By Roy L Hales
Vancouver may add a plebiscite on Kinder Morgan’s plans to Increase Tanker Traffic through Vancouver waters to the city’s November 15, 2014, election ballot.
Councillor Adrianne Carr has filed a “motion on notice” that is now on the agenda for the May 13 Council Meeting.
In her notice, Carr stated that through its Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, Kinder Morgan “plans to nearly triple the number of tankers to an estimated 10 per week carrying Alberta tar sands dilbit (diluted bitumen) to foreign markets through Vancouver water posing increased risks of oil spills and leakages that threaten the health of Vancouver’s citizens, environment, shorelines, beaches and tourism economy.”
She noted that the National Energy Board is “fast-tracking” Kinder Morgan’s application, “denying thousands of people who applied to participate the chance to be heard, limiting commentators to just a one-page written statement with no possibility of presenting oral statements as were allowed in previous hearing processes and not allowing intervenors to question witnesses.”
As Mayor Greg Robertson has previously noted, the NEB hearing process “meets no test of meaningful consultation.”
In 2011, the Union of BC Municipalities requested that the National Energy Board, Port Metro Vancouver “and all appropriate federal ministers ensure that any applications to expand the amount of oil transported by pipeline or tanker in British Columbia undergo meaningful public consultation, including direct engagement with affected municipalities, regional authorities and British Columbia First Nations.”
The City Council of Vancouver expressed its opposition to the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in a vote taken during May 2012.
The Federal Government responded with Bill C-38, which the Green Party dubbed “the Environmental Devastation Act.”
Though Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced it as a budget implementation act, close to half of the 452 page bill consisted of amendments to environmental laws.
“Bill C-38 transfers decision-making to Cabinet,” the David Suzuki Foundation explained at the time. “Cabinet – rather than the department or agency responsible for regulating the proposed projects – will decide whether the project should proceed despite its impact on the environment. This essentially formalizes political interference in the environmental assessment process. Similarly, Cabinet will now decide whether to approve or reject pipeline applications, and can require the National Energy Board to reconsider its recommendations in this regard.”
Robertson agrees, Bill C-38 allows Prime Minister Harper’s Government “to give political direction to the National Energy Board.”
But the City of Vancouver is an intervenor in the Kinder Morgan NEB hearings and, as Carr points out, “it is advantageous and incumbent to report citizens views on the project, which can most thoroughly be obtained through a plebiscite prior to the hearings.”
Kitimat recently held a plebiscite in which 58.4% of the population stated they did not want the Northern Gateway pipeline.
It is ironic that the Conservative government, recently reborn from a movement meant to bring democratic reform – the Reform Party – would restrict Canadian cities to the point that their most effective form of communication is a plebiscite.
(Image at top of Page: Sunrise over Burrard Inlet – Photo by Scazon, cc by 2.0 )