Editor's note: This is one of four opinion pieces published today on the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline. For the complete selection of pieces, go here.
Sometimes it feels like the environmental movement can’t be happy winning a championship match unless it’s a complete shut-out.
Look at where things stand today: Enbridge’s Northern Gateway is dead, while Energy East is on life support, and probably doomed so long as the Liberals are in power.
The Trudeau government ratified last year’s Paris Agreement, and committed $2.65 billion to helping developing countries fight global climate change.
Justin Trudeau hosted a first ministers meeting devoted to the climate (his predecessor had held none on any subject in the previous 6 years), and announced a pan-Canadian framework agreement on climate change. On Tuesday, he joined Barack Obama in announcing a freeze on off-shore Arctic drilling.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will impose a carbon tax and hard cap on emissions from the tar sands, and almost all other provinces are on board. The two hold-out provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, have a combined population smaller than that of Metro Vancouver.
While many remain disappointed by the fine print and our ability to meet targets, 2016 has been a spectacular year for Canadian environmentalists. Two years ago, few would have predicted any of it.
Is it really so unreasonable for this community, having enjoyed such remarkable success, to give some ground on Kinder Morgan’s twinning of an existing pipeline?
It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do.
Last year brought radical transformation to Canada's environmental landscape. Stephen Harper’s unexpectedly ignominious defeat and the election of Rachel Notley in Alberta were bolts from the blue.
Shifting power dynamics and relationships mean that protest and confrontation will play differently today, and to different effect than during the Harper era.
When protesters confronted Kinder Morgan and authorities in November 2014, there was no comprehensive climate plan. The Canadian government was overtly and steadfastly hostile to addressing climate change, while environmental groups were subjected to a campaign of silencing and intimidation across the country.
Times have changed.
Right now Alberta is in hell. Oil's price collapse has thrown countless Albertans out of work, with no end in sight. Last summer thousands had to literally drive little kids through blazing fire, an act of unfathomable collective courage.
These people are our neighbours, our family, our friends, and they need a break. They need some hope, too. They need to feel like the country is in their corner. Because we should be.
And they don’t need to be lectured. Given the extraordinary progress made on climate action in just a year, we in B.C. are coming dangerously close to rubbing Albertans’ noses in it.
Argue this six ways to Sunday, but if we turn our backs on Alberta today, there will be a reckoning.
Nobody should fool themselves for a second that political forces that would take us backward aren’t gathering and planning their next moves. Just look south of the border if you doubt it. Because progressive support fragmented, Obamacare and American leadership on climate change is about to evaporate.
Political purity--a totally over-rated virtue--can easily become an albatross. And there’s more than a whiff of Jill Stein’s puritanical hubris in a lot of the rhetoric around Kinder Morgan.
Politically, that’s the smell of death.
Here are some plain truths. Rachel Notley staked her political future on a serious carbon tax and hard cap on tar sands emissions. After she sacrificed political capital to support the environment, do B.C. environmentalists have her back?
And if Notley isn’t re-elected, who’ll replace her? Someone a helluva lot worse for the environment, and an avowed foe of Trudeau, that’s who. And they’ll have money, loads of it, behind them.
Here’s the thing about politics. It’s a good idea to reward leaders who stick their necks out to help your cause, because one day you’re going to have to go back to that well. And leaders — especially women leaders who traverse a uniquely treacherous path — remember the ones who disappeared when the going got tough.
What, exactly, is the purpose of opposing the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion? Is it to battle climate change? That’s why we have have a national framework, which didn’t exist until a few days ago.
The real test of our battle against climate change is not in a single pipeline, but in that framework, and our collective ability to meet its targets.
If the Kinder Morgan objection is concern for the local habitat, I’m yet more skeptical.
While it’s true that oil tanker traffic will increase significantly, the overall Vancouver shipping traffic will only increase by a fairly modest 10 per cent.
If it’s the oil content, what about the other hazardous cargo that enters and exits our harbour every single day? Or the chlorine plant and gigantic sulphur yard that have existed there for decades without confrontation?
Frankly, I'd far rather see us exporting Alberta oil out of Vancouver than the U.S. coal we ship every day from Deltaport because American ports won't handle it.
None of this is especially palatable, and it’s all inherently risky, but it’s a fact that increased oil tanker traffic is hardly a radical departure from what we already do. We have a highly developed port authority that has managed tanker traffic safely and fairly uneventfully in the harbour for decades.
We’re entering a two or three-decade period of transition away from fossil fuels. That's not going to happen overnight, because we don’t yet have the mass-scale renewable energy that is going to get us out of this mess.
In the interim we need pipelines and oil shipping.
Know what else we need? Activists and politicians who can see the big picture enough to know a good deal when they see one. This is a good deal.
If there’s political pressure to exert here in B.C., it’s on Christy Clark to live up to the provincial commitments we’ve made. And on Justin Trudeau to deliver.
Progress doesn’t move in just one direction, the way time does. Look at the shambles of America today. Environmental and progressive victories are fragile and easily dismantled, if nobody takes care of the politics.
By all means, First Nation and environmental legal challenges should proceed to conclusion, to ensure all rights are respected, and proper standards are adhered to.
If the courts approve the Kinder Morgan expansion, B.C. environmentalists should accept that verdict.
It's time to count our blessings and take one for the team. Let Kinder Morgan pass.