North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring speaks to municipal convention: 'We’re not here to talk about social policy

Oil protest a slippery slope for cities

Mayors and councillors grandstand on Kinder Morgan pipeline without authority, knowledge or even common sense

VICTORIA – Every year when B.C.’s municipal politicians get together to preach to the provincial cabinet, there comes a point in the maze of resolutions where things go sideways.

Last year it was a misinformed, impossible demand to ban all traces of genetic engineering. Before that they thumbed their mobile phones and denounced wireless power meters. Both votes passed by narrow margins in a half-empty chamber, with many delegates focused on the serious community issues they are elected to address.

This year it was a charge led by Burnaby to denounce the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion. And this time it was defeated.

Credit for this sudden attack of common sense goes largely to North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring. Here’s part of his address to the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are elected to handle things like roads and water and sewer and land use, police, fire, garbage. We’re not here to talk about social policy, child poverty or heaven forbid, pipelines.

“Those kinds of things dilute our credibility as an organization. We’re becoming a social policy activist group rather than a group of municipal politicians.

“Half of this resolutions book is stuff that’s outside of our purview…. If you want to do social policy, get your butt elected to the provincial legislature.”

Burnaby, New Westminster, Victoria and Vancouver were undeterred. In tax-rich urban centres one can make a living at local politics. And grandstanding works.

Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow rattled off a jumbled history of refineries in his region, noting that the sole surviving Chevron plant is bringing in crude by trucks and trains because the 60-year-old pipeline is over-subscribed. He didn’t explain how stopping a pipeline upgrade would keep it open, or improve oil safety.

Volkow repeated the protester myth that a new pipeline would introduce diluted bitumen to the coast. Trans Mountain started shipping dilbit in the late 1980s.

Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar and others from along the Interior pipeline route pointed out another flaw. If southern cities want to wander outside their mandate to make this gesture, why target only this pipeline and ignore rail lines and highways that cross the same rivers and streams?

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan boasted that after his first court challenge to the National Energy Board was tossed out, his high-priced eco-lawyer found a constitutional angle. Cha-ching!

Meanwhile, professional protesters bike-lock their necks to the fence at Burnaby’s Westridge oil terminal, and a radical Simon Fraser University professor revives his Occupy Vancouver team to step up the ground war if courts falter.

The comedy of all this was illustrated by Coun. Robin Cherbo from Nelson, who assured delegates he uses synthetic oil in his vehicle. Is that derived from organic sunflowers? And what significance does that gesture have compared with the gasoline and jet fuel that carried 1,200 delegates to Whistler?

Cherbo assumes that Ottawa can simply direct Alberta’s oil industry to start refining all the heavy oil there. Half a century into this industrial mega-project, this stuff should just be banned from pipelines. Peace, man.

This is why election-time posturing by local politicians is a slippery slope. Not only do they lack authority, they and their staff lack the required expertise and information.

The Trans Mountain pipeline starts in Alberta and branches into the U.S. It is by definition federal jurisdiction. NEB hearings on its expansion continue, with expert input, especially on shipping risks, from the B.C. government, Green MLA Andrew Weaver and others.

Municipal politicians should pipe down and defend their own performance.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP looking for man wanted on four counts of breaching court conditions

Christopher Elliott, 28, described as Caucasian with black hair, brown eyes

Work has started on Malahat Skywalk, expected completion in 2021

$15-million project expected to open in spring, 2021

B.C. men’s life expectancy down for a third straight year

Opioid crisis held responsible for declining life expectancy

Langford ranks as fastest growing community in B.C.

Westshore community grew by 5.2 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018

Province offers expertise to help Esquimalt clean up Gorge oil spill

A leaky home heating tank shed oil into ground and storm water systems

VIDEO: Kenney wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

VIDEO: Canada looking to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Baby Bear statue returned to be reunited with Mama and Papa in Island Secret Garden spot

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

Alessia Cara to host and perform at 2020 Juno Awards

Multi-platinum Canadian singer-songwriter also up for six awards, including Artist of the Year

Greater Victoria’s wanted list for the week of Jan. 28

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch out for scams, clickbait in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death: Better Business Bureau

Kobe Bryant and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles

‘Very disrespectful’: Headstones at Okanagan cemetery damaged by excavation crew

Headstones at Enderby’s Cliffside Cemetery mistakenly driven over by excavation crew

Despite reports of decline, birds flocking to national parks in Canadian Rockies

Recent studies suggest overall bird population has slid by three billion since 1970

Most Read