Protestors disapprove pipeline decision

‘Government’s position clear’: MP Randy Kamp’s Maple Ridge office.

A pipeline protest outside MP Randy Kamp’s office in May.

A pipeline protest outside MP Randy Kamp’s office in May.

Mike Gildersleeve has organized four or five protests in front of MP Randy Kamp’s office over plans to build the Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat.

Those efforts seem to have done nothing as, on Tuesday, federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford announced his government’s approval of the $6.5 billion pipeline to allow oil shipments to Asia.

“I can’t imagine a more risky project to inflict on B.C.,” said Gildersleeve, a member of the Green party and Fraser Valley Pipeline Watch.

“The risks are seen as far outweighing the benefits,” he added.

“We’re hearing they do not have the technology for dealing with [a] spill.”

The Conservative government signalled its approval via a one-page release from Rickford.

Gildersleeve noted that last December, the joint review panel composed of the Ministry of Environment and National Energy Board approved the project, subject to 209 conditions.

Kamp, MP for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, wouldn’t comment on the decision.

His staff said Rickford’s statement “ makes the government’s position clear.”

“I think it’s an insult,” responded Gildersleeve.

“If he doesn’t know, there’s a huge, growing concern. We’re his constituents.”

But it wasn’t just Kamp who was silent, Gildersleeve said.

The 21 Conservative MPs from B.C. are looking over their shoulders now, he added.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when there will be a spill and how catastrophic it will be. The supertankers are going to be sitting ducks.”

He said the federal government has changed Canada’s environmental regulations “so this proposal can be fast tracked.” In 2012, the government gave itself veto over National Energy Board decisions on projects.

“So it’s a real assault on democracy, as well.”

In addition to threat from oil spills, Gildersleeve said the government is not showing leadership in dealing with climate change. “No one’s talking about climate change. It’s all about the economic activity.”

The most recent protest outside Kamp’s office, on Lougheed Highway, was last month, when the Pipeline Watch Group joined in the nationwide Defend our Climate campaign organized by LeadNow, founded in Ontario.

Gildersleeve is planning on attending the Tar Sands Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, Alta., June 27.

He’ll be driving there in his wife’s Volkswagen TDI diesel.

There are all kinds of conflicts, Gildersleeve acknowledged.

Janet Amsden, president of the Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge NDP, said the pipeline issue “really resonates” with people.

“I think it’s because people really care about the environmental threat it proposes.”

She didn’t know how the issue might affect the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election, adding perhaps the silence of Conservative MPs on the issue is because they’re not allowed to talk.

“I like to think a government is not just one man telling everybody what to do.”

The twin pipelines would carry 525,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen from the oil sands west to Kitimat and send condensate to act as a thinning agent east to Alberta.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emphasized it is in the national interest to open a new pipeline route to the Pacific Ocean to carry Alberta oil sands bitumen and break the Canadian oil industry’s dependence on U.S. markets.

But a continuing battle over the pipeline plan is expected in the courts, and potentially on land, where civil disobedience has already been threatened.

A group of B.C. aboriginal communities issued a statement Tuesday vowing to go to court to protect their aboriginal title and rights on the land affected by the twin pipeline and tanker port for diluted bitumen on Douglas Channel.

Aboriginal opponents in the North Coast region include the Haida, Gitgaat, Heiltsuk and Haisla First Nations, as well as communities in the B.C. Interior.

Northern Gateway project leader Janet Holder said she will continue to work to build on the 26 equity agreements the company has reached with aboriginal communities along the proposed pipeline route.

Kinder Morgan also has applied to expand its 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain Pipeline system that runs from Alberta to Burnaby by increasing capacity up to 600,000 barrels a day. Its proposal is currently under review by the National Energy Board.

– with Black Press files