Terry Beech, the Liberal MP for Burnaby North-Seymour, invited them, and they came – dozens of constituents intent on making the most of a Saturday open house to express their views on the federal government's controversial approval of the $6.8-billion expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
By the end, around 5 p.m., staff had logged between 80 and 100 visitors, whom Mr. Beech met in groups in a conference room and one on one in an office. Some couldn't get in, so alternative arrangements were being made for future contact with the MP of the riding, which spans Burnaby and parts of North Vancouver. People were turned away.
Many seemed concerned or outraged about the pipeline policy though supportive, in general, of Mr. Beech, who was first elected in the 2015 election and has been outspoken in his opposition to expanding the pipeline between Alberta and his riding where oil would be loaded onto tankers.
The intensity through the day seems to underline a problem for federal Liberals in British Columbia. A record 17 of 42 B.C. seats went Liberal in the 2015 election. Some Liberal MPs now say constituents are disappointed and angry about the pipeline policy. They say the file is going to be a lingering problem with voters.
"I am totally vehemently against it. It's horrific," 82-year-old Pat Beaucamp said, adding that she was worried about an oil spill linked to increased tanker traffic resulting from the expanded pipeline. "People feel very passionately about it."
She noted that Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has said he is prepared to get into the field to protest against the project. "I am 82 and I am willing to do the same thing."
Still, Ms. Beaucamp said Mr. Beech has been an excellent MP for the riding, which was created in 2013. Mr. Beech won with 36 per cent of the vote over the NDP, which won 30 per cent of the vote. The Conservatives took 28 per cent.
Mr. Beech, taking a break between back-to-back meetings, said that he is planning a "substantial response" on the situation for release by early to the middle of next week, but that it's too soon to elaborate.
He said the flight home from Ottawa to B.C. was his first opportunity to really reflect on the cabinet decision to allow for the pipeline expansion.
"I didn't want to react or respond to the decision without checking in with my constituents," he said. "For now, I am going to continue to meet with those constituents and think about their views. I am going to put together some kind of substantial response that includes those views."
Asked whether the situation has prompted him to consider leaving the Liberals, Mr. Beech repeated his plan to provide his response.
At this point, Mr. Beech said he had to go. "Right now, I have got a constituent who has been bumped twice today so I have got to go and meet them," he said, departing for an office.
Still, he encouraged speaking to constituents on-site at his office on Hastings Street in Burnaby.
"I think [the decision] is wretched. I am completely opposed to it with every fibre of my being. I can't see any positive to it," electrical engineer Tim Bartoo said. "There is no grey here for me. It's all negative."
Mr. Bartoo said Mr. Beech has been doing a "pretty good job" of representing the ridings' opposition to the plan, and that it was good to have his voice in the federal Liberal caucus. He said he had not voted Liberal in 2015, and was "very unlikely" to vote Liberal in the next election in 2019.
He said Mr. Beech talked about his efforts to express the views of the riding to his caucus and the Prime Minister, who, in making the announcement earlier this week, called Mr. Beech one of the "most articulate and substantive critics" of the proposal.
"We understand that he needs a few days more to decide exactly what he's going to say publicly. He indicated in our meeting that he will be doing everything he can on this, and it was going to be something that will be ongoing," Mr. Bartoo said.
Still, not every visitor on Saturday was opposed to the pipeline-expansion approval. One resident of the North Vancouver piece of the riding, who gave his name only as Ian, said he supported the decision. "It's good for Canada," he said. "They're going to move the oil. Period. We have facilities to move it. The economic output that would come in the harbour would be phenomenal."
Regarding Mr. Beech, the resident said, "He was well informed. He knows his stuff. He's taking his time to listen to his constituents."