Pipeline War in British Columbia

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The below article was written by Socialist Alternative’s sister organization in Canada. The battle over the Kinder Morgan Pipeline comes just months after a major spill on the Keystone XL pipeline in South Dakota which tragically confirms the warnings of those resisting the pipeline at Standing Rock.

The battle over the Kinder Morgan pipeline in the province of British Columbia in Canada is getting nasty. Kinder Morgan, the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, wants to build a $7.4 billion pipeline from the neighboring province of Alberta’s tar sands to the port of Vancouver in BC to deliver diluted bitumen to over 400 large tankers a year. The previous Canadian government led by Stephen Harper approved the pipeline based on a flawed process.

On April 8, Kinder Morgan announced the suspension of all “non-essential spending” on the pipeline due to the “extraordinary political risks.” It set a deadline of May 31 for the federal government to provide guaranteed “clarity on the path forward,” or it may cancel the project.

Extreme Political Risks

What are these risks? British Columbia’s (BC) government has a legal case seeking to block any increase in diluted bitumen shipments through BC waters, due to safety concerns.
More significant are several court cases from First Nations objecting to the approval process, due to the lack of consultation. The Supreme Court of Canada insists that the Canadian government must consult First Nations. The pipeline would cross the traditional territories of First Nations staunchly opposed to it and they have plans to block construction.

There is widespread public resistance. In one month 200 people, including two Members of Parliament, were arrested for peaceful protest and charged with contempt of court. Many thousands more are committed to doing so.

Alberta’s government rushed legislation that threatens to restrict gasoline supplies to BC. There are suggestions that the Federal government could withhold transfer payments to BC for health services.

In response to Kinder Morgan’s announcement the Alberta provincial government and the national Canadian governments are discussing buying into the project using billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Alberta’s Premier Notley is considering “purchasing the pipeline outright.” The main target of the pressure is the BC government. However, even if it backed down the “risks” would remain; the court cases cannot be resolved by May 31 and people’s resistance will continue. Some politicians have called for army intervention. Others have suggested using the War Measures Act. With this approach, the allegedly progressive prime minister Justin Trudeau could be heading for a Standing Rock.

We Say No to the Pipeline!

The pipeline makes little economic sense. Trudeau and Notley falsely claim it will provide jobs in Alberta. Yet, Kinder Morgan says there will be only 90 full time jobs, after construction.

The inevitable leak or spill will destroy thousands of jobs in BC. The approval of two other tar sands pipelines and the high cost of processing bitumen with low oil prices have undermined the pipeline’s viability.

The tar sands are Canada’s biggest source of CO2 emissions, yet Trudeau claims that the pipeline will help reduce CO2 emissions. It would boost climate change, costing billions of dollars in fires, floods and other disasters. The jobs this pipeline will really create are firefighters, emergency responders, dyke builders, etc.

The Next Stage

This battle is heading to the courts and a constitutional crisis. Québec’s Premier has warned the federal government to be “very careful,” viewing its desire to overrule BC’s concerns as “not a good sign for federalism.”

Trudeau’s image on the environment and First Nations is ruined. But as Canada’s economy depends on extracting and exporting raw materials, he has to show global capitalism that Canada is open for exploitation.

As an oil spill in the harbor would threaten thousands of jobs and close the port for weeks, Socialist Alternative supports a one day shutdown of the port of Vancouver to stop Kinder Morgan.
Canada’s fossil fuel industry receives $3 billion of annual subsidies and governments are willing to use billions more to buy into this dodgy project. If this money was used to replace fossil fuels with clean energy and upgrade buildings there would be far more good jobs, while respecting Indigenous rights and protecting the environment.

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