Common Sense Canadian

Horgan’s right on Kinder Morgan, even if he got Site C wrong

Posted February 9, 2018 by Damien Gillis in Politics

On Kinder Morgan, John Horgan is standing up for British Columbians — as he should (BCNDP/Flickr)

Dear Premier Horgan,

I’m still mad at you for carrying on with Site C Dam, based on the utterly bogus reasons you offered the public. But when it comes to Kinder Morgan, I’ve got your back, because you clearly have mine — along with all British Columbians determined to protect our precious air, land, and water in what we are proud to call Super, Natural BC. You’re on the right track — stay the course.

I’m proud of the well-reasoned, principled stance you’ve taken in the face of unconscionable bullying and bluster from your Alberta counterpart, Rachel Notley, and our Prime Minister.

As you’ve stated, the Royal Society, a preeminent collective of Canadian scientists, has identified significant knowledge gaps with regards to how diluted bitumen behaves when it’s spilled into our environment. You’ve said that until we get answers to these questions we should not be expanding the flow of this gunk through our waters. I agree.

Some have accused you of using this issue to delay the project — I don’t believe that, but even if I did, that wouldn’t change my opinion. For reasons of climate, ecology, Indigenous rights, and protecting BC’s economy, this pipeline should not be built, period.

I’ve read lots of comments on stories about this bizarre Alberta-led “Trade War” calling you and Rachel both children. There are two children in this fiasco — one’s name is Rachel and the other’s Justin. You are not among them.

When Little Rachel doesn’t get her way, she indulges in petulant retaliation, like depriving her own citizens of delicious BC wines, making idle threats and pouty faces. When Justin feels disrespected by the very people he’s running roughshod over, he throws temper tantrums — “Aw, come on! Really? Really!” He turns into a playground bully. As I’m sure you know, John, the last thing you do with bullies is give into them.

New BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson dog-piled on you today, saying “Premier John Horgan has decided to pick a fight with Alberta that is probably going to lead to a constitutional challenge and in which British Columbia will probably lose in the courts.” How is this your fault, John? For listening to science when no other leader seems interested? For standing up for the people who elected you? For refusing to be cowed into submission? No, you’re doing your job, as you should.

Rachel picked this fight and Justin’s egging her on. Andrew doesn’t seem to understand the people he is now seeking to lead. We’re not going to roll over and allow ourselves to become the doormat for Asia-bound heavy oil that threatens our economy and environment while further destroying our planet’s climate — all while getting nothing in return (unless he counts 50 jobs at the new Kinder Morgan terminal). Why on earth would we ever do that?

It is unfortunate that Rachel made BC’s winemakers innocent victims of her retaliation. Thankfully many British Columbians are pulling up their socks to make them whole. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to drink all those nicely balanced Chardonnays and full-bodied, complex Cab-Savs — and we British Columbians, with our newfound friends in Quebec, are up to the task. Sooner or later, Rachel’s own citizens — some of whom actually own vineyards in BC or whose establishments depend on BC wines — will get fed up with this futile campaign.

Will this end up in the courts? Who knows. Justin maintains a Texas pipeline company’s project, designed to benefit big oil companies who continue cutting local jobs while keeping profits to their shareholders and foreign owners, is in the “National Interest.” John, you and I know that’s a load of hooey and proving it in court, in order to invoke Sections 91 and 92 of our constitution, is a far bigger challenge than Justin would care to admit.

We also both know there is far more to this story — like the Indigenous rights Justin (and you) have pledged to respect. The courts haven’t yet had their say on that matter. Then there are the moral and political calculations at hand. Justin needs BC’s 17 Liberal seats far more than he does his 4 in Alberta. He’s carefully cultivated a youthful, Sunny Ways brand in the eyes of local and international media. How does that square with calling in jackbooted RCMP or soldiers to stomp all over First Nations grandmothers, youth, decent British Columbians — all captured on social media for the world to see?

Rachel’s on the way out — anyone can see that this is merely a desperate last-ditch ploy for her to cling to power. But for you and Justin, how you carry yourselves on this file could have a decisive impact on your reelection. Your position is politically wise. You have much ground to make up from your disastrous Site C decision. This won’t fix that problem (what would fix it is reversing that call — it’s not too late). But it helps.

Justin, on the other hand, has now painted himself into a corner. It’s hard for him to walk back these strong declarations he and his government have made about getting the pipeline built. Yet it’s impossible for him to carry on this logical fallacy that we can’t meet his climate goals or protect the coast from oil spills without building another pipeline and exporting more oil! Moreover, with these heavy-handed tactics against BC citizens and First Nations, he stands to smear his own brand with Tar Sands goop and lose a lot of key seats in BC.

Justin needs to decide between the oil lobbyists who have clearly captured his government and his own political future.

As for your political future, John, that’s an open question, but it can only benefit from staying the course on Kinder Morgan. Rachel and Justin will keep bullying you. The Old Media pundits and business lobbyists will push you to question yourself. Right-wing British Columbians who would never in a million years vote for you anyway will slag you on social media. Pay no mind.

The rest of us are raising a glass of the Okanagan’s finest in your name.


About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.



    I don’t understand any need or desire to back Premier Horgan and the BC NDP, especially after their betrayal on Site C. They need to find a way to reverse their disastrous decision in order to regain trust. But most importantly, it makes far more sense to concentrate our support behind the people who are on the front lines of these struggles, NOT in political parties who are taking opportunistic positions that change with their polls and whims. Up north: Treaty 8 and the PVLA, PVEA. Along the pipeline route: plenty of FNs. And instead of or in addition to buying BC wine: please contribute to and which will actually make a difference.

      Damien Gillis

      You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, Bill. I’ve heard this argument and frankly don’t understand it. We’ve spent at least 95% our our column inches at CSC holding governments’ feet to the fire – including the NDP. I don’t see how it has to be either/or. How does acknowledging Horgan’s science-based position on bitumen cancel out support for groups like Treaty 8, PVLA and PVEA? We’ve consistently supported their work for the past decade and will continue to do so. Why do people feel entitled to dictate what I write in my opinion columns for my publication?


        I’d never try to dictate what you write in CSC, Damien. I just don’t think it’s worth putting energy into boosting a Premier and government whose positions are shifty.

          Damien Gillis

          Thanks Bill. I appreciate your justified critique of the BC NDP government.


            In contrast to Bill, I understand this article and agree with giving praise where it is due. I was appalled by Horgan’s Site C decision but we don’t if arm-twisting was involved and it’s impossible to find a government or party we will always agree with.

            I look for the best overall fit when I vote and then criticize and praise specific decisions as they go along. Throwing out babies with the bathwater never made sense to me.


    In yesterday’s Edmonton Journal, renowned Alberta scientist, Dave Shindler, professor emeritus (ecology) at the University of Alberta, exposed the guise and guile employed by Justin and Rachel. He listed seven areas in which essential research must be undertaken. His damning conclusion, “B.C. Premier John Horgan’s plan to do the necessary homework before allowing the pipeline and terminal to be built seems to be well supported by science.”

    Trudeau has repeatedly claimed that his government has “done the science” which may account for why it’s never seen the light of day. Former Harper enviromin, Peter Kent, was once asked if his ministry had come up with an effective way of dealing with a bitumen spill. In a moment of possibly unintended candour, Kent said, “no, but we’re working on it.”

    Kent’s successor, McKenna, has come up with her own solution. She has quietly authorized the use of the lethal chemical stew called Corexit for use as an oil dispersant. Corexit was used on the Exxon Valdez spill and caused serious respiratory problems for the clean up crews. It was used by BP on Deepwater Horizon where it also poisoned clean up crews, fishing crews who work on the Gulf, and coastal residents. Vice News has covered this in depth. Corexit doesn’t disperse oil. It sinks it, right to the bottom where the marine ecosystem begins. It combines with the sunken oil and is said to make it 50 times more toxic.

    Here’s a link to the Edmonton Journal piece.


    The article alludes to Section 91 and 92 of our Constitution. These sections deal with the powers of the Federal and Provincial Governments.

    The feds have the upper hand on this as Section 92 – Part 10 gives the feds the power when it means the project (“works”) connect two or more provinces and/or when Parliament has declared that a project is of “general advantage” of Canada or two or more provinces or when the project connects the Province to other countries.

    This is why there’s a chorus in Alberta and Ottawa that the KM project is in the “best interests of Canada”.

    This doesn’t mean that Part 10 cannot be challenged in the courts (Supreme Court of Canada). The Constitution Act is primarily based on the British North American Act of 1867. The Supreme Court of Canada has consistently seen the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a “living tree”, meaning interpretation changes with times and understanding.

    In BC we have indigenous nations yet to establish their rights and freedoms in the Canadian framework due to government inaction, institutionalized racism, or just stalling the inevitable and placing hardships on these nations to enact their rights and freedoms.

    There is no guarantee the feds or Alberta would win in a challenge nor for BC, however, the numerous Indigenous nations in BC have won one court battle after another in the Supreme Court of Canada despite BC’s Appeal Court ruling against them time after time.

    Interesting times ahead, but is the current BC government initiatives enough to stop KM’s pipeline?

    The difference between Horgan’s Site C decision and the KM battle is the decision to go ahead with Site C was his and his Cabinet’s entirely not hampered by the feds or other provinces.

    Kevin Logan

    The issue of trade agreements like AIT/TILMA/NWPTA/CFTA and the infamous Equivalency Agreement we published about in detail here at the Common Sense Canadian are at the very heart of the dispute.

    In January 2016 the Coastal First Nations won a challenge to the Equivalency Agreement in the BCSC. That decision established jurisdiction for the Province and called out the former government for “abdication of duty” in signing away our right to assess and decide on behalf of British Columbians with the two page Equivalency Agreement (EA) signed by Clark and Harper.

    No doubt the Federal bureaucrats in town meeting with our Provincial officials are deliberating what the impacts of that EA are in light of court decisions already established and the ones we await based on the EA.

    Moreover, Notley’s bizarre “wine ban” is mostly smoke and mirrors and part of her attempt to test existing trade agreements, to “prove” one Province cannot holus bolus block trade.

    There are ” no obstacle” clauses in the trade agreements I mentioned above, if BC decides to challenge Notley’s ban a tribunal will surely turn it over, at which time she can confess victory as established by the precedent. But that is weak sauce and not something done in the Supreme Court.

    People should become familiar with the details of the equivalency agreement, how it came about and why it has not been cancelled as it is at the very heart of the conflict we are entrenched in today and Notley and her government are positioning against the reality that the BCSC court decision in the Coastal First Nations case established our jurisdiction.

    The entire industry is seriously concerned as they have done much work to end run provincial jurisdiction and the courts may just undermine all that by continuing to uphold provincial jurisdiction in even more decisions.

    Simply search this site Common Sense Canadian for the thousands of words I published on the topic of trade agreements and the Equivalency Agreement.

    Ron Wilton

    I fear you may be mistaken in believing that Horgan and company are really dead set against the new KM trans mountain line.
    The current trans mountain line uses 23 relatively light duty centrifugal pumps to move the fairly light crude it is now moving from Alberta through(over) BC to Burnaby. These 23 electrically powered pumps run 24/7/365 and use a considerable amount of electricity.
    The ‘new’ KM TMP will be moving much heavier dilbit through much larger diameter pipelines as well as a return line with the necessary diluent materials. This will require much more powerful electrically operated centrifugal pumps and most likely at more frequent intervals thereby requiring more than a mere 23 pumps, so the demand for more electricity will be correspondingly enormous.
    I do not believe that KM would be able to do what they plan to do without the electricity from Site C and since the final destination for the ‘product’ once it has been refined, most likely at the Koch brothers refineries in KM’s home, Texas, and the Chinese government has purchased AECON the primary builder of Site C as well as their holdings in the sands that they purchased via their NEXEN acquisition, will be China, it looks pretty much like a contrived and done deal to me.
    Is John blind to that or are we all just being lied to…again?

      Damien Gillis

      I never said Horgan and company are dead set against Kinder Morgan – nothing even resembling that, Ron. They even took the position of arguing for the project in provincial court (against local First Nations) but against it in federal court – and their bizarre stance on Site C should leave anyone highly skeptical of the NDP’s true intentions. That said, on this particular matter – the recent events surrounding bitumen research and Notley’s trumped up trade war, I feel compelled to give some credit and encourage them to keep going.

      You raise some worthy points about the possible connection between Site C and Kinder Morgan. The LNG connection which many including myself have raised going back years, is problematic if only for the fact that there is still no viable LNG export market and likely will not be any big LNG projects on BC’s coast (the recent, surely temporary uptick in Asian LNG prices notwithstanding – with four major plants coming online this year, a renewed glut of supply will likely send prices tumbling back down from whence they came). Moreover, it’s still cheaper for LNG plants to create electricity through their own gas than it is paying even highly subsidized industrial Hydro rates.

      We’ve said all along – based on years of data and the conclusions of the BCUC, Harry Swain and other reputable sources – that there is no need for the power from Site C. As Notley’s ridiculous remarks on not buying BC electricity illustrate, we are in a surplus position, which Site C will only exacerbate. Therefore, if we know the reasons given by Horgan, Eby, Mungall and others for their perplexing decision to carry on with Site C are bogus, perhaps there is some other unseen factor motivating them. In the absence of any believable rationale, we are compelled to speculate. I say it’s not LNG, unless they’re even bigger fools than I imagine them to be. Some have argued providing carbon cover for Tar Sands projects via “clean” (LOL) electricity. You’re saying Kinder Morgan…That’s worth a ponder.



      Ron, you’ve brought up an interesting twist to this oozing black comedy – energy consumption needed to transport Bitumen in a pipeline (Dilbit).

      I found a reference to the consumption needed for TransCanada’s failed proposal to build a pipeline from Alberta east to New Brunswick, Energy East. The estimated electrical energy required for all the pumping stations needed to transport the Dilbit through Ontario was 400 MW. Site C’s proposed output is 1100 MW.

      From Powerex: “BC Hydro’s world-class integrated system of close to 17,000 MW of generating capacity – over 12,000 of which are hydroelectric. This system is interconnected with the western U.S. by two 500 kilovolt transmission lines on the west coast between B.C. and Washington, one 230 kilovolt line connecting B.C. and Washington on the east side, and a 500 kilovolt line to the east, connecting B.C. with Alberta.

      The total generating capacity of BC Hydro does not account for the 1200 MW we receive from the Columbia River Treaty dams.

      The demand for power for operating the pipeline pumping stations can be accommodated from current generating capacity without Site C.

      Notley didn’t just put the brakes on BC wine but also on an electricity deal she was negotiating with Horgan to meet Alberta’s GHG emission targets worth, according to Notley, $500 million.

      From the Financial Post, April 1, 2016: “Alberta, which is in the early innings of its own controversial transition from coal to renewable energy, has said it won’t buy B.C.’s power unless it can get bitumen pipelines to the B.C. coast — something its western neighbour has given it a lot of grief over.”

      This $500 million of electricity Notley speaks of being negotiated with the BC government gives credence to your hypothesis that Horgan is playing both sides.


        I thought the following article illuminates Alberta’s (Ralph Klein Conservatives) failed entry into energy deregulation and what that has cost Alberta residents. With the former Fraser Institute’s CEO, Fazil Mihlar, firmly planted in Horgan’s government as a Deputy Minister, we can only hope there’s a growing resentment brewing in the NDP caucus over Horgan’s choices or lack of action on Christy Clark’s ideological appointments.


      With Site C, the already-suffering BC Hydro ratepayers will pay even higher hydro rates, so that KM can ship more dilbit, resulting in higher risk of spills?

      What a great deal. Not.

    randy saugstad

    If this pipe does get approved and it gets Alberta crude to tidewater watch how much our price of fuel will go up when Alberta gets world prices. It will cost our province far more than their few jobs and taxes will benefit us.


      The pipeline has already been approved by the federal regulator (NEB) and the Federal Government cabinet.

      There is no guarantee nor news that “Alberta”, meaning the foreign interests who control Alberta’s oil resource, will get “world” prices for their harder to refine bitumen. Bitumen is already discounted in North America for this reason and no doubt will be discounted by foreign markets.

      The “Brent” benchmark for crude is used around the world and is based on sweet crude or a much lighter crude than bitumen. West Texas is a benchmark for US light crude, not bitumen. Alberta’s bitumen has a price all its own, Western Canada Select, a heavy crude. Currently there is a $3 difference between a barrel of Brent crude and West Texas ($62 vs. $59). Western Select $42!

      Why would a foreign entity purchase Alberta bitumen for Brent prices when it still has the additional cost of refining this heavy crude or when it still has access to sweet and light crude from other markets, namely OPEC?

      Something doesn’t add up here. With the Chinese companies heavily invested in bitumen perhaps the pipeline is the only way they can get some return on their poor investment.


      Randy makes an interesting point about the price effects.

      Alberta is telling us we will have to pay more if we don’t host their pipeline. But given the higher price they can collect with the pipe, we will also pay more if we do. Nice for Alberta but a loss either way for BC

      And that’s before calculating the massive taxpayer costs of spill cleanup and lost jobs in fishing and tourism.

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