Several hundred demonstrators, many with signs, drums and caricatures of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, gathered in downtown Vancouver Tuesday evening to vent their anger with the re-approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau announced that the project — which was temporarily quashed by the Federal Court of Appeal last year — would now go ahead, “with shovels in the ground this construction season.”
The approval drew quick condemnation from some B.C. First Nations groups, and on Tuesday evening, environmentalists said they weren’t prepared to give up the fight, either.
“The idea that they declared it a ‘climate emergency‘ last night and, less than 24 hours later, are approving a 20 per cent expansion of the Alberta tar sands, it’s disgusting,” said Peter McCartney with the Wilderness Committee.
“We have to cut emissions in half in 10 years, and planning for money that a future government may or may not spend on the environment when this is over is not enough.”
Earlier in the day, about 100 supporters of the oil and gas industry gathered in Vancouver’s Jack Poole Plaza to support the project they say has been stalled for too long.
Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said the long, ugly fight over the pipeline has already blackened the country’s reputation.
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“Canada need this project to go forward because we need to have an example of a successful energy project so that international investors will see that they have confidence in Canada,” he said.
“We don’t want construction to be delayed for another week or month or to the fall. It needs to commence right away.”
First Nations were represented at the pro-pipeline rally.
WATCH: BC’s reaction to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion approval
Shane Gottfriedson, B.C. director of Project Reconcilliation — the Indigenous group putting together a bid for the pipeline — said First Nations stand to benefit from the project.
“At the end of the day, this is in the national interest, and First Nations, we need to be in a position where we are open for business and we’re ready to look at what’s best for our people,” he said.
“I think what’s best for our people is looking at having a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline.”
It’s unclear exactly when crews will begin work on the stalled project. Trans Mountain is seeking to have the National Energy Board fast-track a re-approval of its previous permits for the project.
If that approval is granted, the company estimates it could have work underway within a matter of weeks.