BALDREY: LNG and Site C aligned for perfect storm

This province is being ravaged by forest fires this summer, but there’s a good chance an entirely different kind of firestorm will be confronting B.C. by the time next summer comes along.

Brace yourselves for a series of political protests that will undoubtedly include a massive amount of civil disobedience, but which may also in some cases drift to the extremes of sabotage and violence.

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A number of major resource projects are getting closer to becoming actual work sites instead of conceptual ideas. And when that work begins, expect the protests to start in earnest.

One of the major protest locations will undoubtedly be at the Site C dam construction sites in the Peace River Valley. There is widespread opposition to the project (although there is also strong support for it) and various opponents have vowed to do whatever it takes to stop construction from actually occurring.

Some are calling for a moratorium on construction until various lawsuits against the project wind their way through the legal system. But there is a zero chance of that happening, and in fact work has already begun as a number of contracts have been awarded to contractors.

There may be some protests this summer or fall, but it’s likely a more organized campaign begins next spring and summer. Don’t be surprised to see human blockades attempt to shut down any work being done, with the result being mass arrests.

The rhetoric flowing from various Site C dam opponents suggests this is not going to be a case of a bunch of people waving placards and booing construction workers. No, something more serious is likely to occur.

We’ve already seen the disquieting development of “Anonymous” (the shadowy group of computer hackers) vowing revenge over the fatal police shooting in Dawson Creek of someone who may or may not have been connected with a Site C protest group.

But the Site C dam is not alone in attracting opponents determined to shut something down. Add the Kinder Morgan pipeline to that list, as well as any LNG facility or pipeline, open pit mine, or expanded port facilities.

The protests against the Kinder Morgan pipeline that occurred earlier this year on Burnaby Mountain will look like a pale imitation of what will happen should the project gain approval and construction actually begins.

Another place to keep an eye on is the proposed LNG facility at the Woodfibre site on Howe Sound. The local population there seems thoroughly divided over whether it should be built, and the chances of opponents simply sitting idly by while construction begins seem remote.

An alliance of environmental groups and various First Nations is emerging in British Columbia to take on all these various projects. It’s a perfect storm in many ways, and it is also a potentially golden fundraising opportunity for environmentalists, who will surely turn the fight against these projects into one that gets the spotlight on the world stage.

I’ve noted before that a Big Divide is cleaving British Columbians in to two distinct and opposite camps: those who support the development of natural resources, and those who do not.

That Big Divide is becoming more entrenched and more noticeable. It will be permanently etched into our political and geographical landscape in the coming years, and it will not be an easy gulf to bridge.

It may well becoming the ballot box question in the 2017 election, as the B.C. Liberals and the NDP seem to be on opposite sides of the dividing line.

But before we get to that particular fight, there will be plenty more confrontations between the opposing sides.

Things are heating up in B.C., and the rising temperature will go well beyond starting forest fires. There’s a political firestorm coming as well.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC. He can be reached via email at Keith.Baldrey@globalnews.ca.

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