As Parliament now reopens for its first session of 2014, it's more clear than ever that B.C. and indeed many Canadians across the country do not feel represented by the Conservative government when it comes to the undermining of science and democracy to support their pipeline agenda.
I got a firsthand reminder of this last week at a packed town hall that we held in Port Moody, in the riding of Stephen Harper's Industry Minister James Moore. Those who attended expressed alarm at the prospect of the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines being pushed on B.C., and felt the federal government was disregarding the concerns of British Columbians.
Moore made headlines across the country when he showed another real disconnect with Canadians' values in an interview about child poverty. "Is it my job to feed my neighbour's child? I don't think so," he said. He later apologized for the remarks, but this kind of attitude is starting to be more and more closely associated with the Harper government brand.
Moore, and Prime Minister Harper, would be wise to pay attention to the mood in B.C. After the conditional approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline by the National Energy Board in December, the federal government now has six months to authorize or reject this dangerous pipeline project.
If Harper tries to push the Enbridge pipeline through, his government will pay a very heavy price in an election that already looks like it will be very close given the various scandals already plaguing them. With an election expected no later than 2015, trying to force Enbridge through seems like a sure way to lose support in this province and those votes could tip the scales against them.
Harper should think carefully about who he picks to get in bed with. Already his choices for Senate appointments seem to be lacking a moral compass and his friends in the oil industry look like they are cut from the same cloth. Enbridge's track record is disastrous. In the United States, regulators likened their response to a massive diluted bitumen (dilbit) spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan to the "Keystone Kops." Kinder Morgan has a long history of environmental health and safety violations and the U.S.-based Pipeline Safety Trust calls them the "poster child of an irresponsible pipeline company."
None other than James Moore has slammed Enbridge's spill and safety record. In 2012, Moore said Enbridge's "track record is not one that I think any other company should follow if they want to do business in British Columbia."
Moore added about Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal: "This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public and to answer those very legitimate questions about the way in which they've operated their business in the very recent past."
Yet last fall, Minister Moore gave a media interview in which he claimed the "mood was changing" in B.C., suggesting that the strong opposition to these pipeline projects was weakening. Moore was referencing the failed attempt by the NDP's Adrian Dix to be premier, which of course was about a lot more than just the pipelines issue. Christy Clark also campaigned on protecting the coast and standing up for B.C. Mr. Moore should listen to the very vocal members of his own riding who are opposed to these projects, let alone not flip-flopping on his own previous comments about Enbridge.
In addition to all the citizens who came out to the town hall meeting in Port Moody, it was gratifying to see a number of local provincial and federal politicians who showed up. Fin Donnelly, the NDP MP from a neighbouring riding, attended and spoke strongly against both of these dilbit pipelines. These toxic projects are shaping up as a clear faultline. All MPs in B.C. should remember: politicians issue the permits, but the people give permission.
Moore was right about one thing. This pipeline project will not survive public scrutiny. Enbridge and Kinder Morgan do not have, and will not have, our permission. We will stop these pipelines and the Harper regime would be smart to listen or at least get out of the way. A government can only hide the fact that they do not represent the values of the people of their country for so long before people wake up to it and show them the door. The pipeline issue may just be the moment when Harper shows his cards.