by Nika Marefat, citizen reporter
Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, along with Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, were arrested at the Kinder Morgan facility on Burnaby Mountain on March 23, 2018. They were defying a court injunction that banned protesters from disrupting construction work at both Trans Mountain terminals.
SVO sat with the local MP this summer and asked her about the arrest, the impact it may have on her career, on voters, and about the pipeline expansion in general. Here’s what she had to say.
May was arrested for criminal contempt and ordered to pay a $1500 fine in May, 2018. Since then, she has repeatedly assured the press and public that she hasn’t received a criminal record and her arrest does not impact her ability to carry out her job in any way. “I’m not a convicted criminal. This is a common law offence under an unusual provision around enforcement of private injunctions,” May told CTV News May 28, 2018, adding her role as an MP is not affected by her guilty plea.
This short term political thinking is leading to very bad decision making
But what about voters – specifically, new ones? Will her arrest be used in political campaigns to place doubt in the voters’ minds?
“In making a decision to face arrest, I didn’t actually consider the political implications for me, at all,” she said.
“I had made a commitment about a year earlier before the pipeline was approved. First Nations chiefs called on us as non-Indigenous allies to stand in solidarity with them [to face arrest, if the pipeline was approved.] I felt I’d given my word, and that’s all there was to it for me,” May explained. “By my sense of what one does in public life, if you give your word, you give your word. But I don’t plan to do it again.”
Regarding what voters may think, she said, “Well, I think they’ll see the whole picture. I have a lot of confidence in the intelligence of voters and I think the full picture is fine. It was an act of conscience.
On the other hand, Kinder Morgan has flagrantly violated laws over and over again
“On the other hand, Kinder Morgan has flagrantly violated laws over and over again,” May continued. “They violated the laws that protect salmon spawning.”
“They violated the laws that protect our ocean cetaceans from noise. And we still don’t know if the permits Kinder Morgan were issued were legal. We don’t know yet but we should know fairly soon.”
The harm the pipeline could do to the environment doesn’t stop there. Kinder Morgan will be transporting crude oil and solid bitumen diluted with toxic fossil fuels through Alberta and much of British Columbia. If spilled, the diluted bitumen floats briefly in water but eventually the lighter components evaporate as the heavier components sink. Not only does it harm the environment but also it’s a lengthy process to clean it up. The 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill is the perfect example. The heavier components mixed with silt and sank to the bottom of the water column and clean-up was still underway three years after the spill. The spill had an enormous effect on fish and other animals’ reproductive cycles. However, studies have shown that diluted bitumen does not increase the risk of corrosion occurring within the pipeline.
What about the 15,000 new jobs? The Liberal government has referred time and again to the thousands of new jobs that will come from the Trans Mountain expansion project, “ The project is expected to create 15,000 new jobs during construction,” stated then federal Minister of Natural Resources James Carr on June 1, 2017. But Kinder Morgan itself isn’t backing that number up according to May.
“Actually Kinder Morgan never made the claim that they’ll create 15,000 jobs. Kinder Morgan’s evidence to the National Energy Board (NEB) in Volume 5 [states] that they’ll create 90 permanent jobs. And that during the construction phase they would create 2,500 jobs a year for two years. That’s all that they said. There isn’t even a fake study to claim 15,000 jobs, that’s just thrown around in the air. I don’t know where they got it.
The labour unions from Alberta, Unifor and the Alberta Federation of Labour intervened in the Kinder Morgan hearings at the NEB, against the pipeline.
“The labour unions from Alberta, Unifor and the Alberta Federation of Labour intervened in the Kinder Morgan hearings at the NEB, against the pipeline. They said it would hurt jobs in Canada. Because shipping solid bitumen is a lot like shipping out raw logs. It means you can’t process them here. You could open up a White Spot and create more jobs than the 90 permanent jobs. I’ll say it flat out the jobs argument is a lie.”
What about a backup plan? If you’re against the pipeline surely you must have an idea of what to do when it’s stopped?
“There really is no reason to transport bitumen [at all.] It should be processed in Alberta and used in Canada. If we did that, then we could stop importing 700,000 barrels of oil per day that we pay more for [while] fighting over shipping out 590,000 barrels of bitumen a day unprocessed. Now if you really want to transport bitumen to a refinery somewhere else, the safest way to do it is by train, as a solid,” Ms. May answered.
“Kinder Morgan claims they’ve spent one billion dollars so far but that includes 220 million dollars they were given from the NEB. The government is about to spend 4.5 billion dollars to buy the existing 65-year-old pipeline. No new jobs are created with that, at all.
There’s almost no other way you could spend money so badly
“Then they’re saying they’ll spend eight to 12 billion dollars to build the new pipeline. There’s almost no other way you could spend money so badly. It doesn’t make any sense for job creation. It doesn’t make any sense for our national economy.
“It’s really a political calculation in my view, the federal liberals under Prime Minister Trudeau are trying to help Rachel Notley stay in office in Alberta so that Jason Kenney won’t get in as premier. This short term political thinking is leading to very bad decision making,” concludes May.
As for May’s political thinking, or lack of it in the case of her passionate protest, she’ll find out at the polls in 2019, if she decides to run again.