Oil tanker moves in Burrard Inlet after loading at Kinder Morgan's Westridge Terminal.

Election issue: NDP keeps ‘wiggle room’ on oil pipeline

Dix refusal to fully reject Kinder Morgan twinning keeps doubt alive

Despite repeated questioning on oil exports this election, B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix still won’t explicitly rule out a twinning of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline through B.C.

Dix announced his party’s stance against a “massive expansion of oil tankers” through Vancouver harbour on Earth Day, to much applause from environmentalists who interpreted it as a rock-solid ‘No’ to Kinder Morgan.

But two days later NDP energy critic John Horgan told Black Press the NDP doesn’t reject the pipeline twinning project outright and would wait to see how Kinder Morgan might revise its plan, possibly using a different terminal.

Dix then rejected any other Metro Vancouver terminal, such as Deltaport, which Horgan had suggested the company might propose.

The NDP leader was grilled in both the radio and TV leaders’ debates on the possibility Kinder Morgan might propose bending the new pipeline south from Abbotsford to a terminal in Washington State, avoiding Vancouver.

Both times Dix stuck to his position against Metro Vancouver becoming as an oil superport without issuing a blanket pipeline rejection.

“What I say ‘no, period’ to is transforming the ports of Metro Vancouver into major oil export ports,” Dix said when asked in an interview Wednesday why he doesn’t fully reject the twinning.

“That increase in oil tankers off our coast is not in our economic and environmental interest and I’m against it.”

Dix said Kinder Morgan is free to submit its formal pipeline application and said he has laid out clearer parameters than the B.C. LIberals’ “trust us” stance on new oil pipelines.

Asked if he sees any potential game-changing revision to the pipeline proposal that makes it more attractive by reducing risk or adding benefits, he said no.

On the notion of an alternate terminal, Dix said changing the launch point of tankers a few nautical miles “doesn’t make a significant amount of difference.”

Not everyone is convinced.

“I think they’ve got some wiggle room,” B.C. Green Party leader Jane Sterk. “I think they could argue that if the tankers are going down south of the border, it’s not in B.C. waters.”

Nor does B.C. Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council executive director Tom Sigurdson yet take the NDP’s position as a definitive rejection of the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning.

“For us, we’re moving as though there’s a possibility,” he said, adding representatives for unionized workers remain in talks with pipeline builders on the hope thousands of construction jobs will materialize, even under an NDP government.

“We continue our discussions as though something may happen.”

Husky Energy’s CEO has also predicted “extreme” anti-pipeline rhetoric will subside after the election.

The $5.4-billion pipeline project from Alberta to the Lower Mainland would nearly triple the amount of oil flowing to 890,000 barrels per day and send hundreds more tankers through coastal waters.

The issue resurfaced earlier this week when former B.C. Liberal leader turned NDPer Gordon Wilson endorsed Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals, in part citing the NDP’s position on Kinder Morgan.

Wilson said the NDP sought to woo Green voters while Horgan secretly met with Kinder Morgan to assure the firm an NDP government would still be ready to deal after the election.

While the NDP has consistently opposed Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline plan, Dix had previously said it was premature to take a position until Kinder Morgan tables a formal proposal.

B.C. Liberal energy minister Rich Coleman also called Horgan’s April 23 meeting with Kinder Morgan an attempt at a “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” message to the company that a deal may still be possible.

But Coleman said the NDP’s all-but-total rejection – even before a formal proposal is made – will “scare away investment” and send the message the province is closed to business.

“If it’s ‘no’ at the beginning, why would you bother starting?”

SFU marketing professor Lindsey Meredith said it made perfect sense for the NDP to stake out a position against more oil tanker shipments through Burrard Inlet, given the concentration of concerned voters there.

And he said it likewise makes sense to keep the door open a crack to a different, less contentious terminal because B.C. still needs jobs and oil pipeline revenue.

He said Deltaport or a Washington terminal “may well turn out to be do-able.”

Meredith predicts an NDP victory will spur Kinder Morgan to busily rework the twinning proposal with a different outlet.

Photo above: B.C. Green Party leader Jane Sterk and B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix at CKNW radio debate.Tom Fletcher / Black Press

 

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