Summer of discontent: Mega-project protests loom across B.C. Print
Earth News
Written by Joan Russow
Friday, 24 July 2015 11:56

Major resource development schemes, from pipelines to the Site C dam, have many people ready to stand up and be counted



Summer of discontent: Mega-project protests loom across B.C.

Amid protests trying to stop work by Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain last fall, dozens of people were arrested.


A number of major resource development projects in the works in B.C. are facing near-unprecedented levels of opposition from groups vowing the projects will never get off the ground.

Mega-project pipelines and LNG plants are touted to bring windfalls of jobs and riches to the province, but they have also triggered disobedience and dissent.

“The number of big projects with big fights at the same time is something new,” said Ben West, executive director of Tanker Free B.C. “There have been multiple forestry projects at the same time with campaigns against them ... but people mobilizing at this level on so many things simultaneously is new.”

Facing a gauntlet of determined residents, environmental groups and First Nations are: Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, the Site C hydroelectric dam, Woodfibre LNG and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project — the opposition to which is rivalled only by the legendary Clayoquot Sound protests in the 1990s, said West.

Public concern is spurred in part by the push for LNG, a new fossil fuel industry in the province, and the driest summer in recent memory in B.C., which was saddled with a dismal ski season last winter and ferocious wildfires and water shortages this year.

“Climate change is here and now,” said Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director of Sierra Club B.C. “The B.C. economy, jobs and ecosystem are already feeling the impact.”

For now, the battles between the proposed projects and their critics are being played out in court.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is fighting the battle on many fronts. The advocacy group opposes Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, and Site C.

There are so many legal challenges against those three projects, it’s hard to keep track, Phillip said. At last count, he noted, there were 18 against Enbridge, seven against Kinder Morgan, and six for Site C.

Phillip said the UBCIC is “fully committed” to the battle against Site C.

“If push comes to shove, there will be an on-the-ground strategy,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose the Peace.”

Many others have indicated they are not afraid to take a stand for their beliefs. Dozens of people trying to stop work by Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain were arrested last fall, including Phillip. Mayor Derek Corrigan of Burnaby said he’s prepared to get arrested over the issue.


Earlier this month, violence marred a Site C public meeting when a man said to be wearing a Guy Fawkes mask was shot and killed by police outside the information session in Dawson Creek. In the aftermath, B.C. Hydro postponed a series of job fairs in northern B.C., citing safety concerns.

Jon Garson of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce said there has always been opposition to resource-based development projects in B.C., but the fact that many projects are going on simultaneously in a “condensed time frame” makes it seem as if there is more opposition.

The level of major infrastructure projects in B.C. is the highest it has ever been, he said, and that’s a good thing because B.C. is still a resource-based economy and the benefits of resource projects are felt not just in the industrial heartlands but also in Metro Vancouver.

Garson said projects go through rigorous assessment processes. At some point, he said, people have to trust the system.

“The public needs to have some faith that these processes are done in a largely independent way, meant to assess public and environmental interests,” he said. “That’s often missed.”

But the public remains wary, and many ordinary citizens — from Howe Sound and Burnaby residents to ranchers in the Peace Valley — are being prompted to activism.

For some, the issue has evolved beyond climate change and the environment

“There’s a growing frustration,” said West. “People are getting involved who may not be concerned about climate change or the projects themselves, but really just don’t like the erosion of democracy and the muzzling of scientists that have gone along with these projects.”

He believes the upcoming federal election and the court cases will help decide the fate of many of the controversial projects.

“My guess is we see court battles before we see the big Clayoquot Sound-type standoff,” he said. “There are a whole lot of court decisions happening that have a lot of implications.”

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Friday, 24 July 2015 11:59