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Update VI: Victoria

The Ministerial Panel on the Proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion concluded its formal round of scheduled public meetings with four sessions over two days in the city of Victoria on August 22 and 23. The meetings included sessions with First Nations, local government representatives and environmental non-governmental organizations, as well as a Public Town Hall, and attracted more than 500 attendees and 97 presenters. The public session alone drew about 325 people, overwhelming the venue capacity of roughly 250, and many people waited, in some cases for several hours, to gain entrance as others left. Nearly 180 people in that group also indicated a desire to present to the panel, which, after extending its hours, was able to hear from 56.

In total, then, for the Ministerial Panel’s full 44 public meetings — held over 18 full days beginning July 7, in communities including Calgary, Edmonton, Jasper, Kamloops, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Burnaby, Vancouver, North Vancouver and Victoria — 2,461 people attended, 656 addressed the panel, and more than 16,000 logged into the NRCan website to fill out the survey or submit input directly.

As in the Vancouver region, presenters in Victoria told the panel that opposition to the project is widespread and resolute. At the governmental level, councillors from around the Capital Regional District endorsed the position of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who said that the region (which relies upon a $2-billion-a-year tourism industry that supports 22,000 jobs) will see no benefits from the project but faces significant risk in the event of a shipping incident. Environmental and First Nations presenters also pointed to the environmental degradation that would occur even in the absence of a major accident (e.g., from shipping noise and shoreline damage from ship wakes).

Public protest was again well-organized and many presenters —municipal officials, First Nations, ENGOs and members of the public — expressed their objections about the pace, timing and nature of the Ministerial Panel’s meetings and deliberations. Many pointed to what they regard as deficiencies in the NEB process, on which basis it would be impossible for the government to reasonably approve the Trans Mountain expansion. They understood, therefore, that the new government would restart the regulatory review from scratch, and they are worried that the Ministerial Panel is being presented as an alternative, even though its terms of reference do not include correcting the inadequacies of the NEB process. 

As with previous Panel Updates, the selection of issues below is offered as a broad representation of new issues raised, or other issues reinforced, and is not intended as a comprehensive list.

Lack of Input – Presenters from all groups said they felt the proponent and the NEB had not taken their input seriously enough, given that the southern Vancouver Island waterways and region lie outside what the NEB judged to be the formal impact area of the proposed pipeline.

Tourism – As the political and tourist capital of “Beautiful British Columbia,” Victoria and region is a major centre in the provincial tourism economy, and the attractiveness of the built and natural environments is part of that iconic identity. Again, presenters in all groups stressed that Victoria’s natural assets are too valuable to justify the potential threat of an oil tanker accident. 

Southern Resident Killer Whales – As in Vancouver, presenters noted that both Trans Mountain and the NEB acknowledged that the endangered southern resident killer whale population will suffer further deleterious impacts from increased shipping, regardless of whether there is an accident. Presenters further argued that, under the Species at Risk Act, the proponent was responsible to mitigate this impact, and yet no order or accommodation in that respect has been registered.

Spill Response and Shipping Risks – Far from approving a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic, presenters suggested that the lack of coordination in provincial (and international) spill response should be addressed and that officials should consider reducing the current tanker load in the meantime.

Climate Change – The current impacts of climate change and the federal commitment in Paris to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions were, again, prominent features in presentations from all groups.

First Nations

Sharing the Benefits/Managing the Risk – First Nations presenters said that both the process and the NEB recommendations to date indicate that the Federal Government, the NEB and the proponent have failed to recognize and respect the full nature of Aboriginal Rights and Title, the Douglas Treaty, or the Maa-nulth Treaty rights. One First Nation presenter described the pain of sharing deep knowledge and concern for their territory, only to see no evidence that their efforts or evidence were taken into account. First Nation presenters suggested that they should be involved as partners in development proposals such as this, and that they would be appropriate stewards in setting and monitoring risk-management protocols and participating in spill response planning and deployment. 

Holistic Planning – Echoing a point that has also been made in public meetings, one presenter said it is inappropriate to react to individual projects. As in the cases of Burrard Inlet and English Bay, there was a call for a thorough baseline study of the current condition of the Salish Sea to better protect these waterways from cumulative impacts. There was a further assertion that such an assessment would show that the region has already experienced significant climate change impacts. And again, First Nations asserted their jurisdiction over the Salish Sea in an environmental assessment, protection and monitoring capacity.

Traditional Knowledge – Presenters argued that First Nations traditional knowledge was either regarded as inferior to the proponent’s so-called scientific knowledge or was ignored altogether.

Consultation – First Nations said they felt that the Government of Canada had passed responsibility for consultation to the proponent, and that Kinder Morgan could not fulfil those obligations.

Consultation Capacity – As in other communities, whether First Nation or municipal, there were many complaints about the difficulty and expense of participating in the NEB review, particularly without receiving the necessary financial support to conduct the technical and legal analyses relevant to a project of this complexity.

Scale of Consultation – Added to earlier considerations about whether First Nations consultation should occur, say, at the level of the whole Nation or the hereditary chiefs, or with the Indian Act-imposed Band Council representatives, one presenter suggested that consultation in Douglas Treaty areas must occur at the level of families whose title applied to specific locations where they had traditionally enjoyed harvesting or fishing rights.

With the completion of its scheduled public meetings, the Ministerial Panel will now proceed through the period of review, analysis and writing necessary to produce a report for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr by November 1, 2016.

Since early July, the panel has held 44 public meetings in 11 Alberta and British Columbia communities along the proposed TMX pipeline and marine corridors. Over 2400 Canadians have attended these public meetings, and more than 650 have made presentations to the panel.

The panel continues to welcome further input from Canadians online or by email before September 30, 2016 at https://mpmo.gc.ca/measures/270.

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