MLA Report

By Carole James

I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the New Democrat caucus in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Some messes can’t be cleaned up; they need to be stopped before they happen. This is one of them.

The Kinder Morgan plan would see a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic carrying toxic bitumen along our coast. For those of us who live on the South Island, the potential for lasting harm well exceeds the potential for any meaningful return. A spill of bitumen would be devastating to the environment, eco-tourism businesses and the well-being of those who live along our coast.

It would threaten thousands of good, family-supporting jobs that depend on our healthy coastal environment. Jobs like those in Victoria’s whale watching and wilderness tour industry.

This proposal doesn’t have the social license it needs to proceed from communities and First Nations who will be directly impacted. We don’t have a good spill response, demonstrated by the mess made by the sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart last year on the central coast near Bella Bella.

Although local Heiltsuk responders were on the water immediately, it took almost a full day for the formal oil spill response to begin. When it did, the response was inadequate. Booms were broken over and over again by rough waters.

Diesel fuel and lubricants fouled clam beds that the Heiltsuk rely on, and debris littered the coast. Not only did the Nathan E. Stewart spill show that we’re not ready for an oil spill, it also showed that even a smaller spill can have devastating consequences for people who rely on our clean coastline to put food on the table and pay their bills.

It’s hard to imagine how much damage a supertanker spill would do to the Salish Sea and the people and communities who rely on it for their jobs and their culture. Regardless of what the Premier and the government might claim, BC doesn’t have a “world-leading” oil spill response. And even if we did, it wouldn’t be enough to prevent lasting harm from a bitumen spill into our oceans.

In November, we learned that the BC government asked the federal government to “consider lifting the ban on... dispersants and in situ burning” of oil spills off the coast. Setting the sea on fire and dousing oil spills with toxic chemicals is no solution. If that’s the best this government can do, we’re in real trouble when it comes to a “world-leading” oil spill response.

There are better ways to stimulate the economy and create well-paying, family supporting jobs. My colleagues and I believe British Columbia has the resources, the knowledge and the desire to be world leaders in clean energy production and the fight against climate change. That’s why we have proposed strategies that would invest in clean energy, and through conservation, investment and innovation, would provide for the future of BC’s energy. We could be generating thousands of jobs through renewable energy initiatives like solar, wind, geothermal and expanded hydroelectric projects.

Thousands more could be created through retrofitting existing homes and businesses to improve energy efficiency and conserve power. That’s what we need: long-lasting, family-supporting, good paying jobs that protect our environment. The way to do it is to support energy retrofits and green energy.

We see examples that are working all over the world, and even here on the South Island at the T’Sou-ke Nation, a leader in the innovative use of renewable energy. I strongly believe renewable energy is the way to a better, healthier future that goes easier on the planet.

We can defend our coast and build up BC’s economy. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.