British Columbia

Kinder Morgan opposition from Liberal MP applauded

British Columbia politicians recognize people here see the costs and benefits of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline in different ways from Canadians elsewhere in the country, according to University of B.C. political scientist Michael Byers.

UBC political scientist says objection to proposed pipeline is entirely understandable

The federal government has pledged to make a decision by Dec. 19 on Kinder Morgan's request to triple oil tanker traffic into the Burrard Inlet. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

British Columbia politicians recognize people here see the costs and benefits of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline in different ways from Canadians elsewhere in the country, according to University of B.C. political scientist Michael Byers.

"It's entirely understandable why a member of Parliament from the West Coast would object to this proposal," said Byers in response to a B.C.Liberal MP urging Justin Trudeau's government to reject the proposal. 

"A Liberal MP who is doing so is defying the momentum within his own caucus and that is to be celebrated." 

Rookie Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP Ron McKinnon said, in a letter to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, the $6.8 billion plan to triple Kinder Morgan's pipeline capacity to its Burnaby terminal "is detrimental to British Columbia and should not proceed."

"There is a huge groundswell of opposition to this project within my community and the surrounding communities that are affected by this pipeline, and the tanker traffic that it will ensue. So, I think there is a great deal of resistance and I don't believe that you can find social licence there at all," said McKinnon in an interview with CBC. 

McKinnon says he understands the need to move oil from Alberta but moving it through B.C. waters is too risky. 

New playing field 

The timing of McKinnon's opposition to the project, according to Byers, may be related to new factors in play after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president-elect. 

Trump is a strong supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline — which was vetoed by President Barack Obama — but is favoured by Canada's government. 

"So, there's a new calculation here," said Byers. 

"We might not need the Kinder Morgan pipeline to get Alberta bitumen to salt water and if that's the case, why would we put this pristine coast at risk?"

If Justin Trudeau approves the pipeline expansion, he is going to be condemning a unique population of orca whales to extinction, according to Byers. 

"Maybe these Liberal MPs who are speaking out are speaking out because they realize now that these extraordinary marine mammals are at risk." 

The federal government has pledged to make a decision by Dec.19 on whether to approve the Kinder Morgan proposal. 

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