British Columbia’s seasoned environmental movement is putting the pressure on all politicians to take a hard stand against oil pipeline projects in the province, including pushing for more from its usual allies.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix has already panned the proposed Enbridge Inc. pipeline, but protesters converged on his constituency office on Wednesday to press the Official Opposition party to declare Kinder Morgan’s expansion plans dead too.
Instead of handing out promises around the twin-pipeline proposal, Mr. Dix distributed samosas, a South Asian filled pastry, to about 50 hungry protesters who were invited into his Vancouver-Kingsway constituency office.
“Kinder Morgan hasn’t applied yet,” Mr. Dix told the group after its leader asked why the NDP hadn’t yet taken a stand. “People ask the difference, that’s the principle difference in my mind.”
The protest was one of more than 60 other anti-pipeline demonstrations at MLAs’ headquarters across the province on Wednesday. The protesters were capitalizing on the momentum of Monday’s 4,000-strong protest on the lawns of the B.C. legislature in Victoria.
Demonstrators want the government to end a plan by Enbridge to build its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to a port on the northwest coast, and to stop the doubling of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline that exits a Vancouver sea portal.
Just under 3,500 people registered online to say they would participate in 68 actions dubbed “Defend Our Coast,” and showed up in urban Vancouver and Kelowna as well as remote communities like Bella Bella and Fort St. James.
Many hoisted placards with slogans such as “There is no planet B,” and “Clark: Our coast is not for sale,” referring to B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
Protesters wearing handmade Halloween-type costumes, including an oil tanker and blackened oil refinery, flanked a young man outfitted as a lush B.C. island outside Ms. Clark’s Vancouver office.
The trio was hoping to illustrate how an oil disaster might mar the pristine coastline.
“I don’t know what else to do, I’m resorting to dressing up and acting foolish on the streets,” said Kathryn Harrison, a University of British Columbia professor sporting the paper mache ship.
Ms. Harrison has conducted comparative research on measures taken by different countries to reduce carbon emissions. She said her academic pursuits support the scientific consensus that supporting pipeline construction only adds to climate change.
But she said political leaders still don’t appear to be listening.
The group of more than 100 people was galvanized by speeches delivered by megaphone before they marched to Ms. Clark’s constituency office.
“We are at a tipping point moment in history, where we have the capacity to change the future,” Tzeporah Berman, a high-profile author and environmentalist, told the crowd.
In an interview, Ms. Berman said politicians should refocus aims of spurring the economy by instead supporting sustainable B.C. industries such as tourism, film, fisheries and renewable energy.
Gordon Katic said the protesters’ goal was to push Ms. Clark to take an “unequivocal” stance against both pipelines.
He said the B.C. Liberals current approach of outlining five conditions that must be met before giving the Enbridge project consideration is flawed. Gaining a bigger share of the economic benefits is not enough to convince protesters like himself to take on the potentially devastating risks of a pipeline spill.
“I think we’re seeing a lot of movement already, she’s wavering,” said the 23-year-old University of British Columbia student of Ms. Clark’s position. “It’s going to take a continued push right up to the May election.”
Regulatory hearings resume next week in Prince Rupert, B.C. into a plan by Enbridge to build an 1,100 kilometre dual pipeline that will export oil to Asia from a Kitimat, B.C. port.
The provincial environmental minister has traded barbs with Enbridge officials over safety concerns surrounding the $6-billion project, while B.C.’s premier remains at loggerheads with Alberta Premier Alison Redford on getting reassurances around the deal as well.