Support the VMC, donate today!
Thursday Sept 27th - At one o’clock on it was a sunny fall afternoon in downtown Victoria at the intersection of Douglas and Fort St. Not many people passing by were probably aware that upstairs the Kinder Morgan office was having an open house. You couldn’t really blame them though as Kinder Morgan’s idea of open house does not include the public. Instead, Kinder Morgan’s idea of ‘open’ means to invite the delegates in town for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, presumably with the hope of convincing them how great their plans to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline is.
By one thirty the scene was very different. A supertanker had pulled up and was spilling oil all over the place. Luckily, the ‘oil’ in question was a concoction of vegetable oil, corn starch and molasses, and the ‘tanker’ made of cardboard. This wasn’t a nightmare Valdez-comes-to-Victoria scenario; it was grassroots activists performing street theatre to remind us of the very real possibility.
“We’re here because this is what Kinder Morgan wants to do to our coast. This is the Kinder Surprise,” said Julie Anne, participant in the demonstration. “They don’t give a shit about the Coast Salish people who signed a declaration that they don’t want increased super tanker activity in their territory. Also they don’t give a shit about eco-systems, land, air, water, morals, ethics, or community. So were standing out here by the super tanker to give everyone a really nice visual of what this coast will look like if Kinder Morgan gets its way.”
For most of the afternoon, the youthful and energetic group created a spectacle in front of the Kinder Morgan office by pouring the fake bitumen on each other, handing out Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs to passer-bys, singing the Dirty Oil song, and raising awareness about the large civil disobedience action planned for on Oct 22nd.
As it seemed that not too many of the UBCN delegates were taking up Kinder Morgan on their open house invitation, some of the oil-clad street activists decided to go up and pay them a visit. After initially hiding in their office behind a security guard and locked glass doors, two somewhat nervous Kinder Morgan execs emerged to talk in the hallway.
Not surprisingly their initial concern was for the “mess” people were making on the carpet. This immediately raised the response that if Kinder Morgan couldn’t deal with a bit of vegetable oil and molasses, what would they do when there was a real spill? What followed was a torrent of double-speak which wound up concluding that the pipelines are safe because Kinder Morgan’s emergency response team has so much experience dealing with the company’s previous spills.
Reflecting on the day’s activity, one of the young activists said, “It seems to me that people get distracted a lot by things like money or jobs and you forget what it’s actually going to be like when the oil spills. So by physically putting oil on ourselves in downtown Victoria, maybe we disrupt that narrative a little bit. If the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is allowed to go through this is a reality for our wetlands, our coastlands, and our forests.”
Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain expansion would see the pipeline’s capacity increased to 850,000 barrels per day and 360 additional tankers per year coming in to Burrard Inlet and the Straight of Georgia. The proposal is being strongly resisted by environmental activists, indigenous nations, and the community in general. On October 22, thousands of people will converge on Victoria for the Defend Our Coast rally and day of action.