A nationally organized rally opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project drew both sides of the debate to Harbour Quay late Friday afternoon.
Wet weather and a rumoured cancellation on Facebook failed to deter an estimated 60 protesters who showed up to register their opposition to the energy project. They were flanked by about 20 pipeline supporters, each side quietly respecting the other’s stand.
“This is just an ad hoc group of citizens really concerned about the future,” said John Mayba, who led the protest rally. Leadership in the face of climate change is lacking at every level of government, he said.
“And they’re not listening to the experts,” added Sam Brownlee.
Quoting opponents among Coast Salish First Nations, Mayba told the crowd, “It’s time to warrior up.”
Kinder Morgan has already begun site clearing and terminal construction for its expansion of the 65-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton and Vancouver. Expansion will increase the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day. The energy giant plans to use the increased capacity to export oil sands bitumen to the U.S. and China.
“We don’t need any more tanker traffic,” Peter Ferguson said.
“Our resources are going to be threatened,” said Judith Sayers. “We all are affected…This is our home, this is what we have to leave for our children and grandchildren. We have to raise our voices and we have to say no to Kinder Morgan.”
Sayers mentioned afterward that she was protesting as an individual, not in her official capacity as president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
Pipeline supporters didn’t raise their voices but explained their stand on the issue when asked.
“I’m supporting the pipeline development,” said Ron Tramer. “It’s already been approved by the federal government. It means jobs,” he added, noting that a lot of B.C. residents work in the Alberta oilfields. “I think that nowadays, the way they’re designing ships, it’s much lesser odds that something is going to happen. We’ve come a long way since the (Exxon) Valdez.”
His family joined him in a show of support.
“It’s good to create jobs in the oilfields and there’s not a lot of jobs in B.C.,” said grandson Ethan Tramer, a Grade 10 student at Alberni District Secondary School. Without a pipeline, the bitumen will be transported by truck or rail.
“I think the hard ‘No’ is what brought us out,” said Stephen Tramer. He said opponents haven’t considered the facts and educated themselves about the Kinder Morgan project.
Al Zimmerman said he spent Friday trying to muster as many project supporters as possible.
At other protests across the country, organized by the climate action and advocacy groups 350.org and Leadnow, opponents of the project rallied outside the offices of 44 MPs. In Vancouver, at an ongoing protest outside Kinder Morgan’s marine terminal in Burnaby, MP and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart were among another group of opponents arrested for disobeying a court-ordered.
In Port Alberni, Mayba read a letter from MP Gord Johns, who reaffirmed his opposition to the expansion project.
“Make no mistake that the time for action is now,” Johns wrote, quoting NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on his recent visit to Alberni District Secondary School.
“Where’s the MLA’s statement?” asked Tony Gallagher as the protest wound down, calling attention to the absence of MLA Scott Fraser. “The question for everybody here is, who is accountable?”
Wyton spoke briefly to fellow protesters, pointing to the potential impacts of the pipeline, particularly its contribution to global climate change. Continued reliance on fossil fuels will result in a sea level rise of two feet, six inches by the end of the century, he said.