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Justin Trudeau’s B.C. blunder

There are risks to a Burnaby pipeline that Trudeau is underestimating: dead whales and Clayoquot 2.0. And they will cost him in 2019.


 
(Ben Nelms/Reuters)

(Ben Nelms/Reuters)

There was a reason Justin Trudeau took pains, in a brief appearance announcing two pipeline approvals Tuesday evening, to spell out his B.C. bona fides. Greenlighting Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion through the province was the day’s most significant announcement, by a long shot. In B.C., of course, it is also deeply controversial. (The Prime Minister also officially rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal—though it’s been out of play for years—and approved the company’s Line 3 proposal, which wasn’t remotely contentious.)

Trudeau noted that he grew up visiting family “on the coast”; Jimmy Sinclair, his maternal grandfather, was a well-known North Vancouver MP. And he spent years working in the province, he added, first as a snowboard instructor, then as a teacher. All of this helped him understand modern B.C., likely better than any elected prime minister in decades. Still, there are two major risks associated with this project the Liberal Prime Minister could be underestimating from afar: Dead whales, and the spectre of Clayoquot 2.0.

The approval of Trans Mountain represents “the probable approval of the extinction of the Southern Resident killer whale population,” says biologist Misty MacDuffee with the Raincoast Conservation Society, which opposes the pipeline.

For the 80-odd whales that make up the Southern Resident population, the problem is diet. They only eat salmon, whose returns have been rapidly dwindling in the last decade. The expected sevenfold increase in tanker traffic associated with the Kinder Morgan would increase underwater noise to something approaching the level of a Megadeth concert. “These killer whales hunt the same way herd predators do on land,” MacDuffee explains: “They isolate an animal, then go after it as a pod.” If they can’t hear one another, they can’t do that.

MORE: Breaking down Justin Trudeau’s pipeline defence

The threat to the whales is no insignificant hurdle. On the Pacific Coast, these whales loom large. Haida mythology depicts them as the ocean’s most powerful animals; to the Kwakwaka’wakw, they took sea lions for slaves and made dolphins their warriors. They also represent a major economic draw for B.C.—a half-million tourists took whale-watching tours in the last year alone, hoping to catch a glimpse of these and other cetaceans. Vancouver is cloaked in orca iconography.

Travellers arriving at YVR are greeted by a giant Richard Hunt killer whale carving. Doug Coupland’s pixelated “Digital Orca” leaps over the Burrard Inlet at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The Canucks’ logo is a breaching killer whale. Indeed, the whales have become practically synonymous with the province: They’re slapped on T-shirts, postcards, and backpacks, and they star in every local tourism campaign.

In the wider seas, killer whales aren’t threatened. But B.C.’s famed Southern Resident population was in poor shape long before the Trudeau government gave the new pipeline the go-ahead. They range the Salish Sea, the network of coastal waterways off B.C. and Washington state, and are regularly spotted from aboard the ferry to Vancouver Island. They’re closely tracked by a team of U.S. and Canadian marine biologists, and local whale tour operators, who know Kiki, Sonic and Tsuchi and the rest of the “J-Pod” by sight. When one of these whales dies, it’s front-page news in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle.

Now Trudeau, who’s been working so hard to fashion himself as a son of B.C., who owes his majority to B.C., will be perceived as putting them at risk. It’s hard to imagine there won’t be a political price.

But for Trudeau, the whales are just one problem. To David Anderson, a former B.C. MP who served as the environment and fisheries minister in Jean Chrétien’s cabinets, today’s announcement also marks the end of the Trudeau government taking climate change, once his flagship issue, seriously. This reduces recent moves to a “pro forma song and dance.” (Cutting coal by 2030, in particular, is “a joke,” says the Victoria native. There will “of course” be a Conservative government who can roll this back before then.)

Anderson believes today’s decision will help bolster the Conservatives in B.C. by pushing progressives away from the Liberals to the Greens and the NDP, splitting the vote on the left. He dismisses the idea that Liberal seat losses in B.C. could be made up in Alberta as “fantasy.” No one votes to “reward” a party, he says, “especially not for something they view as their God-given right, which is how Albertans view pipelines.”

Then there’s the looming spectre of protests. Former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt believes Trudeau will face the same kind of “insurrection” his NDP government faced during the “War in the Woods”—the protests against logging on Clayoquot Sound in 1993, the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. And Burnaby Mountain is hardly remote. You can get there on the SkyTrain.

“There’s a very passionate opposition to it: Local MPs are saying ‘don’t do it.’ Local First Nations don’t want it. The mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby say they don’t want it. You couldn’t pick a worse site. There will be a price for this. There are going to be serious protests.”

For the Liberals, the project’s timing could also prove ugly. If Trans Mountain isn’t hopelessly tied up in lawsuits from First Nations and environmental groups (the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh all oppose it) the project’s proposed construction timeline would have Kinder Morgan attempting to lay pipe on Burnaby Mountain in 2019, just ahead of the next federal election. That means week after week of ugly headlines as Indigenous grannies, global celebrities and political leaders like Green Leader Elizabeth May and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan are hauled off by Mounties, reminding progressives just what they voted for.

The Conservatives’ total vote count only dipped by 200,000 votes between the 2015 and 2011 elections. The Liberals won because they managed get an unlikely alliance of young people, Greens, soft NDP voters and progressives out to the hustings. Getting them back there in 2019 was never going to be easy. Doing it after arresting their heroes will be harder still.


 

Justin Trudeau’s B.C. blunder

  1. It’s only been what….a couple of hours?….and already you…..a non-politician, with no experience of governing are telling the PM of the country he’s wrong?

    When did the media start running this country?

    • Agree, but if their is one thing that really pisses me off, is Trudeau allowing people like Rona Ambrose and the Cons, even the world, to dictate who’s funeral he should attend. I am pissed that Trudeau didn’t go to Castro’s funeral(he flinched and showed weakness), that would have drove his numbers even further through the roof. I think Trudeau should start investing his political capital, instead of spending it. Personally, on the pipeline, he made an investment into his political capital, example, if Alberta creates more new jobs, it means Atlantic Canada is a winner, especially NL., and as far as BC goes when it comes to politics, it can never find the center of politics, it’s always, either left or right, one of the most divided provinces in the country, but Alberta seems to have found the center, very fragile still. Maybe Miss Notley could teach Miss Clark a thing or two on how to balance a province, she may find herself re-elected another term.

      • I don’t know why Trudeau is listening to Cons or the media at all……he has a majority govt

        Should tell ’em to go pee up a rope…..it’s what Harp did, the media loved it.

        Plus the Cons don’t give a rat’s patoot about Cuba….it’s just another way to complain about the govt

      • They’re trying to thump the vegetables (this vegetable) to have Notley out. Isn’t that right Asian/Evangelical darlins’? I like her. Don’t always agree with NDP but I still like them better than the alternatives.

        Kenny worries me. I didn’t like his TFW policies.

    • You mean the Prime Minister that just last week heaped tons of praise on a brutal dictator that murder 10s of thousands of his own people. Jails thousands of people because the didn’t agree with his communist agenda, the dictator that tortured thousand more because they questioned what was going on their own country. Murdered and tortured thousand of gay and lesbians.. He made a bloody fool of himself and was described as having the intelligence of cotton candy.. shall I go on…that Prime Minister

    • Emily’s fascist side comes out …. sure sweetie … why should the media be able to write about the policies of our government. They should just bow in obedience right?

      • There aren’t that many people in all of Cuba guys…….you just want to whine about Trudeau again

        • Cuba? Is that where you think the pipeline leads Em?

          • You guys are bored today hmmm?

          • No, I just made the mistake of trying to follow your train of thought. I should know better by now.

          • DC Toronto True….you can’t even follow your OWN train of thought

    • Emilyone – “a non-politician, with no experience of governing are telling the PM of the country he’s wrong? When did the media start running this country?” Err…If the media were running the country, then ipso facto they would have the experience of governing that you very oddly think is a prerequisite for having an opinion about the government.

      • A personal opinion is one thing……telling the PM how to run the country is quite another.

  2. Trans Mountain was a Chinese precondition for any improved relationship and commerce between the Chinese government and the Trudeau government.

    And China controls a whole block of votes at the UN which Canada needs to get Trudeau’s cherished Security Council seat.

    Trudeau’s China gambit necessitates the approval of Trans Mountain.

    • Hold on to that plot….er, thought…..till 2021

    • It’s a hard balancing for the government. Yes to pipelines and risk pissing off the Yankee thumpers. No to pipelines and risk pissing off the Asian thumpers.

      Wonder where the Russians stand?

      Harper really wanted a Security Council seat too. Our government can’t or won’t keep Canadians safe from thumping (OCD)….Or so I’ve been thumped. ‘We’re never going to get caught.’ Makes me wonder who the other players are. I guess the CBC will let us know.

      By the way. I’m a no body. I don’t speak Chinese, economics, German or stock market.

      Stay out of my house.

  3. If “You couldn’t pick a worse site.” … then why hasn’t a better site been proposed?

  4. David Anderson: “No one votes to ‘reward’ a party, he says, ‘especially not for something they view as their God-given right, which is how Albertans view pipelines.’

    Good to see we’re not allowing any regional stereotyping to seep into the debate.

  5. Wow…what happened to fact-based journalism? This reads like a Press Release from Sierra Club. This decision is not going to cause some mass killer whale extinction – full stop. That ridiculous comment has been passed around in the media for months now, with zero basis.

    In fact, the very people spreading it – these so-called environmentalists – are far more likely to do harm to the orcas. They demonize 35 tankers a month – less that THREE PERCENT of Vancouver’s shipping traffic, and which have never had an accident or spill there owing to massive safety restrictions. Yet they conveniently ignore the massive increase in cruise and cargo ships, which have proven far more likely to kill whales and spill oil.

    And yet this greenwashing farce ocontinues, fostered by the “people of the inlet” who talk about the “pristine waters” of Burrard. I’d love to see those sometime…perhaps I missed them in between the chemical plant, pulp mill, and container terminal.

  6. The next provincial election will be the big decider on this. One thing the federal government can do is make sure there are penalties for the people of BC if they reject it. After all there must be consequences or nobody would allow anything.

    I find that bit about the whales a little disingenuous as there are hundreds of ships in that harbour everyday. So if you really want to save the whales then you need to allow no boats in the harbour not just the ones you do not like.

    Furthermore the company and this pipeline have a history and have been piping oil since 1953. By not upgrading the line you are risking serious oil spills.

  7. his own words hang him, he made the promise to stop carbon increases, price it etc instead were back to zero with the liberals on this issue.TRAITOR!

    • Traitor? According to Science Magazine, Canada is responsible for way less than 2 percent of global emissions. 67 people died in China last week when a scaffolding collapsed on a new coal fired electrical plant that was being built. Today, The National Post said China is building coal-fired electrical plants despite erroneous reports that they are going green. No matter what you believe, oil is far less emmision intensive than coal. The US, which is the number two emitter just found 20 billion barrels of oil in Texas under shale rock. It is time to look at things from a global perspective. Unless you believe Canada should be a role model while driving its own economy into the ground for no other reason, your argument is moot. There is no reason to believe that the high emitters are going to stop emitting. It

  8. Unbelievably selective reasoning. BC approved the expansion of the largest coal shipping terminal in N. America a few short years ago. Additional coal carrying ships don’t count? There are two coal shipping terminals shipping through the area; the second one also ships other raw materials, none of which is environmentally friendly.
    Coal dust floats over the water every day from both terminals, sinking to the bottom of the rivercumocean.
    And BC is apopleptic about “possible”, spillage and whales all of a sudden.?
    Should we raise the spectre of arsenic and mercury from the countless mines in BC to say nothing about Kitimat aluminum smelter?
    It appears the hyperventilating is more about a need to hyperventilate that whales or spills.

  9. Some of these pro pipeline comments amaze me. You clearly have never navigated the waters of BC much less Boundary Pass which has a hard left turn at Turn Point in the San Juan Islands. Going from 1 tanker a week to 1 a day dramatically changes the odds of a tanker ending up on the rocks due to a mechanical problem or human error. You should understand just how treacherous these waters can be for a fully loaded tanker. We, who live here, care very much about the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands and the people, whales and other wildlife that lives there. If this pipeline is allowed. Its will be only a matter of time before a ship ends up on the rocks. Its just not worth it. I suggest you land lubbers take a boat ride with a whale watch group just to see for yourself what I am talking about. I agree, this is Clayoquot Sound 2.0 only this time its in the protesters back yard. We can all get to the protest line in a matter of minutes. Clayoquot just about gave Harcourt a heart attack. This pipeline will be the downfall of poor Justin.

    • http://globalnews.ca/news/3010156/heiltsuk-first-nation-calls-tugboat-sinking-near-bella-bella-environmental-disaster-as-clean-up-efforts-continue/

      The interesting thing is that you don’t believe Canada should stop using oil because we are shipping it in from Saudi and the US and every where else. You just don’t want Canada to be shipping oil like other countries do. Explain to me, having navigated the waters of BC, how you cannot manage to clean up the diesel spill when a tug boat sinks. Perhaps you think the people of outlying areas don’t deserve any services because that would require some decent services. It wasn’t long ago, you had a tanker spill in English Bay. As for this pipeline being the “downfall of poor Justin”, think it through. Poor Justin wouldn’t approve a pipeline if he had any other choices economically. Canadians are willing to be consumers, they just don’t want to use the oil that is produced in their own country.

    • Been there and done it and was born in BC near the mouth of the Fraser, sailed the Gulf Islands and returned to this province after a first career in the RCAF and a veteran with a second career serving the residents of BC.
      I am sick and fed up with the imported British Columbians and environmentalists (funded by a consortium of US oil interests who don’t want us to sell ANY of our oil at world prices rather than the price a closed market dictates) who moan and groan at the slightest risk to their adopted province, as well as to the FN who only ever wanted a cut of the pie with all their phony sacred bosh. And I am not a Justine supporter as what we have is one of the worst four year periods in Canada’s history – with a puke who can’t recognize a tyrant dictator.

      The point someone above makes about the teeny effect (2%) that Canada has on carbon emissions is also well taken. Harper did not want to prejudice the Canadian economy when two other large emitters (US and China [the worst polluter in the world] who promise changes but so far haven’t produced) continue to open new coal fired power plants.

      The issue is national income so we can afford the social programs that others would love to have, not the faked agonies of the enviros and FN.

  10. Some of these pro pipeline comments amaze me. You clearly have never navigated the waters of BC much less Boundary Pass which has a hard left turn at Turn Point in the San Juan Islands. Going from 1 tanker a week to 1 a day dramatically changes the odds of a tanker ending up on the rocks due to a mechanical problem or human error. You should understand just how treacherous these waters can be for a fully loaded tanker. We, who live here, care very much about the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands and the people, whales and other wildlife that lives there. If this pipeline is allowed. Its will be only a matter of time before a ship ends up on the rocks. Its just not worth it. I suggest you land lubbers take a boat ride with a whale watch group just to see for yourself what I am talking about. I agree, this is Clayoquot Sound 2.0 only this time its in the protesters back yard. We can all get to the protest line in a matter of minutes. Clayoquot just about gave Harcourt a heart attack. This pipeline will be the downfall of poor Justin.

  11. First off, orcas don’t go into harbours to feed. J-Pod hangs out close to shore (hence the term, “resident”) and chases salmon.

    Second, they use their echolocation to do so and if the tanker traffic increases SEVENFOLD which it would with this expansion, then they wouldn’t be able to hunt and they would die. Every.single.one of them.

    As to possibility of oil spills – a tug ran aground and leaked hundreds of litres of oil and fuel into the water at Bella Bella. It took a MONTH of it leaking before it was salvaged. Two months on and oil is still on the water. There’s been no 100% clean up completed. Imagine when (NOT IF) a tanker runs aground or hits a deadhead – THOUSANDS of litres of untreated bitumen dumped into the ocean. An ocean that is already struggling. Believe it or not, those of us in BC appreciate our clean water and it takes a lot of work to keep it that way.

    The route the tankers propose to take is dangerous at the best of times, and increased traffic increases the probability of this happening.

    As for Christy Clark – she’s completely gutted this province both ecologically and educationally and health-wise. I can’t wait to vote her out of office.

    All you guys completely missed the target on your bitching and complaining – this isn’t about Cuba. This isn’t about harbours. This isn’t about how Trudeau didn’t mention the COTU. This isn’t about any of that. It’s about protecting our coast and the animals we’re stewards of.

    • http://globalnews.ca/news/3010156/heiltsuk-first-nation-calls-tugboat-sinking-near-bella-bella-environmental-disaster-as-clean-up-efforts-continue/

      Mary, I sympathize with your feelings with regard to the inadequacy of your province’s fuel spill cleanup procedures. The problem with the Bella Bella tug boat just illustrated that it isn’t an environmental problem, it is a response problem. One cannot stop providing the people of Bella Bella with fuel. As for the animals you are stewards of…it is really strange how LNG approval and the plan c damn doesn’t really offend you. It is much like Denis Coderrie’s willingness to polite the St. Lawrence with raw sewage and expose it possible oil tanker spills but to exhibit a fit at the thought of a east pipeline. If Christy Clarke had gotten a piece of the Alberta oil action as she requested, the pipeline would have approved when Alison Redford was premier. It is really sad that you believe that the animals you are “stewards of” are of less consequence than the freedom of the people of Cuba to embrace their sexual orientation and their political beliefs at the risk of their well being and lives.

      • Gage, I don’t know if you’re using the word “you” to me specifically, or to the province in general. I agree that the response is very problematic, however increasing tanker traffic makes it an environmental problem as well.

        The LNG and Site C does offend ME and many others too, and we’re still fighting against that. But that’s not what this article is about, is it? I’m sticking to the subject and not adding in alternate things. Christy is a politician who is walking a fine line, yes, but she’s so wrapped up in believing that LNG is the be-all end-all of our economic woes here, she’s ignoring the dangers fracking for LNG does. Fracking in an earthquake zone is not cool. Setting up a dam for hydroelectric because of ‘possible’ LNG needs… she’s hoping her dominoes all fall together. I’d rather see wind and solar being implemented as well as a refinery on our coast instead of shipping it off, but I’m not Premier.

        And to say that I believe animals are of less consequence than the people of Cuba… I didn’t say that, so stop putting words in my mouth, ok? And your sentence doesn’t really make sense to me at all. Are you saying the orca are less important than Cuban people? Or are you saying that I think they’re more important? I don’t understand your thinking on that at all, sorry.

        People are not black or white on all subjects. The world is made up of many shades of belief. People are allowed to hold two beliefs about the same thing. I believe the pipeline to Burnaby Mountain should be improved and made better because it’s old and shitty. I don’t believe it should be increased to allow more bitumen to flow through it.

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