Gord Johns got heated last week and delivered an impassioned verbal shellacking to Canada’s federal government.
During the House of Commons’ Dec. 1 question period, the NDP Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni lambasted Justin Trudeau’s Liberals for approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion on Nov. 29 without going through the new environmental assessment process Trudeau had promised during 2015’s federal election campaign.
“The Prime Minister says he’s a grandson of British Columbia, so maybe he can understand our economy is tied to our ocean. Our culture is rooted to the sea. The health of the Coast is the health of our environment and is the health of our communities,” said a visibly emotional Johns.
“After promising to put the Kinder Morgan Pipeline through a new assessment process, why is this government now putting at risk everything we hold so dear. Why are they betraying Vancouver Islanders?”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources Kim Rudd responded the “NDP should stand with Canadians trying to get back to work” by supporting the expansion.
“These projects will create thousands of good-paying middle-class jobs,” she said. “There isn’t a country in the world that would find 200 billion barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there are markets for it. Our decisions on major projects reflect a balanced approach that will create prosperity while we seek protecting the environment we cherish.”
After the House session, John’s told the Westerly the anger he displayed is shared by his constituents.
“It is a heated issue and it is an emotional issue for people in our Coastal communities,” he said.
“We’ve got a responsibility to our ancestors, to our children and to the future to defend and protect our delicate ecosystems…It’s easy to be passionate when I think about the people from home and the work that’s been put into protecting what we have so we can enjoy it today.”
He said West Coasters fought hard to save their surroundings from being logged during 1993’s Clayoquot Summer protests and their fight led to an economic boom that linked the environment with the economy.
“We were told we had to log 90 per cent of Meares Island and log the majority of Clayoquot Sound for jobs,” he said. “Had we done that, we would not see the economy that we have today. Instead, we’ve got a tourism industry that accounts for over $100 million in terms of GDP for the region.”
He hopes to see West Coasters defend their environment again and fight for their marine economy.
“What we’ve learned from lessons past is that when large corporations try to navigate through processes that don’t achieve social license, people rise up,” he said.
“In 1993, we learned what can happen when government underestimates the will of coastal British Columbians without achieving social license and the government might be reminded in Ottawa about what happens when you don’t achieve social license and you approve projects that might impact the ecosystems, marine economy and the way of life for coastal British Columbians.”
Johns urges any locals disappointed by Trudeau’s announcement to make themselves heard.
“We can’t take these decisions lightly and they require a process people can trust. The Prime Minster promised to deliver that process; he never did. He failed to do that and he betrayed British Columbians,” he said.
“It’s our duty to make sure that [Trudeau] understands that we are deeply disappointed…I think it’s important that Ottawa starts to listen to British Columbians and a decision like this shows how disconnected they are.”