of devastation," said Martin. "No tankers, no pipelines, no way!"
Martin and deGroot's words were greeted with cheers from the boisterous crowd, which ranged in age from teens to retirees. The event featured several other speeches, followed by chants and a group photo op. It wrapped up within the hour.
Yamamoto was out of town on business at the time of the demonstration. Reached by phone Thursday, she said she shared "a lot of common ground" with the protesters.
"I am passionate about protecting our coast and our land from spills," said Yamamoto. "Tourists don't come to British Columbia to see our cities; they come to see our coastline and our rivers and our pristine mountains. . . . It's one of our most important assets."
She would only support the proposed projects "in principle" if they met the five conditions her government laid out in July: That the environmental review process be completed; that "world-leading" prevention and spill response systems be put in place on land and on the coast; that legal requirements related to Aboriginal treaties be addressed; and that B.C. receive "a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits."
With regard to the protesters' complaint that the pipelines would expand fossil fuel use, Yamamoto reserved judgment.
"Whether or not we believe in fossil fuels as a bad thing, I leave to individuals," she said.
If its applications are approved, Enbridge plans to build a 1,200-kilometre pipeline to carry petroleum from the tar sands just north of Edmonton to a new terminal in Kitimat, where it will be loaded onto large tankers for shipment to Asia and the United States.
In a parallel but unrelated effort, Kinder Morgan is aiming to expand the capacity of its 60-year-old TransMountain pipeline - which carries oil from Alberta to the Burrard Inlet - from 300,000 barrels a day to 750,000 by 2017.