ELECTION 2017: Oil pipeline politics

Former NDP leader Adrian Dix’s opposition to the project was a turning point in the 2013 election

Tenth in a series of Black Press B.C. election coverage leading up to May 9

BCElection2017_logoBThe issue that largely defined the 2013 B.C. election has been mostly quiet in the current campaign, as work begins to construct the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta across B.C.

The biggest controversy this time came when the United Steelworkers celebrated the award of a contract to EVRAZ North America’s Regina manufacturing plant to cut 250,000 tonnes of steel pipe for the line.

“The men and women of the United Steelworkers 5890 in Regina will be proud to produce the vast majority of pipe for the Trans Mountain expansion in Canada, for Canada,” said Steve Hunt, USW director for Western Canada.

WATCH: Chilliwack First Nations bands reject Kinder Morgan cash

B.C. Liberals pointed out the contradiction of the Steelworkers’ major financial support for the B.C. NDP and the B.C. party’s opposition to the project that offers employment for up to 15,000 people during construction.

Former NDP leader Adrian Dix’s mid-campaign decision to oppose the project marked a turning point in the 2013 election, and shook the NDP’s traditional relationship with industrial unions.

Neither B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark nor B.C. NDP leader John Horgan brings up the project, which received provincial and federal approval last year. If asked, they stick to their platform commitments.

Designed and approved 70 years ago, the Trans Mountain pipeline has delivered crude oil and refined fuels from northern Alberta to its Burnaby shipping terminal to crude refineries in Burnaby and Washington, since 1953.

WATCH: Battle against Kinder Morgan far from over, say First Nations

It has intermittently carried diluted bitumen from Alberta oil sands producers since the product became available in the late 1980s, with much of the shipped product going to heavy oil refineries in California.

An expansion project was completed without incident or controversy in 2008, including a portion that runs through Jasper National Park in Alberta and Mount Robson Provincial Park in B.C., with 13 pumping stations and increased capacity.

Platform highlights:

  • The NDP platform vows to “use every tool in our toolbox to stop the project from going ahead.” That could man rescinding the environmental assessment certificate already granted by the B.C. Liberal cabinet, or refusing to issue site-specific permits that may be required to cross rivers and other features of the route.

    Horgan emphasizes the seven-fold increase in crude oil tanker traffic from Kinder Morgan Canada’s Westridge terminal in Burnaby. Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley notes that risk of oil and fuel spills applies to all shipping on the West Coast, and the Trans Mountain expansion means only a six per cent increase in total ship movements.

  • The B.C. Liberal platform emphasizes federal commitments to improve West Coast spill prevention and response, including heavy rescue tugboats, and the benefits of a revenue share offered by Kinder Morgan and its oil suppliers that Clark says will eventually add up to $1 billion for community environmental enhancement.

    The ruling party also promises to “support the development of refineries and pipelines that meet our environmental assessment requirements and provide benefits and jobs for British Columbians.”

  • The B.C. Green Party platform makes no mention of the Trans Mountain project and only once mentions pipelines, a commitment to “introduce maintenance requirements for pipelines and enhance compliance and enforcement.”

    Green leader Andrew Weaver has focused his attacks on natural gas export development, which he calls a “pipe dream” that will never be financially viable.

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