Legislature protest

Gas: the other pipeline showdown

Protesters may smear themselves with faux crude oil, but the LNG boom seems to be their new fashion

VICTORIA – The prospect of piping diluted heavy oil across northern B.C. and loading it in tankers has generated significant genuine protests, as well as bursts of celebrity nonsense, rent-a-stunts and instant online petitions.

Natural gas pipelines and export terminals, on the other hand, are generally accepted by the public. Premier Christy Clark staked her political future on developing liquefied natural gas exports, and pulled off an upset election win that not even Clark expected.

Most of the heat she’s taken on that is focused on her extravagant predictions that LNG will pay off the debt and maybe even get rid of our sales tax.

But as I predicted 18 months ago, there’s a shift in the target of professional protesters to natural gas. A reminder of that awaited me on a morning walk to the B.C. legislature during the last week of the May session.

At the front gate stood a young woman in a bikini top and shorts, her skin smeared with a dark material, presumably to simulate crude oil. She waved to passing traffic, stretching a banner promoting a website for the “Unist’ot’en camp.”

Legislature security intervened to clear the entry walkway before I could ask the protester who was paying her. The fundraising website she was promoting hadn’t been updated since March, but this isn’t the first time this camp has been promoted here.

Chevron’s Burnaby oil refinery was also targeted May 30 by protesters who locked themselves to a gate with bicycle locks and chains. They also cited the Unist’ot’en camp and their aim to stop the Pacific Trails pipeline.

The camp came to my attention last summer, when it was promoted by one of Victoria’s chronic anarchist protesters, a woman who goes by the name Zoe Blunt. Blunt and other southern protesters documented their trip north to support the camp’s stated goal, to stop the Pacific Trails gas pipeline, planned to supply the Chevron-Apache liquefied natural gas terminal near Kitimat.

The camp is on Crown land near Smithers. It was established at the end of a one-lane bridge by two members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. While that community’s elected council maintains a respectful relationship with the B.C. government, the splinter group that backs the camp has confrontation in mind.

The Unist’ot’en website is a jumble of demands and claims that alternates between the Pacific Trails gas pipeline and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal. Like the woman at the legislature, if you want it to be against oil, it’s against oil.

A clearer picture of this situation is provided by a relentless blogger named Greg Renouf, who specializes in investigating protesters across Canada. His blog should be required reading for reporters who are presented with slick banners and posturing protesters.

Renouf follows the money as well as the familiar faces who pop up at protest after protest. In April he reported that the increasingly militant Council of Canadians is supporting the Unist’ot’en camp, along with what he describes as “a host of NGOs, unions, militant anarchists and professional protesters.” They include Harsha Walia, who organized violent protests against the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Meanwhile in the real world, TransCanada Corp. announced last week its subsidiary NovaGas Transmission has signed an agreement with Chevron and Apache for a gas pipeline that will connect to Pacific Trails. It’s one of four gas pipelines TransCanada has in development for what is planned to be the biggest industrial investment in B.C. history.

They can smear it with oil, but gas is the protest industry’s latest target.

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

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Water recovery team stands down search for missing man in Stellako River

Jason Bouchard was in a boat with a friend that overturned in the river May 16

COVID-19: Increased federal funding for off-reserve Indigenous services welcomed news in north

Funding to benefit organizations such as friendship centres during pandemic

COVID-19: PG Community Foundation to disperse community support funds

$197,630 in funding announced by the Prince George Community Foundation

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

PHOTOS: Loved ones reunite at an oasis on closed U.S.-Canada border in Surrey

Officials closed the park in mid-March over coronavirus concerns

B.C.’s labour minister should look at pandemic’s financial carnage amid minimum wage increase

The timing couldn’t be worse for any government decision that drives up costs for business, writes Jock Finlayson

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

DFO allowing at-sea observers again if safe work procedures in place

May 15 fishery notice lays out conditions for allowing at-sea observers onboard amid COVID-19

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

COLUMN: Canada needs to remember rural communities as thoughts turn to pandemic recovery

Small towns often rely on tourism, which has been decimated by COVID-19

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

Most Read