North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring speaks to municipal convention: 'We’re not here to talk about social policy

Oil protest a slippery slope for cities

Mayors and councillors grandstand on Kinder Morgan pipeline without authority, knowledge or even common sense

VICTORIA – Every year when B.C.’s municipal politicians get together to preach to the provincial cabinet, there comes a point in the maze of resolutions where things go sideways.

Last year it was a misinformed, impossible demand to ban all traces of genetic engineering. Before that they thumbed their mobile phones and denounced wireless power meters. Both votes passed by narrow margins in a half-empty chamber, with many delegates focused on the serious community issues they are elected to address.

This year it was a charge led by Burnaby to denounce the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion. And this time it was defeated.

Credit for this sudden attack of common sense goes largely to North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring. Here’s part of his address to the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are elected to handle things like roads and water and sewer and land use, police, fire, garbage. We’re not here to talk about social policy, child poverty or heaven forbid, pipelines.

“Those kinds of things dilute our credibility as an organization. We’re becoming a social policy activist group rather than a group of municipal politicians.

“Half of this resolutions book is stuff that’s outside of our purview…. If you want to do social policy, get your butt elected to the provincial legislature.”

Burnaby, New Westminster, Victoria and Vancouver were undeterred. In tax-rich urban centres one can make a living at local politics. And grandstanding works.

Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow rattled off a jumbled history of refineries in his region, noting that the sole surviving Chevron plant is bringing in crude by trucks and trains because the 60-year-old pipeline is over-subscribed. He didn’t explain how stopping a pipeline upgrade would keep it open, or improve oil safety.

Volkow repeated the protester myth that a new pipeline would introduce diluted bitumen to the coast. Trans Mountain started shipping dilbit in the late 1980s.

Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar and others from along the Interior pipeline route pointed out another flaw. If southern cities want to wander outside their mandate to make this gesture, why target only this pipeline and ignore rail lines and highways that cross the same rivers and streams?

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan boasted that after his first court challenge to the National Energy Board was tossed out, his high-priced eco-lawyer found a constitutional angle. Cha-ching!

Meanwhile, professional protesters bike-lock their necks to the fence at Burnaby’s Westridge oil terminal, and a radical Simon Fraser University professor revives his Occupy Vancouver team to step up the ground war if courts falter.

The comedy of all this was illustrated by Coun. Robin Cherbo from Nelson, who assured delegates he uses synthetic oil in his vehicle. Is that derived from organic sunflowers? And what significance does that gesture have compared with the gasoline and jet fuel that carried 1,200 delegates to Whistler?

Cherbo assumes that Ottawa can simply direct Alberta’s oil industry to start refining all the heavy oil there. Half a century into this industrial mega-project, this stuff should just be banned from pipelines. Peace, man.

This is why election-time posturing by local politicians is a slippery slope. Not only do they lack authority, they and their staff lack the required expertise and information.

The Trans Mountain pipeline starts in Alberta and branches into the U.S. It is by definition federal jurisdiction. NEB hearings on its expansion continue, with expert input, especially on shipping risks, from the B.C. government, Green MLA Andrew Weaver and others.

Municipal politicians should pipe down and defend their own performance.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RDN budget includes unexpected $1.5 million for sewer pipe replacement

Pipe corrosion at Departure Bay discovered in December

Beefs & Bouquets, Feb. 20

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Nanaimo loses longtime soccer supporter

Leo Beier had an impact on hundreds of athletes during a decades-long devotion to soccer

‘Stretched’ art show returns to Gabriola Island

Artists challenged to create works on six-by-36-inch long canvases

Snuneymuxw flag once again flying atop Nanaimo City Hall

Ceremony held Thursday to return flag after it was taken down in 2017

Snuneymuxw flag once again flying atop Nanaimo City Hall

Ceremony held Thursday to return flag after it was taken down in 2017

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

Resident discovers five discarded hog heads in Vancouver Island ditch

WARNING: Graphic image may be upsetting to some readers

Malware infiltration slows production at Island pulp mills

Infestation affecting Crofton, Alberni, Powell River Paper Excellence operations

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

Most Read