“One oil spill will devastate our coast.”
That was the message emblazoned on former Kootenay Lake principal Sharon Farinha’s banner as she congregated with dozens of protesters on Baker St. Monday morning.
The group was decrying plans to twin an existing Kinder Morgan pipeline that primarily carries bitumen to the coast from the Albertan tar sands. And it was her second event in two days: she’d also marched through Vancouver with thousands of others during a protest Sunday.
“We’ve given up golf to be activists because this is the only way forward for us right now,” said Farinha, who was joined by her husband and co-founder of the group Communities to Protect our Coast during the vigil.
“We recognized early on that this is the wrong direction for our province and country to go in, and we’ve been activists ever since. We need to start looking at the bigger picture and focusing on climate change and the effect it’s having on our planet.”
They found a use for the golf clubs, though: the pair used them to hold up their banner.
During the impromptu gathering organized by the West Kootenay Ecosociety a petition from Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall was being circulated and signed by local residents such as Judy Banfield, owner of Mountain Baby.
“I’m here because I love little children, and if we keep going like this there won’t be any Earth left for them,” said Tom Nixon of Ymir.
“They keep talking, the oil industry, about putting carbon back in the ground. Why don’t we leave it there to begin with?”
The way he sees it: “We elected a movie star to be our prime minister and he’s going to throw B.C. under the bus so he can continue getting elected in Ontario and Quebec. He’s going to allow Kinder Morgan and then deny the ones in the east, if he has to.”
But Mungall is mostly concerned about getting Premier Christy Clark’s attention.
“What people here are saying is that our coast is too valuable to put at risk. We do not have a world-class spill response, we have a really poor one. Just look at what the Heiltsuk First Nation is dealing with from this recent tugboat spill.”
Her goal: “We want to protect our coast and look to a future that addresses the need to reduce our carbon emissions.”
“Protecting the environment is a top priority for people in the Kootenays and the people I represent have consistently told me over the last eight years. I take that message to the legislature regularly. Whether it’s stopping the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Northern Gateway pipeline or protecting our own backyard like Jumbo, that’s what I’m focusing on.”
She’s concerned Clark is being too friendly with oil companies.
“She has a role to play representing British Columbians in this, so I’m encouraging everyone to tell her exactly what they think.”
That main thing she wants people to know?
“This primarily is about protecting our coast. Once a spill happens it takes decades to clean it up and you can never get back what you lost … If you really want to pull on the heartstrings about the coast, the idea that all that marine life would be put in jeopardy is just not okay.”
But it’s not just the coast that Keith Wiley’s concerned about.
“We’re hoping to protect the whole planet because the Kinder Morgan pipeline project that sends bitumen from the tar sands to our coast will put some of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet into our atmosphere.”
Wiley is buoyed by news Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced they’re shutting down coal-fire power plants and introducing a carbon tax that could go up to $50 a tonne. But this pipeline would wipe out all that progress, he said.
“The message is: stop Kinder Morgan. The Trudeau government looks like it’s getting ready for approval and we don’t need it. We need a clean energy future. This is not the way to go.”