On Wednesday, July 11, more than 40 people gathered at the Penticton United Church to view a documentary film, “Directly Affected: Pipeline Under Pressure” and participate in a discussion of the Federal Liberal Government’s purchase of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. The event, a Town Hall Discussion, was organized by First Things First Okanagan and moderated by FTFO president, Jim Beattie. It was one of a number of similar Town Halls across BC that are coordinated by the environmental group 350.org. The film, directed by BC Film maker Zack Embree, was also provided by 350.org. The film documents the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the pipeline. The film is entertaining and informative and is available for rent through Vimeo and other online streaming sites for any who want to watch it. The film has a clear political message; that there is significant and legitimate opposition to the pipeline, particularly from First Nations; and that the Liberal Government’s approval of the pipeline contradicts both Mr. Trudeau’s statements about the pipeline prior to the election and his assertion that Canada will meet its commitment to significantly reduce green house gas emissions under the Paris Agreement on climate change. Some audience members felt that the film unfairly portrayed Rachel Notley, premier of Alberta, as opposed to the transition to a low carbon economy when she has done a lot to promote renewable energy. The fact remains, however, that Alberta’s plan is to expand production from the Tar Sands and the pipeline is part of that expansion plan. As stated in the documentary, if Canada is to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement and if the world is to prevent a temperature increase of less than 2 degrees C., most of the tar sands must remain in the ground.
MP Dick Richard Cannings attended the event and offered some comments about the NDP position on the pipeline and on climate change. The NDP oppose expansion of the pipeline but nationally it is not front and centre. Conservative MP Dan Albas, Liberal MLA Dan Ashton, and various municipal and regional council members were invited to the Town Hall but did not attend. Discussion focussed on what local groups like First Things First or individuals could do to oppose the expansion of the pipeline. The options appear to be to keep up the pressure on the Federal Government through letters to MPs, Cabinet Ministers, and the press and/or to get involved in the civil disobedience actions that are currently focused on the Kinder Morgan Westridge Terminal in Burnaby. One participant in the discussion stated that she had been to Burnaby and been arrested. She was amazed at the diversity of people at the Westridge Terminal opposing the pipeline, everything from Grandmothers, to lawyers; not just a radical fringe.
There was some brief discussion of the potential for local action. Municipal elections are coming up and one audience member declared that she was planning to run and would highlight municipal responsibility for reducing green house gas emissions as well as the many municipal opportunities for addressing climate change. As Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver, stated in the documentary, municipalities are ground zero for action to address climate change. Perhaps the ultimate message is that addressing climate change begins at home.