Rafe Mair on Bill C-24 finding out you're a second-class citizen

Rafe to Justin: Kinder Morgan pipeline would drive a permanent wedge between BC and Canada

Rafe Mair on Bill C-24 finding out you're a second-class citizen
Former BC Minister and longtime journalist Rafe Mair (photo: Youtube/CMHABC)

Dear Prime Minister,

I’ve reached a point where I can say what I please without concern for personal consequences. My age of ambition is long gone and social disapproval simply doesn’t matter anymore.

That is where I am and intend to speak my piece.

I’m a native British Columbia born in Vancouver a long time ago. I have a lifetime love of my province from one end to the other and I inherited a sense of deep anger when I see unfairness.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna with BC Premier Christy Clark (right) announcing her government's approval of PNWLNG (Province of BC/Flickr)
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna with BC Premier Christy Clark (right) announcing her government’s approval of Petronas’ LNG project near Prince Rupert (Province of BC/Flickr)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve resented that my province has been unfairly treated, a resentment that has increased steadily over the years. We have been badly cheated politically and economically, accompanied by an attitude of arrogance from central Canada, which runs everything, an attitude that I find irritating beyond toleration.

Start with the humiliating fact that BC has but 6 senators while New Brunswick has 10 and PEI 4. This, along with the federal government appointing our senators, who are supposed to hold that very government’s feet to the fire, is outrageous. This and the “First Past The Post” system ensures that all political power rests, unchallengeable, in Central Canada. To see how this is resented in BC, you need only look at the 1992 Charlottetown Accord, designed to make one province juridically superior, opposed, thank God, by your father, and rejected by 67.9% of British Columbians!

Because of the Senate and the First Past The Post system in the House of Commons, Central Canada invariably has the Prime Minister who, given a majority, controls all federal legislation and policy. Please don’t pretend that our lot of Liberal toadies have any power except to say “yes sir”.

Most British Columbians care little about the Governor-General since, under central Canadian arrogant navel gazing, none have ever come from this, the third largest province. The G-G is appointed either to mollify Quebec, Bay Street, or the Central Canada artsy fartsy crowd. The present Governor-General, David Johnston, a Tory Grandee, was, by an amazing coincidence, appointed shortly after he, in the pay of Tory PM Stephen Harper, gave former Tory PM Brian Mulroney a “get out of jail free card”. Lyin’ Brian was pleased, Harper was pleased, Johnston was pleased. You have to say this about Central Canada: they look after each other.

An existing BC salmon farm (Damien Gillis)
A Norwegian-owned BC salmon farm (Damien Gillis)

Under the constitution, provinces control their natural resources – except when it comes to fish. The Pacific salmon has been so mismanaged by Ottawa that one is tempted to suggest it’s deliberate. Going too far? How else can one explain the foreign fish farms, not just permitted in BC, but actively promoted by a DFO prepared to destroy the Pacific salmon by disease, sea lice, and, when they escape, crowding them off their spawning redds?

As a BC minister, I examined the history of federal involvement back to 1871 and the record is appalling. Ask First Nations, who are the past, present, and future victims of this gross mismanagement, how they see your stewardship! 

With respect, prime minister, British Columbia and Canada no longer have the same set of values. A nation can survive and prosper with great diversity. It can have many languages, a plethora of different originating cultures, all races, colours, and creeds – yet so long as there is a common set of basic values, it can form a strong nation. That is the critical point. Once that is gone the nation no longer exists in fact, no matter what the Constitution says.

The basic values of British Columbians and Canada diverge on this central question: Which is more important – our way of life, surroundings, and the environment or the growth of industry, resource extraction, and moneymaking?

It’s not all or nothing – each side will always concede a little bit of the other – but the trouble is that our side is compelled to concede virtually all while yours pays lip service only with pallid environmental rules, never enforced if they ever really get in the way. Our side accepts the need for a robust economy, but not at the cost of destroying a way of life that preserves the enormous natural benefits God gave us.

Recent Vancouver rally against Kinder Morgan (Photo: David Suzuki Foundation/Facebook)
Vancouver rally against Kinder Morgan (Photo: David Suzuki Foundation/Facebook)

We in British Columbia have learned some hard lessons, most important of which is there isn’t always another valley full of trees to chop down. The forestry industry in British Columbia, thanks to the courage of many mostly young men and women over the last 60 years, now is in sight of self perpetuation. That has morphed into an overall attitude which takes into consideration those values in British Columbia we have always coveted but are under serious attack by the industry-at-all-costs movement in Canada, of which, by the Kinder Morgan approval, you are now leader. You, the Prime Minister, are our enemy!

It has perhaps come as a surprise to you as it has come as a very unpleasant surprise to much industry, especially the fossil fuel industry, that we so highly regard our environment, especially, though not exclusively, our mountains, lakes, rivers, trees, farmland, coastline and ocean. You don’t seem to realize that Burrard inlet, Howe Sound, the Salish Sea, the Gulf Islands,  the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the west coast are sacred to Btitish Columbians. Other regions have their own sacred values and we support them in their fight to protect them, with particular regard at this moment for the Site C Dam proposal in the Peace River.

I don’t believe I draw too long a bow when I say that we understand that the French language and culture means means so much to Quebec yet you scoff at us in British Columbia because our natural blessings mean just as much to us. I cannot understand why you and other Canadians are unable to understand just how vehemently we are opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and how far we are prepared to go to defend against it. We wouldn’t for a milli-second tolerate this desecration of what we hold dear by a BC Tar Sands, BC financiers and BC tanker companies – why the devil do you think we feel less resolved because it’s the Alberta Tar Sands, Bay Street and other foreign bankers or offshore tanker companies?

Mr. Trudeau, sir, you have this to answer for. Virtually all the world of science agrees that we must wean ourselves off of the use of fossil fuels. You made an instant international reputation for yourself at the Paris conference in 2015 by taking that very stand. We, in this province, took you seriously. We did not believe that the Tar Sands of Alberta, for example, would ever pose a threat to British Columbia under the clear mandate you delivered.

94 per cent opposition to Woodfibre amongst municipal candidates who answered LNG survey
Rendering of Woodfibre LNG project near Squamish, BC

Now, we find that you didn’t mean what you said. Not only have you approved an LNG plant in Squamish, against the wishes of most British Columbians, now you propose grave consequences on an infinitely grander scale, to revive the Tar Sands and place the entire risk for transporting bitumen to market upon British Columbia. Permit me, sir, to correct myself. It is not risk that we’re dealing with but mathematical certainty.

The only question is how bad the damage will be. We are not being told the truth when industry and governments make it appear as if there is almost no chance of tanker collisions, either with each other or something else. One only has to chart the world statistics, which I happen to do, to know that that is absolutely untrue. Industry and your government make it appear that even if there are spills of bitumen that the cleanup facilities are such that there is nothing to worry about. That’s bullshit, sir, and you know it!

Booms intended to corral a fuel spill near Bella Bella are blown apart by stormy weather (Photo: Tavish Campbell)
Booms intended to corral a fuel spill near Bella Bella are blown apart by stormy weather (Photo: Tavish Campbell)

We can read, we can watch television, we can hear what witnesses have to say. We know about the Enbridge/Kalamazoo spill in 2010 and we know that accident has not been cleaned up to this day and it’s unlikely that it ever will be. We know that in a very short time, bitumen sinks and no longer can be effectively cleaned up. We have also seen examples of the Christy Clark’s speedy “world-class cleanup” procedures at work and can only thank God that the spills were moderate considering the pathetic efforts at cleanup.

I don’t wish to carry on any further with that, Mr. Prime Minister, but I do want you to know, as I’m sure you do, that I scarcely speak for the people of British Columbia. Having said that, I believe that we’ve had enough. More than enough! We believe the right to our environment outweighs any so-called right to move dangerous goods over and through our province.

We say that our right to our environment  outweighs any so-called right to move dangerous goods over and through our province. That, sir, is the essential difference in values that we possess and that you possess.

I believe that this is simply a fair assessment and a warning – not in any way a threat – but I can say that if you force the Kinder Morgan pipeline upon us, as you can with your money and your soldiers, you will create a rift between my province and Canada that will never, ever heal. Of course, I could be wrong on that but, sir, I’m not wrong to observe that would be a dreadful legacy to leave when, as with all of us, you must go. You no doubt believe you understand Canada – take my word for it, sir, I understand my province that I have served at the highest level and love every square millimetre of it.  I have lived in several places and taken my fly rod with me to most others.

Mr. Trudeau, we love this province with all our hearts and souls and we’re not about to let you take it away from us.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

15 thoughts on “Rafe to Justin: Kinder Morgan pipeline would drive a permanent wedge between BC and Canada

  1. Rafe

    I couldn’t agree more. We will never again feel as we have a voice in Canada, or that we can ever trust the government in Ottawa. I almost called it “OUR” government but it felt so wrong. i do believe that this pipeline will never be allowed to be built without war between the citizens of this province and the goons who are sent by Kinder Morgan and the goons who are sent by Ottawa to make us stand aside. Blood will be shed and many wounds will never heal. The war in the woods over Clayoquat Sound will pale by comparison. Just don’t ask British Colombians to compensate KM for the money they spend getting the pipe here to the coast when we stop them short of the water. Fair warning has been given.

  2. Why be nice to Turdeau, he is a nasty man that does not believe in democracy as his broken election promise that the first past the post system would be abolished after 2015.

    Turdeau said it well… “This country Canada, it belongs to us (Quebec)” Western Canada pays the bill and gets Eastern Canadian arrogance in return. Time for the west to form a new country.


  3. I only wish you were right, Rafe, in the values you attribute to British Columbians. I wonder who elected Christy Clark then?

  4. KM will bring civil disobedience and Direct action, unfortunately due to the trained seals we send to Ottawa. It’s time to fill a few valleys with rock, keep the bastards on the other side of the wall. Unfortunately we will have to build a military, we could start by not electing idiots.

  5. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and the Environment did a study of potential sites for an oil port on the west coast from Port Angeles to the Prince Rupert area; of the eleven sites studied, the conclusion was that the Port Moody area was the most risky. i.e. the present Westridge terminal in Burrard Inlet is the last place one should turn into an oil port.
    The report also concludes that any attempt to put an oil port in the Port Moody area should be resisted.
    The study was published as “Potential Pacific Coast Oil Ports: A Comparative Environmental Risk Analysis” by Fisheries and Environment, Canada, 1978. I don’t think the relative risks have changed since then.

  6. Mr Mair,

    Thank you.

    I can only hope that you can be instrumental in organizing the population to oppose and stop Site C, LNG and KM monstrosities.

    I have seen the arrogance of the likes of Irving supported by the Federal government, I have witness to what extent it is willing to go to repress and traumatize its own population into submission (the war measure in 1970s) and now living in Vancouver I see both level of governments willing to destroy my province of adoption for the mighty dollar.

    This Neoliberal agenda must be stopped, we must find a way to have governments that govern for the people. I hope you can point the way.

    Kind regards,


    1. Alain – we must support opposition to KINDER MORGAN by all non violent means at our disposal, very much including civil disobedience and we mustn’t lose heart at any set-backs. Even if Trudeau wins this travesty, there’ll be another and the bastards have to know where we stand, and how strongly we feel. Site C is next.

      If being a good Canadian means supporting the full exploitation of the Alberta Tar (not Oil) Sands and ruining our birthright to get them exported to the enormous profit of crooks in three piece suits, count me out!

      Somehow they can’t understand why we feel so strongly about what God gave us. As my Mom would have said “my dear, they have no soul”

  7. Dear Tongue
    We’ll only get to keep our fish if ‘The Donald’ not only takes over the tar pits and pipeline the glup due south, but takes the open net fish feedlots, as well. The eggs imported from elsewhere and hatched here are infected with a virus against which our wild fish have no protection or resistance.
    Maybe we need to seriously consider SECESSION!

    Vive the Vancouver Island Independence movement!!!

  8. .. I’ve maintained for quite a while, that a Pulitzer awaits the intrepid journo who puts the wild salmon vs farmed salmon jigsaw puzzle together. A federal group including Stephen Harper & Ray Novak, The late saint – Jim Flaherty, Resources Min Joe Oliver, Fisheries Min Keith Ashfield & Gail Shea, Environment Min Peter Kent manipulated legislation to remove impediments to resource extraction and pipeline infrasturcture. The Norwegian owned fish farms seemingly got the rubber stamp.. hard to see the connection unless it was just to speed eradication of the wild salmon, while the anti habitat, water protection removals were taking hold in the interior. Farmed fish of course are under Agriculture Ministry. And sale or export of any diseased fish crosses into yet another Ministry..

    Create a crowd source fund to request all docs under a series of FOI requests as well as fund a serious & honest group of lawyers to initiate a class action suit. Keep in mind the following. Knowing the complete distain Harper & Ray Novak and the rest of those ministerial slugs showed for First Nations, or our Environment.. does one believe he gave a fig for wild fish that were in the way of his petro superpower fable? LNG, Dilbit & other heavy oils, logs or other resource stripping for Asia?

  9. Well done sir! Well done.
    Now if only the mandarins in Ottawa actually cared about little ole’ BC…..
    Unfortunately, as you say, Federal elections are decided long before the polls close in BC and the “big boys” back east know it….
    So expect zero changes to the status quo that has so enriched both the Liberals and the Conservatives for decades.
    Nothing other than civil insurrection and disobedience would bring about one iota of proportional representation to the western provinces or…..we could petition Donald Trump to absorb our tar sands and pipeline it due south to save the coast. Alberta gets to sell it and we save our fish!
    A win win……!

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