Liberal Party

Notley and Trudeau

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

When they walked in front of the cameras with smiles that threatened to crack their faces, my heart fluttered.

As they began talking about a new era of cooperation in British Columbia and their agreement to “use all available tools to stop Kinder Morgan,” Ban Big Money and bring in electoral reform, I almost began to tear up.

The short press conference Andrew Weaver and John Horgan held to announce the details of their historic agreement could change the trajectory of British Columbia history, if not the country, and the world.

But then I remembered the last time I had felt this way.

My mind jumped back to November 13, 2015, the day Trudeau — our newly elected Prime Minister — released his ministerial mandate letters, making public for the first time in Canadian history each minister’s marching orders for the government’s four year term: use fact-based decision making and be transparent.

Among his many promises, most critical to me and many of us in B.C. was this one: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”

After 10 years of Harper’s autocratic anti-democratic rule by fiat, the change in tone and form was palpable; it seemed too good to be true — and it was.

The broken promises and betrayals over the last 18 months have confirmed for me that democracy requires eternal vigilance, that politicians are followers not leaders, and that political promises are too easily broken.

All this flashed through my mind as I spent the rest of the day working with colleagues at West Coast Environmental Law to put together a briefing note on the various tools the soon-to-be B.C. government can use to stop Kinder Morgan. Then I went home and turned on CBC’s The National and I started fuming.

The first sound bite was Justin Trudeau in Rome regurgitating his hackneyed talking point of “facts and evidence” This time, he was saying the facts and evidence on Kinder Morgan hadn’t changed despite the change in government, signalling his continued support and intention to push through the pipeline over any British Columbia objections.

Frankly, I almost retched at Trudeau’s hypocrisy. It’s hard to stomach his epic flip-flop on the inadequacy of the NEB’s Kinder Morgan review. The only explanation for his transformation from a hard critic to a cheerleader is political opportunism. There is no other way to reconcile candidate Trudeau’s infamous August 2015 videotaped exchange with my colleague Kai Nagata with his current pipeline stance. The video made clear the future Prime Minister promised the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of Kinder Morgan would be redone.

The betrayal gets worse. In a detailed follow up letter to Dogwood dated two weeks before Trudeau won a majority government – Liberal Party president Anna Gainey wrote about Kinder Morgan’s project:

“Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have serious concerns with the process surrounding the approval of this pipeline. We cannot support the pipeline in its current form because the Conservatives have not ensured environmental, community or stakeholder consent.”

And here comes the kicker:

“We agree with what you, and Canadians across the country, have been saying for a long time: Canada’s environmental assessment process is broken.”

Yet, somehow the “broken”, unsupportable process miraculously repaired itself as Trudeau mounted the steps at 24 Sussex Drive.

The National also had Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources, defending the Kinder Morgan review as the “the most exhaustive in the history of pipelines in Canada.” Candidate Trudeau’s own words and his party’s letter mock Minister Carr’s claim.

In reality, the NEB’s review of Kinder Morgan was about as fair and rigorous as a Trump national security vetting, without the tweets. I guess there is something about Ottawa that makes politicians like Harper and Trudeau think they can transform black into white just because they say so.

As for Trudeau’s promised “redo”? Although deeply flawed itself, Jim Carr’s slap dash “supplemental ministerial review” identified many important issues overlooked in the NEB process. The panel acknowledged they “hadn’t the time, technical expertise or the resources to fill those gaps.” Concluding, “[o]ur role was not to propose solutions, but to identify important questions that, in the circumstances, remain unanswered (emphasis added).”

Despite this, Trudeau went ahead and approved Kinder Morgan without addressing any of the six unanswered questions raised by the panel.

The notorious Frank Underwood from House of Cards would be proud of Justin and Jim, but British Columbians are pissed.

Many Liberal MPs from B.C. tried to warn the PMO about the inevitable backlash, but they have their own agenda and are ignorant of how B.C. ticks. Just like Harper’s fatal mistake of pushing Enbridge, the PMO seems to be banking on the issue dying before 2019. The Green-NDP alliance makes that unlikely.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s recent pro-Kinder Morgan proclamations were equally ham fisted. “Mark my words,” she said, “that pipeline will be built, the decisions have been made and it is the best interest of Albertans, Canadians and, in particular, British Columbians.”

Nice try Ms. Notley, but where do you get off thinking you can speak for the best interests of British Columbians? I know you’re working hard to drag your province’s laissez faire energy policies into the twenty-first century, but you’re not going to succeed by linking your political survival to something you have no influence over. How exactly are you going to force the B.C. government to approve the 60+ provincial permits Kinder Morgan still needs for construction? Sorry, but you have no power here.

Let’s get real. British Columbians are tired of eastern politicians and federally appointed bodies trying to to force unwanted projects through our unwilling province. And we won’t sit idly by while Big Oil, Notley, pro-oil publications and, of course, Trudeau’s federal Liberals double down, falsely claiming Kinder Morgan is in the “national interest.”

Expect a chorus of pundits and politicos, mostly located east of the Rockies, claiming B.C. has no power to stop it. But don’t believe them. In fact, remind them they said the same thing about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway.

When are the arrogant elites in Ottawa going to stop underestimating the power of the No Tanker/anti-Kinder Morgan movement?

Stephen Harper underestimated British Columbians and it cost him 19 of 21 tidewater ridings and almost 150,000 votes in B.C. And now it has cost Christy Clark 24 of 34 tidewater ridings and ultimately a majority government.

Trudeau has grossly underestimated the depth of the Kinder Morgan opposition and the resolve of British Columbians. So mark MY words — Ottawa’s broken promises on electoral reform and a Kinder Morgan redo could prevent him from retaining his majority in 2019. Incumbent federal Liberal MP’s should have a few sleepless nights after looking at this map:

And while politicians are meeting with lobbyists and hosting cash-for-access dinners, Dogwood staff, volunteers, allies, partner groups and First Nations are talking to everyday British Columbians and building our army of resistance ready to fight political interests trying to push our country backward instead of forward.

When Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said “If Rachel Notley thinks there’s nothing B.C. can do to stop Kinder Morgan, I suggest she look at section 35 of the Constitution,” he was absolutely right. And he wasn’t just flipping the bird to Big Oil and Alberta’s arrogant view that what’s good for them is good for all Canadians. He was showing British Columbians that we finally have a government willing to fight for us and not for the interests of Big Money.

Like most people, I too carry the scars of disappointment from a long list of broken political promises. My flashbacks of Trudeau’s betrayals while watching CBC’s Kinder Morgan coverage are almost painful.

Hopefully, this time is different. The ultra thin margin between the parties means that the soon-to-be government can’t risk breaking its promises. One MLA abstaining, one MLA crossing the aisle or going rogue could topple the government or defeat an important bill. This gives us enormous leverage and opens new doors for holding a government to its promises.

It won’t be easy, we’ll face unexpected obstacles, but if we commit to connecting people together, and creating a framework for them to collectively exert power, we can start creating the province we dream about for our kids.

This is the moment we have been preparing for. It’s our time.

We are big, we are strong, we are resilient, we are organized, and every day we grow more powerful.

If Ottawa, Texas or Alberta want to go toe-to-toe once again, I’m raring to go.

How about you?

Never underestimate British Columbians

The last time a Prime Minister named Trudeau forced an unpopular energy policy on a western province, the backlash eviscerated the Liberals’ foothold in the West and created fault lines that ultimately transformed Canada for a generation.

Trudeau, the father, miscalculated the impact of overriding Alberta to force his National Energy Program through.  By approving a new pipeline to tidewater to appease Big Oil, Trudeau, the son, would be alienating British Columbians to benefit Alberta. Ironically, while trying to remedy the Trudeau brand in Alberta, Trudeau is duplicating his father’s mistake. The consequences could be enormous.

Pundits, Liberal insiders and even Kinder Morgan executives are all whispering that Trudeau’s Cabinet has decided to approve Kinder Morgan in December. Trudeau’s East Coast advisors seem to believe British Columbians will forget about Kinder Morgan well before the next election comes around. The assumption behind that miscalculation is that the expansion of oil tankers is just another issue and a controversial approval will be long forgotten by 2019. Fat chance.

As pundits and politicians regurgitate the benefits of tidewater pipelines and crude oil tanker export proposals in B.C., they continue to miss the deeper sense of alienation that’s taking hold. British Columbians, and especially First Nations, are growing increasingly resentful of decisions they feel have been imposed on them from the outside.

Trudeau tapped into this sentiment with his promise of a Kinder Morgan review do-over and reconciliation with First Nations, but he seems to have lost touch since he formed government. The initial optimism with our newage Prime Minister is fading fast with every approval of projects reviewed under Harper’s truncated processes —Fraser Surrey Docks’ coal terminal, Woodfibre LNG and Site C — but signed off on by Trudeau’s government.

Like Albertan decades-long convulsions over the National Energy Program, British Columbians aren’t likely to forget before 2019. This miscalculation is not unique to Liberal party headquarters. Virtually every politico east of the Rockies has underestimated the power of the B.C. climate and No Tanker movements. Stephen Harper certainly did, and it cost him almost every tidewater riding and 149,075 votes.

After forty years of successfully turning back every tidewater oil tanker-pipeline scheme proposed for British Columbia’s magnificent coast, do Trudeau’s advisors really think a few shirtless selfies and a carbon price (that won’t affect B.C. until 2021) are going to somehow invoke collective amnesia?

The slapdash make-it-up-as-you-go-along Kinder Morgan Ministerial hearings dug the hole deeper by confirming Ottawa wasn’t taking British Columbians seriously. Despite the rhetoric about a return to science and “evidence-based” decision-making, the hearings were anything but.

Liberal MPs who thought the charade would buy them “social licence” are in for a big surprise. A palpable feeling that the decision was preordained and that the panel was just going through the motions was shared by everyone attending. For heaven’s sake, the whispers of a December approval from credible sources are multiplying even before the panel’s report has been written.

As Dogwood organizer Mary Leighton’s dynamic speech illustrated, the hearings were just the beginning of our fight.

Perhaps it’s not surprising  the red team is arrogant and feeling invincible. Their poll numbers are good.  But arrogance is dangerous in modern politics, particularly in B.C.

Until recently, Trudeau’s Liberals have never faced off against the focused, strategic, resilient power of the battle-tested No Tanker movement. Having never faced a highly organized grassroots gauntlet, it is no surprise  Trudeau’s Liberals currently discount our impact; treating us as just another special interest, incapable of impacting electoral outcomes. We need to remind them that Harper also underestimated us and paid dearly for his miscalculation.

Dogwood has formidable networks of No Tanker supporters in 11 of the 17 B.C. ridings currently held by Liberal MPs. Plus, there are dozens of other groups opposed to the proposal and First Nations are prepping their lawsuits.

Together, we are well positioned to short-circuit this political (mis)calculation. Our people are trained, resourced and passionate. They have stood up to — and beaten back — decade-long attempts by Ottawa to push through unwanted projects deemed by the government of the day to be in the national interest. The Liberals think the wave of voters who swept their way in the final days of the election now form their base. Think again.

Also, keep in mind a rejection by Ottawa is not the only path to stopping Kinder Morgan.

First Nations are well positioned to tie up Kinder Morgan in the courts. Court rulings have confirmed that the B.C government also has to approve permits for oil tanker-pipeline projects to go ahead. Since there is provincial jurisdiction, British Columbians don’t have to wait for government to act — we can take action ourselves using B.C.’s unique direct democracy law.

Dogwood teams throughout the province have been prepping for years to launch a citizens’ initiative – like what happened with the HST  – as a democratic insurance policy against our Premier bowing to Ottawa’s bid to force an unwanted project like Kinder Morgan through our province. We have a ways to go to pre-organize the 10 per cent of the electorate needed to win, but we have already trained 22 teams of experienced canvassers and have more than a quarter million supporters.

Plus, we’re getting stronger every day. While Trudeau’s team is prepping for a Kinder Morgan approval in December, we’ll be organizing.

Starting today, we are launching Knock the Block – asking our staff, board and more than 250,000 No Tankers supporters to step slightly out of their comfort zone and knock on the doors of their neighbours, friends and family to encourage them to sign the Let BC Vote petition. If each Dogwood supporter signs up just one person, we will have the numbers of people needed for a citizens’ initiative.

If each of us takes a couple of hours to help organize, we can show our federal and provincial representatives just how many people in B.C. are concerned about being cut out of the decision-making process.

Despite the smiles and promises, it’s now clear we can’t trust Ottawa and Victoria to stand up for B.C. on oil pipeline and tanker projects like Kinder Morgan.  So it’s time to get ready to stand up for ourselves.  Sign up here to Knock the Block!

Together we can hold our political leaders to account and change Canadian politics for a generation.

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