photos: Living communities over dying industries

Living communities over dying industries

Director's Corner: In the wake of the Kinder Morgan bailout announcement, I find myself costing out what else we could do with approximately $12 billion.

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Where were you when you heard about the Kinder Morgan bailout?

I read the news before I got out of bed. It’s a bad habit and a surefire way to get your blood boiling before you’ve brushed your teeth.

On May 29, federal Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced a $4.5-billion investment in the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to ensure its completion.

The expansion will twin the existing pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, increasing capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil a day to 890,000 barrels a day.

This is a project so mired in controversy and delay that Kinder Morgan itself deemed it “too risky” to proceed with construction. So the government stepped up to provide $4.5 billion in funds to purchase existing assets, plus another $7 billion to $9 billion in estimated construction costs. That adds up to roughly $12 billion of government cash being invested in a project that even a private corporation won’t support in the face of massive First Nations-led resistance, overwhelming legal and financial risks and climate change.

As I overheard in a coffee shop that day, this bailout is like buying a chain of Blockbuster video rental stores just as Netflix is taking off. Bailing out the Kinder Morgan project doubles down on fossil fuel technology right at the point where we know we need to shift away from it.

I had a different column sketched out for this month (roughly sketched out), but I found myself distracted, stalling and reading the news to get the facts on this deal. I found myself costing out what else we could do with approximately $12 billion, and returned over and again to the idea of priorities and how our actions reveal more about our priorities than anything we say.

In choosing to bail out this ill-advised project, the federal government has demonstrated its priorities. I can't help but see everything else we could be doing in this country with $12 billion, and in the eyes of those making decisions, all these things are worth less than the pipeline project.

• I see 76 First Nations reserves still without safe drinking water.

• I see roughly 30,000 people with no safe home.

• I see no national pharmacare plan and up to one million people choosing to forgo meals or skimp on heat to afford necessary medications.

• I see upwards of 6,000 people dead in just two years from a poisoned drug supply and poor drug policy.

News of the Kinder Morgan bailout spread like a B.C. summer wildfire and will likely be remembered as a defining moment in
in Canada’s history—and not a good one.

Kevin Millsip, former executive director of Next Up, shared a thought the morning of the announcement that will stick with me well beyond the day's news cycle.

“Today's lesson: when you want to do something that you say is in the public interest, massive government investment can be the way to go... [Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau] thank you for reminding me that if government really wants, government can.”

Better mental health care, support for those living with addiction, housing, transportation, renewable energy... There are so many things we could spend $12 billion on to make our communities better for everyone. This pipeline gamble is not one of them.

Let this be a reminder to us that bold investments in our priorities is a matter of political will.

Jessica Hannon is the executive director of Megaphone Magazine.

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