Peter McCartney: Democracy should trump a pipeline

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      It shouldn’t come as a shocker when oil barons get peeved with governments respecting the will of the people. But an opinion piece from former Liberal MP and oil industry apologist Martha Hall Findlay last week was over the top.

      She accuses B.C. of becoming a “banana republic” should it honour the wishes of voters on the coast who elected candidates opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. But I don’t think she knows what a true banana republic is.

      Banana republics the world over feature wealthy foreign companies throwing their money around to unduly influence officials against the public interest. If anything, $770,000 in donations to the B.C. Liberals by Kinder Morgan and its shippers are what put the health of B.C.’s democracy into question—not the public’s resistance to a parade of dirty oil tankers coming through our precious waters.

      Thankfully, we live in a country where voters are still able to hold their governments accountable at regular intervals. Despite the wishes of wealthy oil industry donors, coastal communities along the pipeline and tanker route voted for candidates who opposed a sevenfold increase in oil tanker traffic through the Salish Sea.

      How many times do voters have to make their wishes clear before our leaders get it?

      As prime minister, Stephen Harper rigged the National Energy Board process to ensure a favourable outcome for the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Then candidate Justin Trudeau said he would force the company to start again, and Lower Mainland voters elected 14 new Liberal MPs as a result of that promise.

      But freshly elected Prime Minister Trudeau broke his promise. He halfheartedly tried to patch a flawed process but ignored the findings of his public consultation and approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline project anyway. Last week’s preliminary election results, which elected antipipeline MLAs like an unbroken wall defending B.C.’s southern shore, should shake him to his core.

      Premier Christy Clark approved the pipeline in January, against the clear wishes of the people she represents. Voters made those wishes known last week. In all the coastal communities, big and small, where Kinder Morgan’s pipeline was despised, Liberal MLAs fell to candidates who oppose oil tanker traffic.

      Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is already in spin mode, pretending Kinder Morgan’s pipeline has had a “very rigorous review”. British Columbians aren’t so quick to forget the thousands of people left out of the process, the exclusion of science on climate change and marine spills, and the total disregard for indigenous rights.

      This pipeline never got a proper review from our regulator. But voters have spoken out. Twice now, this region has run dirty tar sands tankers out of town. Now it’s time for our provincial leaders to step up and do the same.

      For those who claim the Kinder Morgan pipeline has its approvals and it’s a done deal, it’s important to remember that the Northern Gateway pipeline had its permit as well. Now it’s dead in the water.

      Hall Findlay invokes democracy in claiming that decisions of a previous government should always be upheld because "a healthy investment climate depends on it". Really? It seems to me the hallmark of a society where our leaders are accountable to the people is that we should be able to run them out of town when they make poor decisions.

      Trudeau and his cabinet should think twice about trying to ram a pipeline through a region that doesn’t want it—let alone the birthplace of the environmental movement. If he continues to disrespect the voters of B.C., they won’t wait for the next election to stop him.