Kingston activists stage sunrise demonstration against Trans Mountain Pipeline

·3 min read

A group of activists gathered early on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020 to stage a demonstration against the Trans Mountain Pipeline. About 15 people met at the Pollution statue along the King Street West waterfront at 6:30 a.m. to hang banners, distribute flyers and hold a small vigil.

Their demonstration coincided with a national day of action, with similar protests taking place London, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg.

“This morning is the day that the Trans Mountain Corporation — which is now a Crown Corporation, because the government bought it in the middle of a climate emergency — is presenting a report to shareholders,” said Jeremy Milloy, one of the event’s organizers.

“Everybody in Canada is a shareholder. We wanted to take this particular time to say it’s not enough to go about business-as-usual during a climate crisis.”

The federal government purchased the Trans Mountain Pipeline pipeline and its related infrastructure from American energy giant Kinder Morgan in 2018 for $4.5 billion. Kinder Morgan estimated at the time that the cost of the pipeline construction would total $7.4 billion. The Liberals argued that the purchase was in Canada’s national interest, as it would secure jobs in the energy sector and get Canadian oil resources to market.

However, Milloy — and many other environmental and political groups — have called the purchase a mistake. By continuing to invest in the project, Milloy said the government is “throwing good money onto bad.”

“It was an awful decision before the ink was dry and it’s an awful decision now,” he said. “It will only get worse if we try to justify a bad bet by continuing to spend more money.”

The price of oil has dropped since 2018, hitting a notable low in April 2020. Though it has partially recovered, Milloy said some economists believe the price of oil has peaked.

“Economically, there’s not a viable price and it’s uncertain that there are even markets for the oil the pipeline would carry,” he said.

“By going ahead with this pipeline, we are doing something that is economically not viable, that is a disaster for the climate, an affront to Indigenous justice and reconciliation, and it won’t help us recover from COVID-19. It won’t create good jobs.”

Instead, the activists at today’s demonstration said they would like to see the government work on a Green New Deal, linking the COVID-19 economic recovery with a shift towards renewable energy.

“What we should be doing is taking that money and investing in a green transition, moving people who are employed in the oil patch right now into green jobs, and invest in a low carbon economy,” Milloy said.

At the end of their gathering today, which included speeches, a poem, and a moment of silence “to grieve the ecological losses of the past year,” Milloy said the group distributed flyers encouraging constituents to contact MP Mark Gerretsen.

“We’re asking him to be an ally on Trans Mountain,” Milloy said. “Hopefully his office will be hearing from people throughout the day.”

Milloy also staged a day of action outside Mark Gerretsen’s office on Tuesday, Sep. 22, 2020, demanding to know the full cost of the pipeline. While he said representatives from the constituency office reached out to him and his fellow protestors to confirm they were receiving lots of messages, he never heard directly from Gerretsen himself.

Milloy said he was satisfied with the attendance at this morning’s event, which included representatives from 350 Kingston and Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 901.

“For us, it wasn’t so much about turning a bunch of people out,” he said. “It was really just to gather and kind of create a moment together and create a powerful visual statement that climate justice hasn’t lessened any during this pandemic. The need for climate action is only growing.”

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com