VANCOUVER - Controversy surrounding increased oil tanker traffic British Columbia's coastal waters is an issue that isn't going away with just over a week to go in the provincial election campaign.
NDP leader Adrian Dix called on Premier Christy Clark to clarify her position on proposed projects that would see more tankers transporting heavy oil to Asia.
Clark's position on the proposed Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipeline projects has been unclear thus far, Dix said at a Saturday morning rally on Vancouver's Kitsilano Beach.
He said he wants Clark to outline her Liberal party's position before voters go to the polls on May 14.
“The Premier’s position on both these pipelines appears to be ‘trust me.’ But if the price from Ottawa or Alberta is right, she’s prepared to support a massive increase in tankers and the environmental risks that they pose," Dix said.
He added B.C. has an obligation to protect its coastline from projects that would radically transform the northern and southern coasts into major shipping routes for tankers transporting bitumen to markets abroad.
"The stakes in this election could not be higher," Dix said to dozens of NDP supporters, media and a few Green Party candidates.
"Looking out at English Bay, looking out at Stanley Park ... for those of us who grew up in Vancouver, is part of what makes our community special and what brings people from all over the world to this place."
The feeling, Dix said, is similar for First Nations communities that sustain their livelihoods with fishing along the province's northern coastal waters.
"That's their economy too," Dix said to applause. "They understand that projects such as Enbridge Northern Gateway are not in our economic, our cultural, or our environmental interests."
Clark took the day off from the campaign trail on Saturday to attend a little league baseball event in her home riding.
Liberal Environment Minister Terry Lake issued a statement on behalf of the party, saying it's Dix's platform that needs clarification.
The New Democrat changed his stance on the proposed Kinder Morgan project midway through the election campaign, Lake stated in a news release.
“Adrian Dix continues to be all over the map on the issue of heavy oil pipelines in British Columbia – his position is clear as mud,” Lake said.
If it's successful, the Kinder Morgan proposal would see expansion of the company's existing trans-mountain pipeline that delivers oil from Alberta to the Port of Vancouver.
Initially Dix said he would wait for Kinder Morgan to file its application before committing himself for or against the project, but then stated his outright opposition to the project and the increased tanker traffic it would bring.
At Saturday's rally, the NDP leader reiterated his stance that pipeline decisions should be made provincially, rather than at a federal level.
“A B.C. NDP government would protect our coast line and make sure decisions that impact B.C. are made right here and not in Ottawa,” Dix said.
He added his government would cancel an existing Equivalency Agreement with the federal Conservatives within a week of taking office, if the NDP is elected in ten days.
But Dix's polished speech to news crews and supporters didn't quite go as planned.
The New Democrat was asked to clarify his views on coal export by someone in the crowd, who grew more unruly as time passed.
Dix was rapidly ushered back to his campaign bus by members of his election team after the rally, briefly pausing to answer reporters' questions as the bus' engine was fired up.
However, the heckler drifted over to the media gathering to ask Dix's stance on coal exports and traffic from Deltaport, Metro Vancouver's largest container terminal.
His efforts were blocked by the 49-year-old candidate's campaign team.
"This isn't a movie set," the man told Dix's staff, giving one the middle finger. "It's a public park. I can be wherever I want."
The issue of oil pipelines and the environment was a hot-button topic during a televised leaders' debate last month.
Dix spent the remainder of the afternoon attending a candidates' rally for Maple Ridge, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam.
His schedule of events also included a stop at Burger Heaven for dinner — a New Westminster restaurant that has created hamburgers that resemble each of the four would-be premiers' personalities in an effort to conduct its own "bun-official" election poll.
Media representative Mike Lowe said the team would be dining on the Adrian Dix burger, which according to the restaurant's website leads the polls with 446 orders over only 164 orders of the Christy Clark burger.
A "bun-decided" or independents burger gained 259 nods, while the Jane Sterk burger follows with 133 orders. John Cummins' tasty namesake burger had been ordered only 49 times.