Trudeau’s buying a dying pipeline project — but it won’t be built

by Atiya Jaffar

Protestors gather at the ‘No Buyout, No Kinder Morgan’ rally in downtown Vancouver May 29, 2018. (Credit: Julia-Simone Rutgers/The Discourse)

It’s official. Now that their self imposed July 22nd deadline has passed, the Canadian government will move forward with finalizing the $4.5 billion deal to buy Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline and tanker project. That’s right. In the upcoming weeks we can expect international sweetheart, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to become the world’s newest fossil fuel CEO.

But there’s no shortage of obstacles in his way. Let’s take stock of all the reasons why we can take comfort knowing that this desperate attempt to save a dying fossil fuel project is destined to fail.

It’s not just a bad deal. It’s a shady one.

Even Trudeau seems to realize that this is a bad decision because his government is trying their hardest to move it forward in the shadows — avoiding, wherever possible, any forum for public scrutiny.

This should raise red flags because if there’s one area where we’ve seen consistency from the Trudeau government, it’s in their determination to “consult us to death.” At every major decision-making moment, the Trudeau cabinet makes an exaggerated effort to “consult the public.” We saw it at first with the climate action town halls, extra ministerial pipeline review panel, electoral reform consultations, and more recently with the cannabis town halls.

The Trudeau government uses these consultations to secure legitimacy for its decisions (regardless of whether or not they choose to listen). It’s rather revealing then that with this controversial and polarizing decision, they choose not to even bother trying.

Trudeau might have tried to prevent it but the people did have their say

In the lead up to Justin Trudeau’s July 22nd deadline, community members from coast to coast to coast started announcing their own “People’s Town Halls” on the Kinder Morgan pipeline buyout. Within days, dozens of community members had gathered to hold community discussions,and learn more about the TransMountain project (many events featured screenings of the recently released documentary “Directly Affected”). Since Members of Parliament weren’t organizing their own (with the exception of 2 Liberal MPs), people invited them to these people’s town halls. And if they didn’t show up community members made sure their concerns were written down and mailed in.

Altogether 70 MPs were invited to People’s Town Halls on the pipeline buyout but only 10 of them attended (3 of whom were Liberal).

These community gatherings were one instance of many of the groundswell of communities ready to step up, organize, and build a vibrant community of resistance to the TransMountain project. After all, community is the building block of this struggle.

The facts simply don’t line up

While these town halls took place this July, heatwaves in Japan and Quebec claimed over 140 lives, over 80 people died in the forest fires in Greece, and Sweden faced the absurdity of fighting wildfires in the Arctic circle.

We live in a world where climate change is a lived reality and any hope that we have of securing some semblance of safety for future generations hinges on immediate action to limit global warming to 2°C. As scientists have reminded us repeatedly, this means taking immediate action to phase off our dependence on fossil fuels.

Against this reality, Trudeau wants to spend billions to buyout a pipeline? That’s like bulking up in matches when your house is on fire. It’s turning up the temperature when you’ve already burnt your toast. It’s not just ridiculous: it’s immoral, unethical, and aggravates a global catastrophe.

Justin Trudeau’s also breaking his promises to build a new nation to nation relationship with Indigenous peoples and uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Recent reports have confirmed that the majority of First Nations along the route of the proposed TransMountain pipeline have not consented to the project — with 6 vehemently opposed First Nations opposing the government’s approval of the pipeline in Canada’s high courts

Consider on top of that the threat of irreversible damage to the coast and the inevitable extinction of orca whales if this project is built.

The stakes are high and people power is ready to rise up in response.

Resistance is fertile

From beginning to end, as temperatures rose this July so did resistance.

In mid July Indigenous women, including renowned Indigenous rights activist Kanahus Manuel, from unceded Secwepemc territories in interior BC stood up to place tiny houses directly in the path of the proposed pipeline. These land defenders were violently confronted by the police leading to the arrest of Kanahus Manuel on her own ancestral lands. But these undeterred Tiny House Warriors have pledged to do what it takes to stand in the path of this project.

Resistance on the coast remains active as well. On July 3rd, 12 Greenpeace activists hung off Iron Worker’s Memorial Bridge for over 30 hours in an aerial blockade of a Kinder Morgan tanker. Shortly afterwards on July 14th a water ceremony and blessing led by Coast Salish spiritual leaders took place on the waters of the Burrard Inlet marking a moment of celebration and renewed resolve in this struggle.

Coast Salish spiritual leader and elder Ta’ah Amy George leads a water ceremony on the waters of the Burrard Inlet on July 14th. Photo Credit: Rogue Collective

Cracks have also widened in Trudeau’s inner circle when members of his own Prime Minister’s Youth Council issued a statement opposing the KM pipeline buyout.

And there’s no shortage of ordinary people ready to take extraordinary risk to stop this dangerous project. Just yesterday, 70 year old grand mother Laurie Embree was sentenced to jail time for her bold actions at the Kinder Morgan tanker facility on Burnaby Mountain. We can expect the numbers of arrestees on Burnaby Mountain to keep growing.

This moment is a bittersweet and pivotal one

This is a strange moment in history. Not many people could have predicted that Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan would abandon its tar sands pipeline only to pave way for the Canadian government to step in and buy the project instead.

One thing is clear, we got here because over the last few months our movement did the unthinkable and exposed a pipeline as wrong: financially and morally. Against all odds, Indigenous-led resistance convinced Kinder Morgan to walk away from this sinking ship.

We exposed it once. We’ll do it again. We know this project is still wrong for the climate, still tramples on Indigenous sovereignty, and has to be stopped. Thanks for being a part of this movement.

In the coming months we’ll share more about our strategy as it comes into focus. For now, we’re preparing for the massive “RISE” global mobilization to demonstrate that real climate leadership comes from the grassroots.

Will you RISE with us on September 8th?
Art by Christi Belcourt