A bitter wind blew at Harbour Quay Monday night as speaker after speaker stepped up to rail against the latest development in the Trans Mountain pipeline saga.
An anti-pipeline rally organized as part of protests held across the country drew 45 people to the quay in Port Alberni while a few others in favour of the project stood nearby.
A similar rally in March drew greater participation, but the tone this time was clearly more frustrated and resentful after the federal government’s announcement last week that it plans to purchase the existing pipeline for $4.5 billion.
“I’m angry,” organizer John Mayba told the protesters. “I’m angry because Justin Trudeau wants to make us his partners in crime. ‘You can have jobs and prosperity. All you need to do is take this pipeline.’ ”
Protesters were encouraged to wear red to convey their rage over the Liberal government’s determination to see the pipeline project completed using public funds. Mayba led them in singing We Shall Overcome, an anthem made famous by the civil rights movement.
“A divide has been created in the country that does not need to be created,” said City of Port Alberni Councillor Chris Alemany, taking the microphone. “We now have a situation where our federal government has invested $4.5 billion upon an old pipeline and committed to spending $7-$10 billion on a new pipeline and a few billion more on oil cleanup.”
The total cost to Canadians is likely to be $20 billion, Alemany said.
“That’s a lot of money that maybe we could invest in transportation solutions … That’s a lot of investment we could be having in our communities to transition from fossil fuels to whatever the future may hold.”
Canadians need to come together to focus instead on making the transition to alternatives that would help assure a better future, he added to applause. The divisiveness is not good for anyone, he said.
“I think this is going to be a long, hot summer and I am frankly a little worried about that,”Alemany said.
Speaking for Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns, who was in Ottawa, Sarah Thomas said climate leaders don’t spend $4.5 billion on pipelines. Johns called it a bad deal but sounded an optimistic note that held out hope Ottawa might listen.
“How can the government say they are fighting climate change when their actions say otherwise,” she said. “We all care about the health of our sensitive ecosystems and the rights of Indigenous peoples who are saying no to this risky project. We all care about protecting marine life, especially our West Coast salmon; we care about our fishing and seafood industries. And we all care about creating clean, sustainable jobs in our communities and ending fossil fuel subsidies.”
Others stepped forward to speak their minds.
“I really do believe the future of British Columbia lies in its environment,” said Michael Millin. “Oil is the way of the past. We have to transition to a real future, not this future.
“I think it’s really important that we stand up for our rights in order to have control of our own environment.”
Bob Pfannenschmidt once again stood by, as he did at the rally in March, quietly holding up the other side of the debate with a sign that read “KM build it.”
“The majority of Canadians support building the Kinder Morgan pipeline,” he said. What has turned the tide is the Liberal government’s move to buy into the project.
“The reason they decided to buy out Kinder Morgan is because these people are protesting. It’s our current government, the premier and his Minister of Environment George Heyman that are causing this issue.”
Pfannenschmidt said over-population is root of the problem and that oil is not going away. Canada is a small country that needs to get the best value for its resources, he argued.
“For sure,” added John Van Dyke. “No province has the right to tell the federal government what to do.”