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Delegates from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) received a red-carpet reception on their way to an oil industry sponsored reception, but not quite in the way they expected. Over 100 social activists and community members gathered outside the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) reception at the Royal BC Museum asking that delegates boycott the CAPP event and stand with the community instead.
As an alternative to the oil industry attempt to curry favour with municipal representatives, the community offered a satirical alternative which featured a mock red-carpet, live music, peanut butter bagel hors d’oeuvres and carbonated grape juice in place of wine. Some delegates joined the boycott, while others went in and then came out to be with the community. Many though simply passed by without saying anything, happy to be gorging themselves on the proceeds of dirty oil money.
“We wanted to invite UBCM delegates to join the public at our People’s Reception. It was an opportunity for delegates to share ideas on protecting the coast, rather than wining and dining with Big Oil executives who threaten our communities,” says Eric Nordal, spokesperson for SocialCoast. “This action is part of a larger movement in British Columbia that is fighting to protect coastlines and interior waterways from the expansion of pipelines and tanker traffic, as well as stop the industrial expansion of the tar sands.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is an industry lobby group that describes itself as “the voice of Canada's upstream oil, oil sands and natural gas industry.” It’s comprised members are responsible for more than 90% of the crude oil and natural gas produced in Canada.
“That the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is involved in the UBCM is a clear demonstration of industry interest to influence politics –the relentless effort to push an economic agenda with disregard to impacted communities,” said Julie Anne Gilchirst, a Victoria based activist. “Their presence articulates that the voices of resistance to the oil and gas industry are being marginalized through coercion and free alcohol. We created a space outside the CAPP sponsored convention to empower communities and organizers, independent from the pressure of the petroleum industry.”
One local official who choose not to go in and get oiled, was Victoria City Councillor Ben Issitt.
“I’m standing out here with the community and not Big Oil, and I’d like the other thousand delegates to be out here with us. This is the first volley, but I think in the long run we’ll see some ethical politics come to BC,” said Issit.
The boisterous crowd was in a satirical mood, with many community members dressed in their finest clothing for the event. A live band provided a political soundtrack to delegates walking the carpet and later footage of the Alberta Tar Sands was projected onto the Museum itself.
The People’s Reception was organized by Victoria community organizations SocialCoast, Victoria Voice, and UVic's Black Chalk Project. The building community effort to protect the coast from fossil fuel pipeline and tanker development will continue at 1pm today with an Open Bus outside of the Kinder Morgan Open House at 1070 Douglas Street where they will invite delegates inside to hear some of the things that Kinder Morgan may forget to mention. Activists will also be giving out Kinder Morgan surprises during the UBCM, so that municipalities do not have to face Kinder Morgan’s surprises later.