In Vancouver, the fallout continues from the Canadian government’s decision to approve Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion through Burnaby Mountain.
The Trans Mountain expansion will more than double the daily capacity of the existing pipeline, from Alberta to the BC coast, and increase Canada’s access to world markets.
But given that it will carve through the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, the plan has proven extremely controversial, with the latest rally in Vancouver drawing hundreds of protesters.
One day on, Daily Hive sat down with Transport Minister Marc Garneau to question the government’s contentious decision and find out where we go from here.
Garneau acknowledged those protesting the pipeline approval had justified concerns.
“I understand their passion, and we live in a country where people are free to express their passions, and we have to address those, we have to address their concerns,” he said.
“There are a lot of British Columbians who support what we’ve decided – but we need to satisfy those who do not agree that we have addressed their concerns.”
For all the support the approval may have elsewhere, in Vancouver and along the BC coast, the government is certainly facing considerable opposition to the decision.
First Nations and environmental groups have protested against the project in their thousands and have vowed the Kinder Morgan expansion “will never see the light of day.”
“We felt that after all the consultations we did and looking at all the scientific evidence, that we could proceed safely,” said Garneau. “We believe we are achieving the right balance.”
The $1.5 billion Oceans Protections Plan is intended to meet – or exceed – international standards of marine safety and protect Canada’s coastline and marine life.
“We realize we need to have higher standards here in Canada on all of our coasts in fact, with respect to marine safety,” said Garneau.
“We believe that if you look at all the elements of the Oceans Protection Plan, it will make us world class.”
Drilling down into the plan, Garneau addressed the issue of marine traffic, which is of real concern since the pipeline expansion is expected to increase tanker traffic considerably.
Garneau said he expected monthly tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet to increase from five ships to 34 ships, a rise Mayor Gregor Robertson has branded “not worth the risk.”
But Garneau said the plan included being more aware of the marine traffic that’s out there, as well as having a better response in case of a problem.
“Every ship has to follow the rules and we have to address every ship in a serious manner,” said Garneau. “This is the Asia Pacific gateway.”
“I can assure you that everything will be put in place… specific to making sure nothing bad happens and we feel confident we can handle the additional traffic.”
And in this part of the world, the largest contributor to marine traffic is actually ferries, he said, adding that Kinder Morgan tankers would only make up 1% of all traffic movement.
The plan would also bring in measures to protect certain marine areas and ocean mammals, said Garneau, including the southern resident orca population.
One of the concerns expressed by pipeline protestors has been the effect increased noise from more tankers could have on the endangered whales’ ability to thrive.
Whales use songs and echolocation to communicate, hunt, navigate and map their surroundings – underwater noise can interfere with those sounds.
“For those concerned about the southern resident killer whale population,” said Garneau. “What we’re going to do is not just neutralize the effect of the pipeline, but actually to help the recovery.”
Garneau said the three stressors most affecting the whales – source of food, environmental contamination, and noise from marine traffic – will all be addressed by the plan.
The government is committed to doing more science, said Garneau, to establish where noise is having an effect on the whales, and where they have food and pollution problems.
Garneau said the government may also impose “noise abatement” measures to reduce shipping noise in the whales’ habitat.
“It can be through lowering speeds in certain areas… encouraging ships to clean their hulls, because dirty ships make more noise… or moving the shipping lanes themselves,” he said.
Garneau says this kind of plan to protect has never been carried out anywhere in the world.
“This is really literally a first to try to address a problem with respect to an endangered marine species.”
“We’re trying to take a comprehensive approach, and it’s one element of the Oceans Protection Plan, and we’re very serious about it.”
It’s worth noting, the government has rejected the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline plan and imposed a moratorium on oil tanker traffic in a bid to protect the BC coast.
Still, many of those protesting in Vancouver believe Trudeau has broken his campaign promises by approving the Kinder Morgan expansion.
To those who have lost confidence, Garneau said the Liberals were elected on a platform of balancing the environment with the economy.
“I will let Canadians judge us after our first term,” said Garneau. “I think we’ve kept a lot of promises and we’re continuing to do the work we believe is good for Canada.”
Environmentally speaking, Garneau said the federal government were putting a price on carbon and signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, to reduce greenhouse emissions.
But, he said, approving the pipeline was also about the Canadian economy, creating jobs, creating wealth – and this is all for the good of Canada.
“Our job from a federal perspective is to try to address Canada,” said Garneau. “There’s no question Alberta and Saskatchewan have been through a difficult time.”
Garneau said many in those provinces are welcoming the decision taken to approve the Kinder Morgan expansion, because they’ve been hit hard or left unemployed.
He acknowledged this may have created a rift between British Columbians and Albertans, but said he hoped dialogue would help.
“I think if we can explain to people the basis of our decision, so everybody can understand it, that we’ll reassure people that this is all for the good of Canada,” said Garneau.
“And we’ll help to reduce the differences of opinion between the two provinces.”
Nevertheless, Garneau appreciates that, on any issue the government has to make a decision on, it’s very difficult to get unanimous agreement.
“Governing implies the responsibility of trying to make the best decision for the greater good. We believe we’re doing that and we’ll see. Canadians obviously have a choice.”