The NDP candidate for North Burnaby–Seymour says there is a way to put the brakes on the $9.3-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which was announced on June 18 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Give us enough MPs in a minority government and we can stop this thing,” Svend Robinson told the Georgia Straight by phone. “It’s not a final done deal.”
He pointed out that Indigenous people will fight the federal cabinet’s decision in the courts. But he emphasized that NDP and Green MPs can also play an important role in thwarting the Liberal government’s plans.
“If there’s a minority government, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t get support if they move ahead on this project, which is a disaster for my community,” he insisted.
Robinson said that the Liberal MP for Burnaby North–Seymour, Terry Beech, and Trudeau both promised during the 2015 election campaign that any major energy project, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, must win the support of the community and partner First Nations.
Otherwise, according to Robinson, they said that these projects wouldn’t proceed.
Because the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations oppose the pipeline expansion, Robinson characterized the Liberal promises as a “betrayal”.
“It’s a betrayal of the commitment to First Nations that live in the community,” he added. “That’s the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. The Tsleil-Waututh lands are entirely in Burnaby North–Seymour.”
Another of Robinson’s major concerns is the addition of 14 new storage tanks on the Trans Mountain property at the foot of Burnaby Mountain, which are part of the expansion plan.
Robinson said these will be close to a residential community.
He also noted that there are 5,000 people living at the top of the mountain who will be trapped if the access road is cut off by a fire, earthquake, or anything else.
“Burnaby Fire Department has said that this is a totally unacceptable risk,” Robinson said. “Yet they’re foisting this risk to the safety and the health and the lives of people in Burnaby with their approval of the project.”
In a statement issued on June 18, Beech agreed that the tank farm does not belong on Burnaby Mountain.
“I want our neighbours on the Mountain to know that on June 1st, the Prime Minister and I, along with Mayor [Mike] Hurley and the Burnaby Fire Department met to discuss how we can make Burnaby Mountain safer than it is today,” Beech wrote. “The Prime Minister assured our community that the necessary resources will be in place and that we will work directly with the Mayor and the Fire Department to ensure this is the case.
“In the longer term, I will continue my work to move the tank farm to a more appropriate industrial location,” Beech added.
Beech also told his constituents that “every incremental tax dollar generated from this project will be dedicated to a Green Low Carbon Transition Fund.”
"I take my responsibility to represent our entire community very seriously, and I want you to be assured that I have listened to all points of view with an open mind," Beech stated. "I also want to acknowledge the views and concerns expressed by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Their efforts in the courts and in our community have brought our entire country to a better place."
But that doesn’t impress Robinson, who pointed out that the downstream greenhouse-gas emissions each year from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will exceed the annual total carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions from the province of British Columbia.
It galls him that the approval came a day after Liberal MPs voted in favour of declaring a climate emergency.
“It calls into question the complete hypocrisy of this government,” Robinson said.
It's often reported that approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will lead to a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in Burrard Inltet.
Robinson, however, said that this is vastly underestimated.
Citing research by retired SFU professor David Huntley, Robinson said that in the past couple of years, there have only been about 30 tankers stopping at the Westridge Terminal in Burnaby on an annual basis.
"So far, there's been a grand total of five since the start of the year," Robinson noted. "This is going to up to over 400."