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

Langford Fire calm mother and daughter after being trapped in elevator

Three-year-old girl given stuffed animal to calm nerves

Capital Regional District prepares to reopen regional campgrounds

Camping will look different at Island View, Sooke Potholes, Jordan River sites

Victoria traffic stop yields drugs, case full of weapons

Police seize firearms, swords and flares

Colwood hosts pandemic recovery roundtable discussion

Attendees must RSVP for virtual meeting on May 29 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Suspect taken into custody after allegedly attempting to steal a dinghy in Sidney

The incident happened Wednesday morning near Beacon Wharf

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

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

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

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

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read