As Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline draws closer, Burnaby NOW reporter Lauren Boothby sat down with the Liberal MP for Burnaby North-Seymour, Terry Beech – the pipeline ends in his riding – to talk about his work on that issue and thoughts about the ongoing protests in his riding, and recently at his constituency office. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Lauren Boothby: Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart’s approach to addressing the pipeline has been different from the way you have been handling it. What have you been working on regarding the pipeline so far?
Terry Beech: I believe that my number 1 job is to represent my constituents and to be my constituents’ voice in Ottawa. The way I have dealt with this project as a member of the government, and also as an officer of the government, is to make sure that our concerns are not just heard, but understood, and are acted upon in Ottawa.
Before the decision was made, from the election until 2016, I spent a lot of time attending National Energy Board hearings, door-knocking in the riding. … I was the only member of Parliament that took all of those concerns and turned it into this 18-page document, which I later presented at a Trans Mountain hearing in North Vancouver. After the decision was made, I had to take a step back.
There’ve been a lot of protests here since then, especially in March. Since then, we’ve had more than 200 people arrested. Did you think that you should be here when this is happening?
At every opportunity that I can be here, I am here. When 4,500 people marched in Vancouver six or seven months ago in Vancouver, it wasn't during a sitting day of the house, and so I attended. I went and I found people from Burnaby and North Vancouver so that I could hear their concerns and make sure that their views are continuing to be represented.
We have two permanent protests here, one called Camp Cloud, one called The Watch House. I make a commitment to go up there at least once a month.
The thing is, there really has been a lot of hyperbole on both sides of this issue. People are incredibly passionate about it, but nobody does anyone any favours unless they're discussing the facts of what's actually happening on all sides.
You have to understand, that as a sitting member of government, and as a parliamentary secretary, I have to be in the house when there are votes, because the government depends on it.
Do you really think that being absent for one day, and missing one vote has that much impact (referring to March 23 when Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart were arrested)?
If you have any vote, and it’s a confidence motion, and that vote fails, then you're in the next election. Is it significant? 100 per cent, it's significant. Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain issue is a hugely important issue, but so are all the other functions of government and all the other promises we've made to deliver that our constituents are counting on.
You asked whether or not I should be getting arrested like Kennedy Stewart or Elizabeth May. The fact is, is that when people participate in civil disobedience, it’s usually an act of last hope or desperation. I'm an officer of the government. I literally have the ability to talk to the cabinet decision-makers and have an impact directly on directions of government.
I personally am of the opinion that law-makers should stick to the rule of law. If, for example, our NDP colleague for Burnaby South was so concerned about this project then he should have been in the hearings before this decision was made. I produced this 18-page report. He produced fundraising emails. That's a big difference in terms of getting the job done.
One reason people are opposed is the increased risk of fire at the tank farm on Burnaby Mountain. What have you been doing about that issue?
You have to understand, my wife and I have a house on Burnaby Mountain. We have neighbours that are also very concerned,
As part of the 157 conditions, there is a requirement to address a whole number of these concerns prior to construction or prior to oil flowing through this pipeline.
One of the things I had proposed is, is there a possibility to rezone that part of the mountain as high-density residential and use part of the funds to move the existing tank farm to an alternative site further up the line. There was a whole bunch of administrative process, and logistical reasons why that wasn’t possible, but I continue to kind of take hail-Mary-passes and see if there are ways, or interesting innovative solutions to solving some of these problems.
One of the other concerns people have are the cumulative effects in the Burrard Inlet. I have been working very closely with representatives within the Tsleil-Waututh nation, and also in the shipping industry and otherwise to address and mitigate a lot of those concerns, but also try to find additional benefits for the people of Burnaby North-Seymour.
Burnaby seems to be assuming a lot of the risk -- fire risk, oil spill risk -- not a lot of benefits. What kind of benefits are you mentioning?
You're absolutely right. I put that exact information in my initial report. The fact is that, arguably, the people of Burnaby North-Seymour are the most effected people from this project, that's why they were clearly described as ground zero.
Most of the benefits are national benefits, which are shared across the country. There's this billion dollars that's going into the provincial coffers, there's the royalty money, there's those things, but again, that's not direct money into Burnaby North-Seymour, and so I'm looking for ways to get very specific benefits for Burnaby North-Seymour.
The question is how do we go forward. How do make sure that future projects and decisions work with local Indigenous people, like the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Is there an opportunity for co-management for example? Is there an opportunity for restoration projects --
Right. That doesn't really answer my question though about what benefits Burnaby is going to see. Because, for the pipeline, it seems like most of it is risk.
There's no doubt that Burnaby North-Seymour is taking more cost than other parts of the country. One of the things I initially did when I got in to office was, we talked about this question of social license, and what does social licence mean.
It was quite obvious, very early on, it was more of a tanker issue, and more of a marine oil response issue than it was a pipeline issue for most people, because if you go 10 kilometres east of our riding, you're going to start having a majority of British Columbians in favour of this particular project.
Last week, BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion) had a die-in on Burnaby Mountain, and they did a mock disaster about what would happen if there was a fire on Burnaby Mountain. The fire department hasn't said that this risk is not here anymore. It's still a real risk ---
Not only have I heard all of those concerns, I've written about those concerns. I've documented those concerns, I've delivered them to Ottawa. They've been included in the 157 conditions that have to be addressed before the project is allowed to proceed. But until that response is provided, I don't really know what the next step is. So, in the interim, I focus on other things that have addressable actions that I can take on right now.
In April, a Burnaby streamkeeper reported sediment in a stream south of the terminal, and the NEB found Trans Mountain did not have proper sediment fencing installed. How can we trust Kinder Morgan will follow the other conditions?
My message to the minister of natural resources, the prime minister, the minister of environment and climate change consistently has been, those 157 conditions are the minimal standard. Regarding this particular issue, I am the parliamentary secretary for fisheries and oceans. The department has been and is continuing to investigate when issues like this arise.
I understand people's concerns. We expect this proponent to meet, not just the minimum conditions, but to go beyond the minimum conditions. I fully intend, and continue, to hold them to account to that standard.
If anybody at any time sees anything that they think is suspect or isn't meeting the conditions, or isn't meeting the standards, I invite them to contact me and I would be more than happy to follow up.
Are you concerned about being re-elected? Even if your constituents feel you listen to them, they’re seeing that maybe your lobbying on the pipeline issue hasn’t been successful. Should they trust you with their vote again?
My job is to work as hard as I possibly can every single day to work and represent my constituents, and I am intensely proud of the job that I have done since day 1 of getting elected.
I literally don’t take any time off. I work all day every day, and on this particular project, it’s taken an enormous amount of my time and my effort. Any person that has had concerns, any constituents who have contacted my office, have gotten a one-on-one in-person meeting with me within six weeks.
I think there are services that we are providing that haven't been provided before. We have the best door-knocking record, we have the best phone-calling record. We do regular monthly mail-outs to everyone's homes. We do constant surveys. These are just reports on Kinder Morgan, but we do reports consistently on issues that are top concerns for our constituents, and we're delivering results for our constituents. Outside of Trans Mountain, there is huge plethora of issues, from the Canada Child Benefit, from reducing taxes for the middle class, to investing in green energy and infrastructure, social programs. People have said to me that they want to be able to drive their electric car from Vancouver Island to Prince Edward Island. We're delivering those results --
Sure, but on the Kinder Morgan issue, that is arguably one of the top issues in Burnaby, and people haven't seen what they want as a result.
I think that's an easy story to spin for people who are against the project, I guess, to say that, well the government determined that it is in the national interest, so therefore Terry's ineffective. But for anybody that's been paying close attention to this issue, I would find it hard to understand what else I can be doing on behalf of the community on this issue. That’s the question I always pose, is what more can I be doing.
The answers tend to be things like, you know, cross the floor. Well, I am a Liberal, and I am profoundly proud of our government and what we're delivering. We have to understand that I made thousands of promises in the last election. It's my job to deliver on those promises, and I'm going to continue to do that, each and everyone one, until the next election.
I want people in our community to know and to believe that they have somebody who is getting up, who is solely focused on their best interest, as working hard every day to make that happen for them. That's what energises me to go to work in the morning.
But don't you think you could be a Liberal and still oppose the project vocally? I've heard people say, I've met with Terry, he's listened to me, but we want him to just speak out and say 'I don't want this pipeline. I don't support it.' Why won't you say that?
There was a vote in the House of Commons in June of this last year and, given our community's view, I voted against the project. I was one of two Liberals in the government to vote against it. That's the strongest statement that you can make is registering your vote in the House of Commons.
I think where people get frustrated, especially if they are really on one extreme side of the issue, is the fact that they want me to only reflect or mirror exactly what they're saying, but it's not my job to reflect a single constituent. It's my job to reflect the views of the entire riding.
Instead of trying to get to a black-and-white answer, I try to create solutions to the problems people are facing, and I try to reflect the concerns that they have.
Don't you think by not saying that though, it reflects that you are toeing the party line on this topic? By not saying 'the pipeline shouldn't run here,' you are basically saying it's okay?
(Asks reporter if she has read his 2016 report – she has not – and says he has stated his position there)
I think it would be fair for readers for you to summarise this for the purpose of this interview. So, if you haven't come out saying "I don't want this pipeline," are you saying that --
This is what I stated on Aug. 19, 2016. "After speaking with tens of thousands of individuals, including local, provincial, and Indigenous representatives, I can tell you with confidence that the people of Burnaby North-Seymour, on balance, stand opposed to the project, and the community does not grant its permission for this project to proceed."
That's a statement that I've already made, which I believe already reflects --
What do you think, though?
I think it’s my job to represent my constituents. I think -- this is what's frustrating. You've been asking for an interview on Trans Mountain, but you won't do your own research and read everything that I've said about Trans Mountain, and then you're telling me that I'm not being open about my opinions on Trans Mountain.
I have put more in writing on this project than any other member. Maybe it’s more direct for you, and more convenient for you to report on somebody that chains themself to a fence, but I have a responsibility to do a job. I take it very seriously, and I work each and every day to do that in a very deliberate way, and I have done that in a deliberate way.
And I'm not going to be bullied into simplifying a very complex argument simply because it makes a better headline for your newspaper.
There's a difference between releasing a document and just saying, in an interview, what do you think. That's just what I want to know. Can you summarise what you think?
Certainly. I think it's my job to represent my constituents. Every day, I wake up, I go door-knocking. I go up to Camp Cloud to listen to what they have to say there, I've constituency meetings in my office, and I run surveys through my constituency.
With all of that information, I take and compile all of our community's concerns, all of our community's wants and wishes, and I take those and package them up and I deliver them to the cabinet, to the Prime Minister, and to the government, right, so our points of view can be taken into account in decision-making. There was a difference between the way I worked before the decision was made by the government, and afterwards, and these documents, and my actions reflect those difference I think.
If there are people that read this or talk to me that don't think that their views are being adequately represented, I invite them to come down and talk to me, and we can try to address it.
Footage of a recent protest outside Terry Beech's constituency office on Hastings Street in Burnaby.