Cities rising: B.C. municipal leaders demand a bigger say over oil pipelines

A convention of B.C. municipal leaders this week revealed a new wave of local government activism against Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board

Duncan City Councillor Michelle Bell Councillor - Mychaylo Prystupa
Duncan city councillor Michelle Bell at the UBCM convention in Whistler on Friday - photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

At the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler this week, one visible sign of rising local government activism against oil pipeline projects from Alberta was on municipal leaders’ wrists: a simple blue band.

Many like Duncan city councillor Michelle Bell wore one.

"People aren’t feeling heard and included in the [NEB] process.  If we have an [oil spill] disaster, it’s something we cannot reverse,” said the Vancouver Island politician.

She, along with leaders of other heavy weight communities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria – supported UBCM motions aimed squarely against Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board.  

Their worry is the federal government’s new faster, streamlined process -- for approving oil sands pipelines like the Trans Mountain expansion project -- is not responding to their constituents’ concerns.

Vancouver city councillor Heather Deal, who is also a biologist, is concerned Kinder Morgan hasn't made the case for proper spill clean-ups in freshwater eco-systems.

“Most oil floats – bitumen doesn’t.  It sinks,” said Deal.

“So the City of Vancouver [said] that we need to have the appropriate prevention and emergency response requirements in place for bitumen that submerges and sinks.” 

Vancouver city councillor Heather Deal - UBCM 2014 - Mychaylo Prystupa

Vancouver city councillor Heather Deal at UBCM in Whistler on Friday - photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

Likewise, a City of Victoria motion suggested it had lost confidence in the NEB, and wants the province to restore its own environmental reviews of pipelines. 

And Burnaby – fresh off a legal win Thursday that put Kinder Morgan’s test drilling on Burnaby Mountain on hold – is demanding that the NEB’s public hearings be changed. 

Mayor Derek Corrigan said the pipeline reviews need to once again allow citizens to have oral hearings and cross examinations – not just written letters of comment.  

“I think everyone is worried that the [NEB] process doesn’t deliver a suitable opportunity to get all of the evidence out about what are the faults and flaws in the Kinder Morgan application,” said Mayor Derek Corrigan at the convention.

All three cities’ resolutions were passed Friday. 

Oil pipelines: within cities' jurisdiction?

The blue ribbons – which were embossed with the Latin phrase Intra Vires meaning “within our jurisdiction” – was a way to identify supporters of these motions.

“So that’s what you see around the conference – mayors and councilors from across B.C. wearing blue just to indicate their support for Burnaby, Vancouver and Victoria,” said Kai Nagata, with the Dogwood Initiative that created the wristbands.

West Coast Environmental Law and the Georgia Straight Alliance also supported the effort.

But some leaders were irritated by this new wave of municipal government activism on pipelines.

“I’m just not sure this is the appropriate forum,” said North Cowichan Councillor Al Siebring.

“As municipal politicians, we are mandated to deal with municipal issues….water, sewage, garbage, roads.” 

North Cowichan Councilor Al Siebring - UBCM photo

North Cowichan Councilor Al Siebring - UBCM photo

“We run the danger of becoming a social pressure group, and that is not what UBCM is set up for, and that’s not what we’re here for – we’re here to deal with municipal issues.”

Read More:

More in News

Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?

I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.   His story begins on a desert road where a...

Vancouver's bicycle sharing grows as 15 new stations installed

Mobi bicycle by Shaw Go in Vancouver. Photo by Christopher Porter from Flickr Creative Commons

International Women's Day Concert celebrates female musicians who turned tragedy into triumph

Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.