True Patriot Love: Why the Kinder Morgan pipeline will never be built

Photo: Damian Manda / Flickr CC License

[quote]The Trans Mountain pipeline [Kinder Morgan] expansion project will never see the light of day.

-Grand Chief Philip Stewart, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs[/quote]

If you live anywhere in Canada other than British Columbia, you’re probably convinced that the Kinder Morgan (Trans Mountain) pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, BC will be built, since no less than Prime Minister Trudeau says so. Well, you may get a shock with this candid advice but you’d best accept the fact that this pipeline will never, ever be built, period.

Many much wiser and more powerful British Columbians than I will tell you the same in even stronger terms.

In light of the domination of the mainstream media by the oil industry, with dedicated lackeys running our governments, you may not have heard the British Columbia side of this story. Here it is.

Might my story not be biased? Of course that conclusion’s an option since there is no more loyal British Columbian than I, but remember that we who will fight Kinder Morgan have only one interest: the beautiful land and water we hold in trust for those as yet unborn. We have no Tar Sands to flog, no political payoffs owed, no juicy House of Commons seats to covet, no faraway investors to enrich, no personal ambitions to fulfill, no face saving to be done – all that’s at stake for us is the salvation and preservation of our home.

Energy expert quit “fraudulent” review

Let’s start with the proposition that the product of the tar sands in Alberta is viciously poisonous, whether spilt on land, in the ocean, or put into the atmosphere. To talk of “world class cleanup” methods for bitumen (dilbit) is a cruel oxymoron. To pretend that massive accidents – carefully called “incidents” – are minor risks insults the intelligence.

Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen at National Energy Board hearing before withdrawing

The pious suggestion by government and industry that the undertaking underwent a “rigorous scientific investigation” is pure bullshit! It underwent (if that’s the word), a disgraceful National Energy Board hearing, the process Trudeau ran against in 2015 and, for fairness, was on a par with Soviet Union show trials. A process so egregiously biased that Marc Eliesen (former CEO of B.C. Hydro, former chair of Ontario Hydro, former chair of Manitoba Hydro, deputy minister in seven different federal and provincial governments, with 40 years’ executive experience in the energy sector, including as a board member at Suncor) withdrew as an intervenor, calling the proceedings “fraudulent”. So much for the “rigorous scientific examination” that Prime Minister Trudeau and Kinder Morgan tell British Columbians to rely upon for the security of Burrard Inlet, Vancouver Harbour, the Salish Sea, the Gulf Islands, the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the rest of our pristine coast.

Trudeau breaks promise to the world

Justin Trudeau has made big promises on the world stage (Flickr / World Economic Forum)

Let’s also remember that Prime Minister Trudeau made himself an international hero of the environment by stating clearly, beyond a doubt, at the Paris conference in November 2015, that fossil fuels must be phased out and that Canada was back in the game and raring to go. The principal concern was and remains climate change, he noted, and Canada would enthusiastically resist putting more fossil fuels into the atmosphere – in fact would both reduce them substantially and help other countries do the same.

Not unnaturally, people in British Columbia, concerned about their own environment as well as that of the world in general, were relieved at this unwonted leadership. The newly elected Prime Minister was seen in a new light as a forthright, dedicated environmentalist and not the weak dissembler we originally took him for. Sometimes, alas here, one is right the first time.

What pipeline boosters don’t get

A BC sockeye salmon spawning (Stan Probocsz/Watershed Watch)

Our main environmental concern – and it is huge – involves our rivers and oceans, over which we have control. Of particular interest but of no apparent concern to Trudeau and other Canadians, are the creatures that live in those waters.

This special and growing concern isn’t, for us, some abstract “Free Willy” reverie but a critically important reality that has never been understood by the federal Liberal party, as evidenced by their ongoing ill-treatment of the Pacific fishery from Confederation until today, when, in addition to the usual neglect, the Pacific salmon is being diseased and killed by federally-sponsored and approved, foreign-owned Atlantic salmon fish farms.

Our 5 commercial species of salmon are extremely important as a basic food for First Nations, as well as critical to their economy and to other important commercial and sports fisheries. Most Canadians to our east don’t seem to understand how strongly we feel about these issues nor have any appreciation of our values.

The Federal government, in Wilde’s words, “knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. To British Columbians, the sacred symbol of our province is the Pacific Salmon, all 7 discrete varieties.

Respect for First Nations

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (Image: Damien Gillis)

This leads us to First Nations, both in terms of individual tribes and united peoples, not only in British Columbia but right across the country. I have don’t know how other Canadians feel on this issue, however, there’s solidarity of the general British Columbia community behind First Nations, who’ve been leaders in environmental protection for far longer than most of us care to admit.

Stewart Philip, Grand Chief of the British Columbia Union of Indian Chiefs, is very highly regarded, not just as an Indigenous leader, but as a general community leader as well. He is hardly alone as he shares this respect with numerous aboriginal leaders of both sexes. If that basic reality is not understood, the BC position can’t be understood either.

Are British Columbians bad Canadians?

British Columbians are being painted as “bad Canadians”. As a lifelong (85 years) British Columbian, I tell you that BC is different, even though most outsiders prefer to see it as part of “the West” – shorthand that does no service to other western provinces any more than it does to BC.

British Columbia is unique geographically, historically, demographically, in terms of resources – with a very strong sense of that uniqueness and the set of values it produces. Not that we haven’t had some very careless times when it seemed that there was always another valley to log and river to destroy.

In 1993, the forces for change coalesced at Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, remembered by esteemed journalist, Stephen Hume:

[quote]People came from all over the country and beyond. Teachers, artists, musicians, university students and their professors, working folk, soccer moms, dentists, doctors and First Nations elders descended on the West Coast to put a stop to clearcutting by blockading a road. What followed was the largest mass arrest for civil disobedience in the province’s history.[/quote]

There was no turning back. Was it a collective, troubled conscience that just required some youthful idealism and energy? Whatever it was, it took hold deeply and quickly.  Suddenly it wasn’t “tree-huggers” who were the unfashionable outsiders, it was the people calling them “tree huggers” – the elite suddenly, badly reduced in numbers and importance.

The genie was well and truly out of the bottle. No one believed industry leaders and supportive politicians anymore and just a moment’s reflection made it clear that based on their track record, they weren’t entitled to credibility. Things the long haired pot smokers had predicted had come true. Perhaps the very late realization that solemn, science-backed assurances that smoke from burnt coal “just went up there” was not just bullshit, but deliberate bullshit; the black crud London was removing from the Houses of Parliament had caked their lungs; and all those doctors smoking Camels were trying to quit.

In any event, fewer and fewer British Columbians believe what Trudeau, his National Energy Board, raw, uncaring political hacks such as Ministers of Environment or anyone connected with Kinder Morgan, the tanker companies who serve them or trained, clapping seals at Chambers of Commerce have to say. Time after time, they had been proven wrong, over and over the public saw that safety measures had to be compelled and that truths that diminished profits were hidden. Clearly, profits trumped all.

We’re not going anywhere

Rachel Notley (Photo: Flickr / Premier of Alberta CC License)

Hence, there’s no way British Columbia will obey Trudeau except by actual force and if that’s applied, the damage done to national unity will be irreparable. We’re told that Trudeau and Premier Notley of Alberta have the law on their side. I wish those who think that would pour themselves a glass of relaxant and think about it awhile.

It’s an exhausting subject, but ask yourself if the top court in the nation will put monetary profits from the world’s worst polluter in one province ahead of the natural and clean resources of a neighbour, causing enormous harm to both that neighbour and to others while at the same time further ruining the badly polluted global atmosphere Trudeau promised to make better? In the name of God, is that the essence of this country that dares preach to us about principles? Profit, however destructive, trumps all!

A whole new ballgame

Has the hubris of self-serving hymns of praise so dulled the national brain that no one has noticed an army of First Nations going to the Court of Appeal, thence to the Supreme Court? Have our “betters” not yet noticed that since the Calder case, then the 1982 Constitution, the entrenching of aboriginal rights and that aboriginal rights are, in the vernacular, “a whole new ballgame”, as summed up thusly by the Canadian Encyclopedia?

[quote]Aboriginal rights, like treaty rights, are recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that this provision protects a spectrum of different kinds of rights, including legal recognition of customary practices such as marriage and adoption, the site-specific exercise of food harvesting and other rights that don’t involve claims to the land itself, and assertions of an Aboriginal title to traditional lands.[/quote]

At this writing, there are at least a dozen discrete First Nations challenging Kinder Morgan, each of which will presumably go to the Court of Appeal thence to the SCC. There seems little likelihood many, if any, have sufficient in common to be united for trial. Given that none of the First Nations have a sense of urgency, how long do you think these cases will take? How long will Kinder Morgan have to be promising investors “soon”?

Only then will the workers on the pipeline finally be able to trot out their first front-end loader to be met by repetitive Civil Disobedience by ordinary folks, with associated court actions sending our friends and neighbours to jail for contempt of court, as happened in Burnaby in 2014. For what little it might matter, every ounce of my aged being, including freedom, will be with the protesters in the fight for justice for all British Columbians.

Defiant indeed

I recognize that many will take what I have written as defiant threatening. It is defiant because, I believe, that word accurately sums up the attitude of me and my neighbours. It’s not written to threaten but to lay before you my judgment of what will happen if matters continue as they are and beg you to understand us if you can’t lend us your support.

This evil project has, most unhelpfully, sharpened the divisions in Canada – but one can hardly blame British Columbians for that when their sole purpose has been not to make money, not to visit harm on anyone or anything, but simply to support the highest scientific and moral principles as we protect ourselves and the world’s atmosphere. I have much difficulty seeing how such defensive conduct could ever be seen as bad Canadianism.

A revitalized How Sound is once again at risk (Photo: Future of Howe Sound Society)

Who of you, living as I do on Howe Sound, would sacrifice the killer whales, humpback whales, seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, abalone, salmon runs, herring runs and other sea life and bird life that thrive there in order that elements of certain destruction would cause serious harm to them, to say nothing of human beings, whilst being transferred elsewhere to do harm to everyone?

I should tell you that we speak from graphic experience. We once lost a good deal of all this due to industrial pollution but after the mill shut down in Squamish and Britannia Mine closed in 1974, people of the area and the government thoroughly cleaned up Howe Sound and it came back to life. If the people didn’t deeply care for these values, however esoteric they may appear to others, they would scarcely have gone to all that trouble and spent all that money, much of it private, to clean up Canada’s southernmost fjord, nor be so prepared to fight hard to see that it stays that way.

No longer Left v. Right

The environment is no longer a left v. right political proposition in British Columbia but a mainstream issue of vital importance to everyone. People have all learned that when industry or government talks of safety and respect for the environment, the truth is not in them and that citizens and they alone must protect it.

It has not been my purpose, by being frank with you, to make you angry or get your backs up – I simply want the rest of Canada to know that our basic values are being challenged by Kinder Morgan, the province of Alberta, and the Government of Canada and that doing so is not a good idea. Since this entire coast, right to the Alaska Panhandle, is under threat and it is the Canadian West Coast, it puzzles most British Columbians why Canadians generally do not want to protect it just as we do, if not as strongly.

If, as it appears, they do not wish to do this, I must tell them frankly that we who live here will do it for them, irrespective of who wants to spoil it. Yes, we respect the rights of Alberta, but we must accept what wise people know will be certain and serious damage to the natural beauty and resources that we intend to protect, not only on our own behalf but for the entire country.

One cannot serve the God Mammon by sacrificing one’s common heritage on his altar and still retain one’s soul. And isn’t this very wise question posed so very long ago even more appropriate than ever?  “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”

And if that answer doesn’t suit those who would make money with someone else running all the risks – not risks but certain calamities – how about this?

Don’t go away mad – just go away.


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

31 thoughts on “True Patriot Love: Why the Kinder Morgan pipeline will never be built

  1. Sorry to hear of the passing of Rafe, I agree with all he had to say in this article, proud to be a British Columbian.

  2. Overall, this is a good article, but it seems to assume that only those in BC are strongly opposed to this pipeline. Many people outside of BC do, in fact, care about its water, fish, and the rights of its First Nations – as well as the atmosphere we all share. To imply that most people outside of BC are in favour of this monstrocity is quite unfair and simply untrue.

    1. Fair point, Mark. I think Rafe’s comments about people outside of BC are really directed at LEADERS of provinces like Alberta and our federal government, as opposed to Albertans or Canadians in general.

  3. Before anyone goes spouting about how and when and where they will protest, remember this: when the “green defenders of the environment” finally left Clayoquot Sound, the media conveniently left out reporting the mess left behind by those same protesters, including spent diapers, plastic water bottles, defecate left all over and so on. This is a free country and as citizens we have the privilege of voicing our opinions, this does not give carte blanche to also be an offender of a different sort – and no, ends such as that can never justify the means. The media and the rest of the world may not be so sympathetic next time.
    As for saying no to the pipeline (I am being the Devil’s Advocate here), do not also protest when petroleum supplies cease to flow into B.C., along with the repercussions that follow.

    1. People should always clean up after themselves, Alain. Thank you for the reminder. “Give a hoot – Don’t Pollute!” And don’t destroy what’s left of the Earth’s rivers, oceans and atmosphere either.

      Glad we had this conversation. Good points raised on both sides.

    2. Hey alain, I would think it’s unlikely there was any mess left at the Clayoquot protest. It’s very unusual for environmentalists to do that.
      As for you and others threatening to cut off BC’s oil, I would suggest it would fairly easy to buy oil elsewhere.
      If you want to start a trade war with BC, you will loose. We can boycott alberta goods, and I’m sure we could get support around North America.

    3. Tell ya what alain, just go down to the oilman’s club in calgary, and just ask anyone there, how much oil and gas they sell to BC every year, and then ask them if they really would give up the BC market,,, I’m guessing not.

  4. Excellent article and I will be there to get arrested if it comes to it. However, I have a concern with a poll reported on this week we the makeup of our next BC Government. This poll stated that something like 70% of respondents are in favour of both Site C and Kinder Morgan. I found it hard to believe but it worries me that most of the public don’t feel the same way. Anybody got any comments on this ?

    1. Yes, I would think it’s a phony poll. You can make a poll say anything, it’s just the questions, you ask, and who you ask

  5. Shows us how well our present 1st past the post election system serves those who buy our governments.
    Guess they told Justin and Christy to hang on to power all all costs…

  6. Well said, Rafe. But why is the tank farm issue in Burnaby so often overlooked by writers? That huge issue, when properly understood by people, should be enough on its own to stop the pipeline expansion. The lives of thousands in the area are at high risk from fire and toxic fumes. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, there is no twinning in Burnaby. This will likely be ground zero for the pipeline mprotest when invasive construction begins in September.

  7. I’ve a ton of respect for Rafe Mair and would like to hear his thoughts on the comment made by Merve Richie. ( China having the right to protect it’s interest with military if needed.)
    I also believe that Canadians have to start making major changes to our buying habits.
    For example: We buy cheap, plastic goods from places like China because we think it saves us money. Another example: We drive gas guzzling cars and don’t make the switch to electric.
    Our family switched to an electric car and absolutely love it. The government is giving people $12,000.00 if you buy one. We need to be the change that we want to see.

  8. Why is the tank farm issue in Burnaby so often overlooked by writers? That huge issue, when properly understood by rational people, should be enough on its own to stop the pipeline expansion. The lives of thousands in the area are at high risk. Furthermore, there is no twinning in Burnaby. This will be ground zero for the protest in September.

  9. Excellent article thank you.
    I hope everyone is prepared to go to jail against this pipe dream.
    PMJT has been such a neoliberal globalist disappointment.

  10. I feel like such a hypocrite not wanting the Trans Mountain expansion when I, like so many others in the lower mainland use and will need the product flowing in the line currently and in the future. Our demand for hydrocarbons has steadily increased over the past decades and although the demand has waned it is scheduled to increase in the next 5 years before it plateaus. So where do we get if from if not Alberta? Are we really saying we want to import our oil from Venezuela, Saudi Arabia or Nigeria? If we aren’t prepared to make severe and drastic lifestyle changes in the next 2 years (impossible most would say), we might want to reassess the relationship between our money and our mouths.

    1. James, we do need to keep reducing our own demand for fossil fuels – through things like energy conservation and investing in public transit instead of car-driven highways and bridges. But this column is not arguing for scrapping the Trans-Mountain pipeline altogether – rather blocking its expansion from 300,000 barrels/day to a million. ALL – every single drop – of that expanded capacity is for export. We have plenty of capacity as it is to serve our local needs. The question at has is whether we want to roll out a doormat across BC’s wild rivers, invaluable waterfront communities and salmon runs to enable to further growth and expansion of the Alberta bitumen sands through export to China. Do we want to be Super, Natural BC and the “greenest city” in Vancouver – home to a thriving tourism economy – or Port McMurray?

  11. this is a bunch of BS. BC pipelines oil to the coast just fine but forgets what it means to be Canadian.

  12. Beautifully said, Rafe Mair! Thank you so much for writing this. I hope it changes some minds.

  13. Asa member of a British Columbia first nations …. I commend You for Your telling it like it is ! I am with you 100% . I can not say that about My own band though … The council has accepted the beads and trinkets offered by Kinder Morgan to silence the outrage ! I have a voice , I will use it !

  14. KM’s pipeline is a stupid idea to start with, because there is no world-class equipment to clean-up a toxic, tar sands spill. This stupid idea is an insult to the intelligence of the British Columbian people. USD Partners has started railroading the tar sands, without diluent, from Hardisty to Stroud, Oklahoma, which is a short hop to the Cushing pipeline hub. 70,000 barrel can be transported each day. The tar sands can be piped from Cushing to the Gulf Coast. There is no need for Kinder Morgan’s pipeline. Let’s keep beautiful British Columbia.

  15. Yet you and almost all others fail to bring up the FIPA agreement, which stipulates if Canada does not provide the protection for China to get its bitumen to their VLCC tankers China has the full legal authority to bring their own military personnel and military hardware (“weapons of war”) onto Canadian soil to “protect their investment”.

    Further to this, also not brought up, is Trudeau application to be included in China’s foreign infrastructure lending program, which will provide the funding for Trudeau new privately funded “Infrustructure Bank” hence the “handshake” we approve KM and China approves funding.

    Yes, British Columbians must stand firm yet being part of this union (Canada) as it stands might need to be reexamine very seriously. And with all the truest unceded indigenous territories we actually have a starting point.

    The BCUIC however are all “Indian act chiefs” not real authoritative indigenous land stewards like the true Matriarchs and Hereditary Chiefs selected by those Matriarchs. Tough decisions ahead if the full chapters of FIPA are implemented.

  16. As a matter of course, we must also address the elephant in the room — the actively avoided admission of fact during the NEB review of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project (TMX), and skipped over during the Trudeau Liberal government’s appointed dog-and-pony-show, known as the Ministerial Panel for the TMX — the fact that spilled, weathered diluted bitumen (dilbit), essentially congealed tar, largely cannot be cleaned up whatsoever, short of mechanical removal, i.e. by means of direct dredging and/or diver-operated vacuum equipment. This fact was aptly demonstrated during the 2010 Kalamazoo River – Enbridge Line 6B dilbit pipeline spill, which entailed over $1.2 billion USD, and four years of continual cleanup operations. The latter encompassed only 60 kilometres of riverbed, shoreline, and wetlands, whereas the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill impacted over 2,000 kilometres of Alaskan coastline. Do the math.

    In the case of the Exxon Valdez, the spilled crude oil still remains in considerable quantities, buried along shorelines just inches below grade, continually toxifying the local ecology, over 27 years later. And it hardly even compares to tarlike congealed bitumen.

    We ourselves in B.C. thereby would be held hostage by Alberta to an impending catastrophic event which would destroy our province’s collectively valued coastal ecology, culture, and ways of life, for decades or likely much longer — or for about as long as deposited congealed asphalt-tar can remain intact upon our marine oceanbeds and exposed shorelines.

    This is on top of the fact that the tarsands heavy oil industries are toast at current market prices — with the expected volume and duration of cheap, world price-setting U.S. shale oil exports and OPEC’s fight for dwindling market share, we can expect these price levels to last indefinitely.

    That pipeline isn’t happening.

  17. I really don’t want to go to jail for blocking Trudeau’s customers but Justin can go straight to Hell.

    Justin , can you get your friends to hire some cruise ships to accommodate us while we await trial?

  18. Well said indeed, Mr. Mair. Thank you for setting out the true facts. Now, let’s all work to stop this pipeline once and for all. [And the Woodfibre LNG too.]

  19. Excellent article, as I would surely expect from Rafe Mair. Thank you so much. And thanks to you, Kim Poirer, for posting it.

  20. Thank you, Rafe. This is so well written and so true. It sums it up.
    There is a line in O Canada that we sing about Canada being “glorious and free.” That’s how I see the British Columbia and the West Coast and we need to keep it that way.

    Sandra Friedman, Sechelt, BC.

  21. Brilliantly expressed just how I feel. One tiny correction, Clayoquot is on the west coast of Vancouver ISLAND. Not to nitpick on an excellent piece.

    Thanks Rafe, for all you do.

    1. Hi Kim, a Trudesu/Notley sneak gremlin changed “West Coast of Vancouver Island” to “west Coat of Vancouver” OR, of course, I may have committed a typo and readers know how unlikly THAT would be,so let’s stick eith the sneak gremlin version, shall we?

      (Mr Gillis, FIX that damned typo it’s almost certainly your fault, Dummy!)

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