Nearly 100 Burnaby residents came out on a rainy Sunday evening to hear Burnaby North candidates speak about the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project, among other things.
Kinder Morgan wants to twin the Trans Mountain line, which runs oil – as well as diluted bitumen – from Alberta to the West Coast and a terminal in Burnaby.
The all-candidates meeting was put on by the Capitol Hill Community Hall Association, the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians and BROKE – Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion. The format included four written questions from the audience and six oral questions.
The first question was on whether candidates were aware of the potential health effects of a diluted bitumen spill.
Conservative Party of B.C. candidate Wayne Marklund said he didn’t know what the health effects might be but added his party is in favour of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project.
“I’m an open-minded person,” he said. “I know my party believes in pipelines and believes in good paying jobs for British Columbians.”
But Marklund added he personally believes the environment should come first and all safety standards need to be looked into.
Green Party of B.C. candidate Carrie McLaren said she also wasn’t aware of the effects, but did a quick Wikipedia check at the meeting.
“I already figured out it’s oil and it’s also diluted with other chemicals, so it’s obviously partially carcinogenic, and there are other effects we don’t know of fully because it hasn’t been fully researched,” she said. “Obviously, our stance is we don’t want the expansion of any more of the pipelines in B.C. or in Burnaby. We want to phase ourselves out of the fossil fuels with these big health problems.”
B.C. NDP candidate Janet Routledge said she is also concerned about the potential effects.
It’s my understanding that the components of bitumen are a trade secret, so we don’t know exactly what’s in it,” she said. “But we do know that as a result of the spill near Sumas, there were a number of people that were hospital-
ized. I do think we should be worried not only about the short-term effects but the long-term effects.”
B.C. Liberal candidate Richard Lee, who scan has been MLA in the riding since 2001, said the other candidates don’t know much about the risk and added he didn’t either.
“I think bitumen has been around for so many years, if there are negative health (effects) I think we (would) be talking about it already,” he said. “I’d like to find out more.”
Residents also asked written questions on other topics, such as whether candidates would stop making contracts with private power producers for independent power projects.
Lee responded to that, saying such project create jobs and energy for the community.
Routledge and McLaren both said their parties would look into it. Marklund said the current agreements are long-term binding contracts that cannot be broken, no matter what party is in power.
“Unfortunately, British Columbians will have to pay for this for many years,” he said.
Other questions included concerns about employment levels in the province, support for small businesses, concerns about B.C. Hydro’s smart meters, services for seniors and proportional representation.
At the end of the evening, Burnaby councillor Pietro Calendino asked the final question in regards to the pipeline project.
He directed it specifically to the Liberal and Conservative candidates but each of the four candidates was given the chance to answer, as per the meeting rules.
After speaking about his knowledge of the proposed pipeline project, Calendino asked if it was worth the risk to the environment and human health, and worth the disruption to residents who live along the pipeline route, for a handful of jobs.
Routledge responded that it didn’t seem worth it to her.
Lee said economic benefits do come with some risks, as did the introduction of the Chevron refinery into Burnaby many years ago.
“Personally, we are not living in a perfect world,” he said. “If I could, I’d ask Chevron to move. I would like to have a clean environment for our residents.”
Marklund said his party thinks the pipelines are the key to creating better paying jobs, but added the party would sit down for a strong discussion on the issue after the televised leadership debate.
McLaren said if the B.C. government’s focus had been on moving toward using green renewable resources, the discussion wouldn’t about pipeline risks wouldn’t be necessary.
“We don’t need any more damn pipelines,” she added.
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