At Kits rally, Dix calls for hearings on coal port expansion

Published in The Tyee | May 5, 2013 | Circulation: 340,000 unique monthly readers


New Democrat leader Adrian Dix tightened his criticisms of several controversial fossil fuel export proposals at a Kitsilano event on May 4, ramping up his opposition to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion, but also calling for public hearings on a plan for a major coal terminal in Surrey.

Building on his earlier call for a “made-in-B.C.” review of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, Dix continued his criticism of the BC Liberal government over what he called an unclear stance on that and Kinder Morgan’s project.

Some environmentalists at the Kitsilano Beach campaign event, “Protect the Coast,” urged Dix to go further and oppose a proposal to dramatically boost coal exports to Asia through Fraser Surrey Docks.

“Clearly, there should be public hearings,” Dix told reporters when asked for his stance on the coal expansion. “When people have such strong views, I think it’s important that people’s voices are heard.”

The NDP leader called on BC Liberal leader Christy Clark to “clarify” her position on the pipelines and tankers issue, which has become subject of an increasingly tense election debate.

BC Liberal Terry Lake quickly pounced on Dix for what he called a “flip-flop” on the Kinder Morgan file. The NDP originally said it would wait until the company filed its application, but now opposes Kinder Morgan’s plans for increased tanker traffic through the Lower Mainland, Lake said.

“Adrian Dix continues to be all over the map on the issue of heavy oil pipelines in British Columbia,” Lake said in a BC Liberal statement following Dix’s announcement. “His position is clear as mud.”

Referring to the NDP’s increasingly vocal criticism of oil sands pipelines and tankers, Lake called the party’s position “continually shifting” and questioned Dix’s leadership as a result.

“Adrian Dix claims that as a matter of principle leaders should not pre-judge projects until they have actually applied for review, but later changed his position,” Lake’s statement continued. “What kind of message does he think this sends to potential investors in British Columbia?”

While the Liberals have focused much of their campaign on promises of financial stability and fears of NDP economic mismanagement, Dix told his crowd of supporters that the issue of increased tanker traffic and pipelines, and the spill risks that are becoming a core election issue, are of both environmental and economic importance.

“Projects such as Enbridge Northern Gateway are not in our economic, our cultural, or our environmental interests,” Dix told the crowd gathered at the beach Saturday morning. “The stakes in this election could not be higher.

“The premier’s position on both these pipelines appears to be: ‘Trust me.’ But if the price from Ottawa or Alberta is right, she’s prepared to support a massive increase in tankers and the environmental risks that they pose.”

And though Dix urged that Premier Clark “clarify” her party’s stance on Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, a day earlier the group Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) itself questioned the NDP’s own consistency when it comes to coal exports, and demanded Dix “clarify (the) party position.”

Group spokesperson Kevin Washbrook told The Tyee he was pleased with what he called a “courageous” coal stance calling for full public hearings on coal, but added that he hopes an NDP government would also pledge a provincial review of expansion proposals.

“It was real progress,” Washbrook told The Tyee. “The NDP has made some courageous statements in the last few days, on a couple fronts, about climate change, and this was one of them. I don’t know if it’s as far as they’re able to go, but it’s an important step.

“What’s really important is that, in the last few days, the NDP has outlined a vision for our region and province, and where we’re going to go. It’s clear that building a coal port in Surrey isn’t part of that vision either.”

When news broke last November of Fraser Surrey Docks’ proposal to build a four-million metric tonne-a-year terminal, potentially doubling that later, the federally appointed agency which reviews such applications told The Tyee that the company’s mailing of several thousand fliers to neighbours and an environmental assessment were “adequate” for public consultation.

But after sustained pressure from VTACC, as well as criticism from several high-profile mayors, Port Metro Vancouver agreed on April 23 to hold two “open houses” this month about the proposal, something Washbrook said sounds more like a public relations exercise than meaningful input. No details about those open houses are yet available.

Dix held Saturday’s rally in Clark’s home riding, flanked by several high-profile New Democrat MLAs and Clark’s Vancouver-Point Grey challenger, David Eby. Clark herself was also in her riding Saturday to take in a little league baseball event.

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