Kinder Morgan decision will have consequences for federal government and beyond
Federal government set to make decision on the pipeline project by Dec. 19
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has staked his political career on turning his city into the world's greenest.
For him, the idea of more oil tankers on the city's coast mixes with that vision like oil and water — not well.
That is why Robertson has been one of the leads on pushing his friend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, not to support the Kinder Morgan expansion. The proposal would see the current pipeline twinned from Alberta to Kinder Morgan's facility in Burnaby, B.C., with three times as much crude oil moving every day.
"Putting a much bigger pipeline and seven times the oil tankers into the waters around Vancouver would be a direct threat and potential massive economic impact on Canada and Vancouver in particular," said Robertson on CBC Radio One's The House.
Robertson is warning that the pipeline approval could hurt not just the economy, but the federal Liberals as well. In 2015, the party won more seats in British Columbia than ever before.
The pipeline expansion has been a polarizing issue in Metro Vancouver for years. At their peak, the protests on Burnaby Mountain in 2014 saw hundreds of people blocking workers from boring holes for Kinder Morgan.
Protesters took to the streets again this weekend, and Robertson predicts if the federal government approves the project, the backlash would be like nothing the region has ever seen.
"I think you will see protests like you have never seen before on this one. It is a very, very sensitive issue and people care about it across all walks of life. I think it is perilous politically," said Robertson.
Government MP speaking out
That perilousness has put MP Ron McKinnon in a tough spot. The Liberal backbencher has taken the rare step of speaking out on a controversial issue before his government has stated its position.
The recently elected representative for Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam has sent a letter to Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arguing the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is not in the best interest of his constituents. He is breaking tradition and speaking out now with the hope of influencing his boss's decision.
"I think the problem here is the risks don't match the benefits. There are benefits absolutely, but the potential risks are catastrophic," said McKinnon. "Even though the likelihood of a spill from a tanker is fairly low, the consequences of that spill would be enormous."
"Governments give permits, communities give permission. And certainly, we don't have that from that community."
If McKinnon is right that his constituents are heavily opposed to the project, a green light from the Liberals could put his job at serious risk the next time Canadians go to the polls in 2019.