Just when you think this whole Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion thing can’t get any more convoluted, the leader of a major party is arrested and fined for protesting it while the federal government is literally buying it. What a wacky world.
Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May and about 100 other protesters were arrested in British Columbia on March 23 for violating an injunction from a judge to prevent protesting at certain locations on the Kinder Morgan work site. While peaceful protests were permitted on certain parts of the property, May’s decision to demonstrate at the main gates violated the order.
May, in particular, was fined for exploiting her position as a government leader to encourage others to break the law and pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of court, accepting her $1,500 fine. The judge, Justice Kenneth Affleck, said that May as a leader and a lawyer had a responsibility to obey the order and encourage others to do so as well.
When speaking to media afterwards, the Green leader assured constituents that she was not convicted under the Criminal Code and that her position as MP is not in jeopardy. She also asserted her right to protest and said she would continue to fight for the lands that will be effected by the pipeline expansion.
“I’m not a convicted criminal,” May asserted, “This is a common law offence under an unusual provision around enforcement of private injunctions.”
“I’m holding my head up high,” she said, “My job continues – to do everything that I can to represent the constituents of Saanich-Gulf Islands, to protect the Salish Sea, to stand with the First Nations in solidarity and to continue to speak, as we can in a democracy, against this project.”
It would seem, however, that her protests will fall on deaf ears. Since Kinder Morgan suspended all non-essential services on the pipeline in April, the federal government has been scrambling to figure out a way to keep them committed. KM set the date of May 31 – this Thursday – as a deadline for the government to make (financial) assurances to prove the stability of the project’s future.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Tuesday morning that the Canadian federal government will buy the entire project for $4.5 billion (and incur a possible $7.4 billion more in expenses) to ensure it goes forward. He assured Canadians that this is “an investment in Canada’s future” and that the government does not intend to be long-term owners of the pipeline. They will work with investors – some of whom have already expressed interest — “at the appropriate time” to transfer the project to new owners.
Morneau reiterated the federal and Alberta provincial governments’ stance that the pipeline expansion is not only crucial for transporting resources to world markets, it will also preserve Canadian jobs and boost the B.C. and Alberta economies.
The B.C. provincial government along with environmental and Indigenous activist groups are opposed to the project because of its environmental impact and its encroachment on Indigenous lands.