Opinion Column

Oil insurance push just slick political theatre


"I don't think many Vancouverites support becoming a huge oil port. It is totally at odds with our city brand and our identity and ethic." - Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, April 14, 2012

This week Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party kick started their official campaign against a $5 billion expansion of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline in B.C. After reading the polls, they don't believe this private sector investment should ever see the light of day.

The Mayor has even suggested recently that supporting Kinder Morgan could lead to oil super tankers crashing on the shores of Stanley Park. It's the kind of "either you're with us or your against us" hyperbole that is hurting Robertson's credibility on this issue.

While the Mayor may believe Vancouver's economy is rooted in organic farming and beehives, it's not. The energy sector remains Canada's strongest export, with a value approaching $100 billion a year. The tax revenue generated through these sales, and the well paying jobs they create, help pay for essential services like healthcare and education.

If Canada were to sell more oil to Asia, rather than a discounted U.S. market, it is estimated we could net upwards of $40 million in new tax revenue per day. Just imagine how many more heart surgeries and textbooks that could buy.

Robertson's knee-jerk reaction to Kinder Morgan's proposed investment is rooted more in political ideology than in the facts. The reality is there have been regular oil shipments going out of Vancouver's port for more than 50 years. It's a stellar safety record the Mayor simply chooses to ignore in order to garner headlines and score points with his American campaign donors.

No reasonable person or corporation wants to see hazardous goods spilled in Burrard Inlet. However, the only way to reduce the risk to zero is to stop these kinds of shipments altogether. And not even Vision Vancouver is silly enough to advocate for that.

Unfortunately, rather than waiting for the environmental review process to be completed, Robertson and his political allies have shut the door on any kind of meaningful dialogue regarding this proposal. With the Mayor's mind now made up, what comes next will be a display of political theatre we haven't seen around these parts in years.