Adam Olsen. (File)

MLA Column: Standing up for the Salish Sea

The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMX) has been a contentious issue in British Columbia for three years. I have had many conversations with people passionately placed all along the spectrum of support to opposition.

The B.C. government announced they will be taking a different approach to Kinder Morgan’s project than their predecessor. They will intervene in the Federal Court of Appeal Judicial Review and hire Thomas Berger as external counsel guiding the government’s legal approach on the file. They also provided an update on the construction timeline, stating that construction is unlikely to proceed in September, as Kinder Morgan has suggested, as five of eight Environmental Management Plans are incomplete and have not been approved.

As an intervener in the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings for the project, I witnessed the deeply flawed process firsthand; its failures have been well documented and reported on. The Board’s report and recommendation, and the federal government’s decision to approve the project, are now the subjects of a Federal Court of Appeal Judicial Review later this fall.

The assessment and the approval were broken from the start – they excluded the impacts on climate change and ignored the threat of massive increases of tanker shipments carrying diluted bitumen through the Salish Sea. The current oil spill response is dreadfully deficient. Despite the rhetoric, the federal government has never made oil spill response a priority, and it was not even addressed properly in the assessment. The decision to approve the TMX project was political; it was not based on science or evidence, and all of the evidence submitted by Kinder Morgan has never been tested by oral cross-examination.

Canada relies on the Salish Sea. As the gateway to the Pacific, it is the trade route for thousands of other commodities. It makes no sense that the federal assessment would simply ignore the risks to this vitally important corridor.

Taking the care to uncover the whole economic picture is what builds social licence for projects of this magnitude to proceed; they must be thorough in order to demonstrate that the public can have confidence in the recommendation of the assessment panel. There should be no loose ends and the cost-benefit analysis should be complete and defensible. None of that exists for this project.

The outcome of the NEB hearing for TMX was predetermined. Environmental and social aspects of the project were handed to an energy regulator driven by the oil and gas industry. As a result, important questions about environmental protection are left unanswered and numerous issues with respect to First Nations rights remain unresolved.

Our local economy is powered by real estate, tourism and the emerging clean and high-tech economy. We have invested incredible amounts of capital, energy and love into our home and now we are being used as a gambling chip for the political benefits of the current federal government.

I am pleased that the provincial government is going to intervene in the upcoming judicial review and I am pleased that they have hired Mr. Berger. By all accounts he is a highly respected lawyer and has been a pioneer in Indigenous/non-Indigenous legal proceedings.

The federal government has left the communities and shorelines of the Salish Sea, and specifically Saanich North and the Islands, vulnerable in their haste to approve this project. I am proud that we had the courage to stand up and demand better.

Adam Olsen, MLA

Saanich North and the Islands

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