The residents of Burnaby North-Seymour, “arguably the most impacted riding in the country,” stand opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to Burrard Inlet, according Liberal MP Terry Beech.
Beech made the statement to Natural Resources Canada’s ministerial panel, which is holding meetings along the proposed pipeline’s route to gather stakeholder and public feedback. Their report will be used to help inform the Trudeau government’s decision on whether or not to greenlight the pipeline.
Beech presented to the panel Friday morning summarizing the months of feedback he’d listened to and study he’d done into the proposal.
“My first job as an elected official is to understand how constituents in Burnaby North-Seymour feel about this project. This is important because I promised through the election campaign that I would be the voice of the community in Ottawa and not Ottawa’s voice in the community,” he said. “After speaking with tens of thousands of individuals, including local, provincial and indigenous representatives, I can tell you with confidence that the people of Burnaby North-Seymour, on balance, stand opposed to this project and that the community does not grant its permission for the project to proceed.”
The comment drew applause from residents and activists watching in the gallery at District of North Vancouver municipal hall.
But Beech added, “the spectrum of support is more broader and nuanced than a simple yes or no answer,” with many people supportive with conditions or raising concerns but not rejecting the pipeline outright.
Beech prefaced his presentation noting since April 2014, he and his team have knocked on 56,000 doors and made more than 25,000 phone calls, attended 59 community events and hosted townhalls, received more than 1,000 emails and hundreds of letters, had “countless” meetings, toured the inlet with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, read the NEB’s entire 500-page report – twice – as well as the initial application and all of the reports cited in them.
Beech also targeted the economic analysis Trans Mountain commissioned that the NEB used in determining the project would be in the national interest, which he said “incentivizes exaggeration of the benefits while minimizing the costs or risks,” he said.
Specifically, Beech pointed to assumptions about how many British Columbians own stock in Kinder Morgan, or tax revenues that would flow to the various levels of government without taking into account losses of revenue from other sources the pipeline would result in.
“I note that the vast majority of people who speak in favour of this project cite benefits that are not necessarily uniquely tied to this specific project,” he said. “Any length we go to measure economic benefits, we have to go to a similar length to measure the economic costs.”
And the NEB never considered any viable alternatives to Kinder Morgan’s application, including alternate routes that exclude Burrard Inlet or the West Coast entirely, or refining the diluted bitumen before sending the product to tidal water, Beech urged the panel to consider.
“I believe there may be a way forward where we can enjoy the same economic benefits but do a better job at minimizing environmental and economic risk,” he said. “While some of these alternatives may not be the most profitable solutions, they may perform better when evaluating them through the lens of national interest.”
On the NEB itself, Beech said his government is modernizing the body to include more regional and First Nations representation and expertise in environmental science and community development but tight timelines around the Trans Mountain application mean a decision will have to be made before those reforms are made.
The panel’s mandate is to consider things explicitly left out of the National Energy Board’s process, like climate change and the risk of an oil spill once the diluted bitumen has been loaded onto tankers. The North Shore’s three local governments took their opportunity to hammer on those points Friday.
“Our municipalities are invested in truly understanding and minimizing GHG emissions that lead to climate change. We are on the front lines of climate change. We are dealing with precipitation, flood events and extreme weather,” said West Vancouver’s acting mayor Nora Gambioli, who was also speaking for the City of North Vancouver.
Speaking for the District of North Vancouver, CAO Dave Stuart emphasized what would be at stake in the event of a spill on the inlet.
“We’re very, very close – less than a kilometre away from the Kinder Morgan site, and a spill in Burrard Inlet would pose a serious threat to the inlet’s natural systems, including the important and very vulnerable Maplewood Conservation Area,” he said. “It’s not a matter of a few days. It could be weeks if not months and years in order for the shoreline to recover from a spill.”
When it comes to responding to a spill, the 2015 Marathassa spill in English Bay demonstrated serious gaps in the system, even for small spills, Stuart added.
“In our opinion, the proposal for Trans Mountain omits very robust modelling, and in our opinion, did not include a credible worst-case scenario, meaning they downplayed the potential impact of a spill,” he said.
The federal government is due to make its decision on the pipeline in December.