Posted Oct 4
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline was a hot topic at last week’s Union of BC Municipalities’ (UBCM) annual convention in Whistler.
For those unfamiliar with the organization, the UBCM brings together mayors and councillors from all of BC’s towns and cities, as well as the directors of Regional Districts. Over the week, they sit through workshops and network with each other and the many MLAs and ministers on hand. They also vote on policy resolutions, which if passed, are then championed by the UBCM executive at meetings with higher levels of government.
Concerned residents from coastal communities spent the week handing out small black and blue lapel ribbons to municipal delegates. The ribbons were to raise awareness of the impact of oil spills on communities, and more specifically, to raise the profile of two resolutions coming to the floor later in the convention: one calling for a ban on oil tanker traffic on the North Coast (B139) and another opposing the transport of tar sands oil by pipeline across B.C. (B140). The Village of Queen Charlotte sponsored both resolutions.
Enbridge was on hand in Whistler as well, of course, still licking its wounds after the largest oil spill in Midwest U.S. history. Enbridge’s hired PR guy Kevin Brown MC’d the North Central Local Government Association luncheon on Tuesday, and was joined by at least half a dozen Enbridge employees and consultants, including Northern Gateway President John Caruthers, Doug Ford from the Calgary PR firm Communica, Municipal Relations Manager Michelle Perett and Engineering Manager Ray Doering. Also in attendance was Ex-Prince George mayor Colin Kinsley who works for the Enbridge front group the Northern Gateway Alliance. (Rumour has it the Enbridge posse was accompanied by a sizable security detail).
The Enbridge crew held an invite-only reception at the Dub Linh Irish Pub Tuesday night. Inside the pub they plied convention delegates with free drinks, while outside the windows citizens from the Lower Mainland gathered to protest the company’s Northern Gateway proposal.
Back to the resolutions sessions, there was some concern that the resolutions wouldn’t make it to a vote. At past years’ conventions the large number of resolutions (this year saw more than 150) coupled with the agenda’s short resolution sessions meant many were never put to a vote. But this year, delegates voted on a procedural resolution that sped up the voting process and in the end allowed the assembly to consider all resolutions.
Then, there was the question of whether the resolutions would pass if they did make it to the floor. Municipal governments in the North have been bombarded with Enbridge presentations over the past year, but municipal councils have been reticent to make their official views known. The Kitimat council, for example, has chosen to remain neutral on the project until the outcome of the federal review.
Friday morning, the two resolutions related to Enbridge Northern Gateway made it to the floor. Leslie Johnson a councillor with the Village of Queen Charlotte and Carol Kulesha, the Village’s mayor, spoke passionately about the risks Enbridge’s project pose for Haida Gwaii and many other northern B.C. communities. Johnson successfully proposed an amendment to strengthen the resolution’s wording, replacing the word moratorium with “legislated ban” and defining the specific waters of concern.
When the chairperson called the vote on B139, a sea of orange voting cards appeared in support. A cheer rose up as delegates realized the resolution had passed handily. Then another vote on B140. Another sea of orange voting cards. Another cheer.
Led by the tiny village of Queen Charlotte, the Municipal governments of British Columbia have sent a strong, clear message to Enbridge and to all other levels of government that shipping tar sands crude by pipeline and oil tanker is not the future they want for their province.