Danielle Smith: Finding common ground in the pipeline debate

A man holds signs while listening during a rally in support of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday March 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Whenever I talk to Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, I always strive to find common ground. So when I interviewed her after she was arrested for illegally protesting the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, I was not surprised to find there is very little agreement between my views and hers. However, there is a glimmer of hope.

One of the issues we face in trying to get acceptance for this project is that we can’t agree on a common set of facts.

May said we need to do more upgrading. I pointed to the mining operations; the Northwest Upgrader; the new partial upgrading strategy in Alberta. She said it’s not enough.

May said Unifor is opposed to the project because it will cost Canadian jobs. I said the United Steelworkers are in favour because it will create jobs. She said we lose more than we gain.

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May said First Nations are opposed. I said 40 bands along the line are in favour. She said they signed agreements but didn’t really support it.

May said bitumen and diluent are the worst for the environment. I point to the three-year research project from Natural Resources Canada that shows dilbit floats and is actually easier to clean up. She said it’s not credible.

And so it goes.

READ MORE: Burnaby mayor refuses to pay ‘ludicrous’ policing costs for Trans Mountain pipeline protests

LISTEN: Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Danielle discuss Kinder Morgan

One of the most interesting points in our conversation happened when we started talking about why British Columbians are so angry at Kinder Morgan.

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May said all the company wants to do is export diluted bitumen internationally and leave British Columbians in the lurch. She said that diluted bitumen exports for the international market are crowding out the needs of British Columbians.

She said the Parkland refinery has had to reduce operations and lay off staff because they couldn’t get enough conventional crude from Kinder Morgan to stay at full operation. She said the company should prioritize shipping gasoline and diesel to supply the local market and if they did, it would “change the conversation.”

I have no idea whether these claims are accurate. Despite several attempts, I’ve never been able to get a representative from Kinder Morgan to come on my show to talk about the project. In fact, the energy industry as a whole does an appalling job of defending itself.

Why does NDP Premier Rachel Notley have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to selling British Columbians on this project?

Why is it that Canada Action and its volunteer founder, local realtor Cody Battershill, is the most eloquent voice we have to talk about the benefits of Alberta oil? Where are all the energy industry CEOs to set the record straight?

As you can tell, this makes my blood boil.

LISTEN: Cody Battershill with Action Canada on the Kinder Morgan protests

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READ MORE: Arrested MPs might pay in court, but not at the ballot box: lawyer

But, regardless of whether or not May is correct – the solution is the same. The pipeline has already been built so that it can transport gasoline, diesel, conventional crude or bitumen. If it were larger – if it were twinned for instance – it would be able to meet everybody’s needs.

Mainlanders would get more diesel and gasoline, which would lower gas prices. The Parkland refinery would be able to operate at full capacity and hire more workers. Washington state would continue to receive heavy oil to convert into aviation fuel to supply Vancouver’s airport and there would likely be some room left over to export heavy oil internationally at a better price.

It seems to me there is a win-win here if everyone would just talk to each other.

And yet – the protests continue.

Danielle Smith can be reached at

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