The Tofino-Long Beach chamber of commerce is piping mad at Ottawa.
The same business community that cheered Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his visit to Tofino last summer, is now jeering him after the Liberal government’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project last week.
The chamber was a registered intervenor in the National Energy Board Kinder Morgan review process under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, a process the chamber criticized as flawed for its limited scope, inadequate response plans and failure to recognize local First Nations.
“We were unconvinced during the NEB process and remain unconvinced that either level of government could adequately deal with an oil spill,” said chamber president Jennifer Steven.
“Right now in Bella Bella, industry and provincial and federal government agencies are struggling to cope with a relatively minor oil spill, while the local Heiltsuk First Nation is left with a devastated local marine environment. That’s not an acceptable risk for us to take in the [chamber] board’s opinion.”
Immediately after Trudeau announced his decision to approve the pipeline expansion on Nov. 29, the chamber issued a statement expressing the local business community’s outrage.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Tofino with his family this summer,” Steven said. “He, more than anyone, should know how vulnerable this area would be to an oil spill and how much we stand to lose in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with an economy primarily based on tourism.”
She said the chamber was surprised and disappointed by Trudeau’s decision.
“The Prime Minister, before he was elected, said the National Energy Board process was inadequate and that, if elected, his government would introduce a more inclusive process,” she said. “That’s not what happened.”
She said it was important for the chamber to voice its opposition to the project because of the devastating impacts it could bring to the local economy.
“A spill or tanker accident would devastate our coast and our tourism economy along with it,” she said.
“For us it represents simply too great a risk in terms the increase in tanker traffic coming within 50 kilometres of our beaches and coastline...We’re a tourism community and part of the Chamber’s mandate is the stewardship of Clayoquot Sound.”
The chamber is also raising concern over the West Coast being a blind-spot in the government’s spill response strategies.
“Currently, Tofino and the West Coast of Vancouver Island lie outside the spill response area for the Kinder Morgan pipeline, despite the fact this remote community would be on the front line in the event of a tanker accident,” the chamber said through its statement.