British Columbia

Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters back NDP and Liberals over Greens

Anti-pipeline protesters in B.C. are endorsing "strategic voting" for the NDP or Liberals across several ridings in the upcoming election, rather than opting for the Greens.

Force of Nature Alliance says it's the best way to defeat the Conservatives and put progressives in power

The Trans Mountain pipeline company has reported 18 incidents to the National Energy Board, including spills, injuries and fires, since 2008. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

An alliance of anti-Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters in B.C. is endorsing "strategic voting" for the New Democrats or Liberals across several Lower Mainland ridings in the upcoming election, rather than back the Greens.

Ben West, who sits on the board of the Force of Nature Alliance, says he feels strongly they need to be strategic about who they're supporting to have the best chance of defeating the Conservatives.

"In Burnaby-North Seymour, the decision was made to support the NDP candidate," said West. "But it's not a blanket endorsement of any particular party."

NDP candidate Carol Baird Ellan says Kinder Morgan's application to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline is flawed. (Jeremy Allingham/CBC)

West, who is also executive director of Tanker Free BC, says it is difficult for Greens to break through in an already crowded political landscape.

"It's great that Greens are out there and pushing the debate and forcing all the parties to be greener," he said.

"But the realities of our political process and the issues that we've got with the first-past-the-post system make it very difficult to see it being a reality that the Greens would win."

Swing riding in pipeline battle

The new riding of Burnaby-North Seymour is both ground zero in the battle between those who are for and against pipelines, and a swing riding with voters who've traditionally fallen on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Protesters clash with RCMP officers on Burnaby Mountain on Nov. 21, 2014. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Kinder Morgan is proposing an expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline through Burnaby Mountain that would lay almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe, and triple its current bitumen-carrying capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.

Meanwhile, with new riding boundaries drawn up in 2012, Burnaby-North Seymour combines the traditional NDP stronghold of Burnaby North with the traditionally Conservative eastern neighbourhoods of North Vancouver.

Green candidate surprised by alliance

Lynne Quarmby, the riding's Green Party candidate, was one of more than 100 people who were arrested in an act of civil disobedience last year, after taking part in protests against the pipeline extension on Burnaby Mountain.

Burnaby-North Seymour Green candidate Lynn Quarmby is against the proposed pipeline expansion. (Jeremy Allingham/CBC)

She says she was surprised to hear about the alliance's recommendation to vote NDP.

"It's a little surprising that they would endorse a candidate from a party on the fence about the pipeline when there's another candidate who's really strongly opposed."

Quarmby says Canada should have a government that will stop the pipeline expansion, but questions whether strategic voting will work in Burnaby.

"As much as anyone, I want to see Harper gone," said Quarmby.

"So in that sense I understand the feeling that drives people to vote strategically, and in some ridings it might be a reliable thing to do, but in a riding like Burnaby-North Seymour, good luck with that."

NEB review criticized by Liberals, NDP

Kinder Morgan's application for the expansion is currently being reviewed by the National Energy Board.

The NDP candidate in the new riding, Carol Baird Ellan, has said the current form of the energy company's application before the NEB is flawed.

Meanwhile, Terry Beech, the Liberal party candidate, has focused on changes to the NEB's environmental review process, which has been widely criticized by citizens and experts.

Conservative candidate Mike Little has said his party will not condemn projects before the review process has been completed, adding that Conservatives recognize that in a country rich with resources, jobs depend on the energy sector.

West points out the alliance is still supporting Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, but for real change in parliament, the alliance had to broaden its approach. 

"I think we need to move beyond looking at one particular party, given the problems that we've got with vote splitting and an electoral system that's highly flawed."

With files from Jenni Sheppard and Deborah Goble

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