By: Srijani Datta, Assistant News Editor
On May 8, SFU’s student-run environmental activism group, ChangeSFU, organized a casserole rally at the constituency office of Terry Beech — the MP for Burnaby North-Seymour — to demonstrate opposition to a Kinder Morgan bailout. The post on their Facebook page read, “Come with your signs, pots and pans and we’ll make sure they hear us from Ottawa!”
The latest development in the Kinder Morgan pipeline issue is the attempt of the Trudeau-led Liberals to bailout the company with $10 billion of taxpayer money. The amount, when broken down, would cost each taxpayer approximately $405. In early April 2018, Kinder Morgan halted all “non-essential construction and related spending” in BC due to increasing opposition against the project. If the situation does not improve by May 31, talks of completely stopping all work in BC have begun. The purpose of ChangeSFU’s rally was to demonstrate opposition in response to the federal government’s announcement to provide financial security to Kinder Morgan.
Maitland Waddell and Aaron Siebenga, both undergraduate students at SFU and the key organizers of the rally as members of ChangeSFU, discussed the popular concerns, sentiments, and goals behind the protest via an email interview with The Peak.
Waddell wrote to The Peak, “The aim behind the event was to make it clear to Liberal MPs that there will be real political consequences to the Liberal’s decision to spend massive amounts of taxpayer money on a pipeline that runs roughshod over Canadian Indigenous rights, the democratic process, and the spirit of the Paris agreement. [. . .] We hoped to communicate the message — loud and clear — that if the Liberals decide to move forward with the KM pipeline, Terry Beech will not be winning his next election.”
The protest was strategically hosted outside of Terry Beech’s office. Siebenga explained that the motive was to make Beech hear the discontent of his constituents and hopefully bring it to Ottawa. Referring to the lack of Beech’s responsiveness, Waddell stated, “It was clear to me from the number of horn honks that stopping KM is an incredibly important issue for Burnaby residents, and yet Terry Beech has failed to communicate the magnitude of Burnaby residents’ opposition to Trudeau and his Liberals. “
As Beech was not in his office on the day of the protest, the protesters delivered a petition to his office. When Burnaby Now reached out to him via text Beech responded with, “I’d thank them for attending… And let them know I’m more than willing to meet when I’m not in Ottawa.”
When asked if the goals of the protest were accomplished, Siebenga stated that the short-term goals of getting a good turnout, spreading awareness, and getting media coverage were all met. But, in his opinion, the long-term goal of carrying the voices of the people to Ottawa now rests with Terry Beech.
However, Waddell felt that the goals of the protest were “not quite” achieved yet as the Liberals have decided to move forward with Kinder Morgan. She continued, “We still feel that applying political pressure is a legitimate strategy — if Terry Beech won’t stand up for the values of Burnaby North residents, then we’ll vote someone in who will.”
The protest saw a turnout of 30 to 35 people and significant press coverage by Burnaby NOW, ZeeTV, and BCIT’s student newspaper. According to Siebenga, the protest was attended by a lot of members from BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion) and some from Wilderness Committee. But most of the attendees were concerned residents of Burnaby. Another source of support came through car-honking passersby.
In terms of student participation, the protest was lacking, confirmed Siebenga. He pointed out that, other than him and Waddell, there may have only been one or two other SFU students present. Both organizers stressed the importance of increasing student knowledge about the issue.
Siebenga described SFU as “ground zero for Kinder Morgan.” As both SFU and the Burnaby firefighters have released reports expressing the threat the pipeline poses to the SFU Burnaby campus, Siebenga believes the pipeline is a significant issue for the SFU student community. Maitland also expressed deep concern over Kinder Morgan’s delay in releasing the information required by SFU to design a safety evacuation plan in case of a tank farm explosion. She continued that, “this information won’t be released until after the pipeline has been constructed and the tank farm is operational! It makes you wonder, what kind of information could KM possibly have that would prevent them from allowing SFU to create a safety plan?”
Siebenga believes the probable causes behind the low student turn out could be either because students are “uninformed about the issue, too focused on their studies, or nihilistic regarding their chances of beating the pipeline by themselves.”
For students who belong to the final category, who question their ability to beat the pipeline alone, Siebenga proposes that they can join forces with on-campus organizations that are fighting the issue such as ChangeSFU, SFU350, or Embark. ChangeSFU mentioned that they were planning to organize more events targeting Kinder Morgan in the near future that students could get involved with. Siebenga also mentioned off-campus organizations which could help unite students against the Kinder Morgan project as well, such as BROKE, 350.org, LeadNow, Dogwood, Wilderness Committee, and Council of Canadians.
To help concerned students Siebenga suggested that the easiest and most direct route of involvement would be to call or email their local MP and express their concerns about the pipeline and tank farm. He mentioned that an SFU student could contact Terry Beech even if he is not their MP, as SFU lies in his constituency.
Siebenga reiterated that their aim is to spread awareness and information about the situation, and to get more people engaged about this issue in order to get to the larger goal, “to put as much pressure on the Liberals as possible to hopefully get them to ditch this pipe dream.”