By Candace Campo
On May 14, when a fleet of kayaks sets out across the Burrard Inlet to paddle in front of Kinder Morgan’s Westridge tanker terminal, they will represent more than just a rejection of the proposed tarsands pipeline and a demand for bold climate action. These “kayaktivists” will reflect a defence of one of Metro Vancouver's, and the entire coast’s, most important natural resources: the outdoors.
It’s no secret that British Columbia is home to some of the most beautiful wilderness on the planet, but what many people overlook is how important the preservation of B.C.’s natural spaces is to this province’s jobs and small businesses.
A 2014 report from Simon Fraser University’s school of resource and environmental management found that “non-motorized outdoor recreation” resulted in $3.6 billion in “direct economic contributions” to the B.C. economy in 2012.
A similar report, published in 2013 by Tourism B.C., found that more than one million tourists visited B.C. in 2005 for “outdoor adventure tourism”, generating $1.2 billion in revenue that same year. Since then, those numbers have steadily grown.
According to that same report, B.C. is home to more than 2,200 businesses involved in the outdoor industry, and more than half of these businesses are located on Vancouver Island or in the Vancouver, coast, and mountains regions. Businesses in these regions lie, largely, along the shores of the Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea, where Kinder Morgan proposes to send 400-plus tankers, six times the current amount, each year.
Of those thousands of businesses, almost 40 percent depend on what Tourism B.C. quantifies as “saltwater resources”. In other words, there are thousands of jobs along the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker route that depend on preserving a clean ocean. In fact, in the Salish Sea region alone, outdoor activities on the water create more than 20,000 person years of employment annually.
In 2007, Tourism B.C. found that at least 114 sea-kayaking businesses were operating in the province, producing more than $14 million in annual revenue. With 72 percent of these operating in the Salish Sea, the Kinder Morgan pipeline could put about $9 million in annual revenue at risk from sea-kayaking alone. That doesn’t include the potential impact on whale-watching, fishing, and other outdoor activities on the water, or the broader impacts that a spill could have. According to one report, a single spill could deliver a $1.2-billion economic loss to the City of Vancouver and irreversible damage to it’s “green brand”, valued at $31 billion.
During its first 20 years in operation, the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion is estimated to generate just $18.5 billion in revenue—not counting the $1 billion to $5 billion it will cost to rectify a bad spill. This number also fails to reflect the reality that more than 85 percent of current fossil-fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, making them both increasingly stranded assets and an increasingly risky business upon which to rely.
The investments we make now will follow us for the next 50 years, and it’s important that we see past oil’s short-term economic gain and consider the long-term and irreversible impacts these projects will have on people and on the planet.
Upstream, we are putting our communities and their livelihoods at risk of pipeline ruptures and tanker spills, but downstream we are putting the entire global community at risk of a global climate crisis that is already well on its way. The gamble shouldn’t be one worth taking.
Beyond the economic argument, the decision between fossil-fuel corporations and communities is an issue of justice. Continuing to prioritize fossil fuels means prioritizing the unnecessary and dangerous expansion of a multibillion-dollar corporation that operates without the slightest of moral considerations. It means continuing the oppression of frontline and Indigenous communities, whose lands and livelihoods are being put at risk by these projects, and whose constitutional right to be consulted has been continuously denied.
Now is the time to send a clear message to the government and to corporations that where there is no justice, there will be no peace.