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Opinion Pipeline advocates’ newest weapon: the radical protester

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will not be built because of opposition forces on the ground.

I have news for the mayor. If anything, it’s going to be the radical resisters who strengthen growing support for the project and put Premier John Horgan’s NDP government increasingly on the wrong side of the issue.

Mr. Robertson made his prediction in a recent interview with Bloomberg News in New York City. “I don’t think the resistance on the West Coast is going to fade,” the mayor said. “I think it will only intensify. Escalation looks likely.”

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He then added he doesn’t “think this project will go.“

Well, he is certainly right about opposition growing – but in all the wrong ways. This week, a television news crew visited the site of the main protest encampment on Burnaby Mountain, right near what would be the terminus of the pipeline expansion. Those who have taken over the site appear not to be a friendly group.

They threatened reporters with violence and called them racists. They told them to keep their cameras away. Equally as disturbing was the camp itself. It’s not just tents any more, the protesters are actually constructing buildings out of plywood and other materials. And it seems to be growing by the day. The insurgents are settling in for the long haul.

I accept that Canada is a peace-loving country that tolerates various forms of public dissent, but this is ridiculous. The people building this protest centre aren’t the retired professors and nurses and everyday folk who have marched against the project. These are activists whose main purpose is to cause trouble, and bully and intimidate people. They are incapable of having any kind of rational discussion about the project. They don’t want to hear arguments for its completion.

They don’t care.

I’m not sure how or why they are being allowed to build a camp on public land, although I suspect it might have to do with the fact that the political leadership in the city of Burnaby also opposes the project. So they can stay for as long as they want, I suppose.

It takes me back to 2011 and the Occupy movement that temporarily swept North America. In Vancouver, the protesters ended up setting up shop on the grounds of the art gallery downtown. Day by day, it grew and nothing was done until the entire front lawn of the gallery was a mass of tents and wooden huts. Drugs were being used openly and someone almost died of an overdose.

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Nobody had the guts to shut it down when it appeared it was becoming something more than a good-willed protest. Once the anarchists arrived, as they always seem to in these instances, it was game over.

People like Mr. Robertson and Premier Horgan need to think long and hard about this. Public opinion in B.C. is shifting noticeably in favour of the pipeline. Two polls released last month showed support for the project inside the province growing. The surveys had nearly identical results, with 54 per cent of people backing the pipeline expansion and 38 per cent against.

One of the pollsters, Insights West, indicated that the percentage of people who strongly support the pipeline had jumped by nearly 15 per cent in seven months.

Once the public gets a taste of the type of protester who has taken up residence at the site of the project, it will not be impressed. I also don’t think that passive protesters will want to be associated with the bunch that has taken over on the site either. Far from resistance growing, as Mr. Robertson insists, it could actually begin shrinking.

Mr. Horgan, meantime, needs to start demonstrating some leadership on this matter. More than 170 people have so far been arrested for violating a civil injunction obtained by Kinder Morgan. The majority have been charged with civil contempt of court.

But a B.C. Supreme Court judge recently said the province needs to take over prosecution, suggesting Kinder Morgan should not have to carry the burden of prosecuting these people. And the judge is right.

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I love a good protest as much as the next person, but the law is the law. If you intentionally thwart an injunction you should be expected to be tried for criminal contempt, not the much kinder civil contempt, and that includes the politicians knowingly violating the law.

The protest against the pipeline has taken a turn, and not for the better. And the government in B.C. needs to do something about it.

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