Calgarians for and against Trans Mountain pipeline purchase clash outside MP's office

Dozens of people opposed to the federal government's plan to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline protested outside Calgary MP Kent Hehr's downtown office on Monday — at times clashing with the project's supporters who at times outnumbered them.

Pipeline protesters take issue with $4.5B purchase price, environmental impact

An anti-pipeline protester speaks with counter-protesters at the noon-hour event outside Calgary MP Kent Hehr's downtown offices on Monday. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Dozens of people opposed to the federal government's plan to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline protested outside Calgary MP Kent Hehr's downtown office on Monday — at times clashing with the project's supporters who at times outnumbered them.

The protest was organized against the government's stated intention to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project for an estimated $4.5 billion.

It was part of more than 100 demonstrations that were planned across the country, including one each in Calgary and Edmonton, at the offices of Members of Parliament. There was a second Calgary protest in the afternoon at Central Memorial Park.

For some, the downtown protest was about the cost of the government takeover, rather than the pipeline itself.

"This is about the purchasing of this aged, old pipeline," protest co-organizer Wendy Walker told reporters before delivering a petition opposing the sale.

"This pipeline was built in 1953. Why on earth are we sending a senior citizen out to do a young person's job?"

Walker said she is also worried about the publicly funded retention bonuses for Kinder Morgan executives and expected expenses to expand and maintain pipeline.

Reynold Reimer attended the rally and hoped to avoid "shouting matches." But he said he wanted to express his concern.

"There's no guarantee we won't lose our shirts and ... we're going to have infrastructure running for 40 years pumping carbon out into the atmosphere," he said.

'There's no guarantee we won't lose our shirts and ... we're going to have infrastructure running for 40 years pumping carbon out into the atmosphere,' said anti-pipeline protester Reynold Reimer, who was outside MP Kent Hehr's office. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Instead, he would like the government to spend that money on developing renewable energy.

'Get it done,' supporter says

Dozens of pipeline supporters — including oil industry workers — showed up in Calgary to counter-protest, often seeming to outnumber the anti-pipeline crowd.

Kimber Henniger, who is semi-retired from oil and gas industry sales, said while he has "mixed emotions" on the cost of the promised purchase, he wanted to attend the rally to support the pipeline.

"We are here as Canadians. We want the pipeline built and other pipelines built. We want to get product to tidewater. Get it done," he said.

This pipeline supporter was one of dozens who counter-protested demonstrators opposed to the federal government's purchase of Trans Mountain. (Mike Symington/CBC)

At times, the exchanges between the two sides became heated — primarily over the extent to which the pipeline would affect climate change and the economy.

"The climate issue is a scam," said one pipeline supporter wearing an "I Heart Oil & Gas" T-shirt.

Another supporter asked a pipeline protester if he wanted money and what he did to keep the country's economy afloat.

The pipeline protester said he had worked in oil and gas but then stopped.

"Why? Because I stopped doing stupid stuff," he said.

Protesters worry about spills

Activist Marion Westoll said she believes support is growing for those concerned about the potential environmental impact, though for the most part, that support has been online. In Calgary, she has been the lone protester at some events. Other times, her small group has faced a large gathering of oil workers.

Police estimated 60 to 80 people attended the protest on Monday. Westoll said about 30 were anti-pipeline protesters.

"We just think we're doing well for doing this in Oil Town," Westoll said. "It is quite scary, it is quite intimidating, especially here in Calgary. We're just so outnumbered."

The exchanges between those for and against the purchase of the pipeline grew heated at times. (Mike Symington/CBC)

After Monday's protest at Hehr's office, she staged a mock oil spill in Central Memorial Park using blue tarps and canola oil mixed with cocoa powder.

"Why is it OK that we kill trees, kill whales, kill dolphins and kill the marine life? I don't think that's OK," Westoll said.

"And it's beyond me why Canada would want this to go through. That is not the Canadian way."

In her demo, the fake oil covered blow-up whales, highlighting her main concern: the potential impact on the environment.

Almost triple the shipments

The expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, originally built in 1953, would allow the shipment of 890,000 barrels of oil products each day from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. Currently, the pipeline can ship 300,000 barrels per day.

The project, approved 18 months ago by the federal government, had been delayed repeatedly due to lawsuits from the British Columbia government and numerous First Nations groups over environmental concerns, such as the impact to land, water and wildlife.

Marion Westoll helped organize a protest at Memorial Park in Calgary on Monday by holding a mock oil spill. (Mike Symington/CBC)

As a result, Kinder Morgan issued a deadline in April, saying it would walk away from the project unless it had clarity from Canada on a path forward by the end of May.

Last week, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the federal government would buy the project, which he says is key to the country's economy.

After the expansion is complete, Morneau said, the intention is to then sell the pipeline back to the private sector.

With files from Colleen Underwood and Mike Symington