It’s hard walking around with Justin Trudeau’s (figurative) knife in my back

Chris Campbell

I feel personally betrayed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It feels like there’s a figurative knife in my back with his fingerprints all over it after Trudeau re-approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on Tuesday.

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No, it wasn’t a surprise.

I could see the re-approval coming all the way from Ottawa even before the National Energy Board had to start its consideration of the project all over again when the Federal Court of Appeal told the NEB it had botched things on both marine safety and Indigenous consultation.

Knowing something is coming, however, doesn’t make it feel like any less of a gut punch when it actually happens again.

And just to be clear, the pain I’m feeling has nothing to do with me being for or against TMX. The thoughts of betrayal come from the journalist side of me that is already fed up with covering TMX.

I took over as NOW editor a little more than a year ago and the TMX story has slogged on in such a way that it has sucked the life out of me.

There have been a few fascinating moments buried in the TMX fiasco. Our interview with Jim Layden, a man who froze his ass off living in the Burnaby Mountain Watch House because of his belief the pipeline is wrong. Our interview with Johnny Lee, a Nehiyaw Cree man from Edmonton who was leading the construction of the carver’s cabin at Camp Cloud, just weeks before the City of Burnaby bulldozed the place.

People like Jim and Johnny are the kind of passionate folks who give the TMX story its humanity because of the raw, honest way they approached their opposition.

The problem is that when it comes to TMX, there is little that is raw and honest, and so much that feels manufactured.


In the TMX debate, there is little or no room for nuance, understanding or interest in compromise.

People either think TMX is going to destroy the planet in every conceivable way or it will be the garden of eden that will save Canada by laying gold at people’s feet.

Child, please.

Nothing is ever that clear-cut, and yet in the TMX debate, few people are willing to give even an inch on any aspect of the project.

And so many of the cast of characters are ridiculously obnoxious.

Let’s start with anybody commenting on TMX stories on social media. It’s usually pure insanity and, based on reading easily a thousand comments, I’ve found it’s usually right-wing trolls who are trying to inflict the most damage with garbage comments and disgusting memes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. - Dan Toulgoet

On the ground, there was the pro-oil group of yahoos who showed up a few times at Camp Cloud looking to pick fights. That got ugly pretty fast.

But there has been plenty of obnoxious behaviour from some anti-TMX forces. For one thing, there is a vocal group who refuse to be called “protesters” – they pompously insist on being called “water protectors” and flip out when you refuse to go along with their self-aggrandizing ways. Writing that someone is a protester is not a sign of some kind of grand “MSM” conspiracy. It’s an accurate term that is in no way designed to suggest anything negative so chill, Winston.

Equally obnoxious are people who organize a protest, invite the media and then start to berate the same media as soon as they arrive to cover their story because they have some sort of longstanding grudge against reporters (probably for not calling them “water protectors”). I’m not saying media are above criticism – far from it - but inviting reporters so you can air your grievances against them feels ridiculous.


So many of the day-to-day TMX stories feel so shamelessly orchestrated that it really starts to grate on your nerves.

There were a lot of people arrested last year (curiously, it was mostly during warm-weather months, but I digress) for violating a court injunction. So many people protested and/or were arrested that protest organizers appeared to worry people were getting numb to it all so they started trying to highlight certain aspects to keep people interested.

If it was an older person, organizers shouted about grandmothers being arrested, as though somebody’s age made them above the law. “LOOK WHAT’S HAPPENING IN CANADA IN 2019!!!”

Protest organizers also put together protest theme weeks, with artists and writers and others taking turns getting arrested.

The NOW has done its best to keep up with all of the protests – and the blizzard of court sentencings - but there are other stories that are important to the community. Our editorial staff can’t spend all of their time at protests that are just repeats of the protests from a few days before.


The worst part of covering TMX is when there is yet another court ruling.

The days always start the same. The NOW’s email inbox gets flooding with various levels of governments and special interest groups all saying they will be available to comment on the ruling of the day.

Then the ruling comes out and the email inboxes are flooded once again with dozens and dozens of canned statements from every conceivable angle. It all feels like a business to these groups, whether they are anti-TMX or pro-business.

Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.

Now we get to do it all over again thanks to Trudeau. There will be more court challenges. First Nations against the project will fight with First Nations mulling buying it. There will be more histrionics. There will certainly be many more protests. And there will likely be more arrests, although now that people are being handed seven-day sentences, we’ll see who still wants to step forward. Oh, and now we get to listen to that clown Jason Kenney and his $30-million "war room."

I don't have an issue with people being for or against the project. It's just that sometimes it all feels like one giant industry, with everybody looking to cash in, whether they are for or against the project. Well, everybody except the guy who had to freeze all winter in a Watch House that has no heat.

I feel like he’s the only real hero in all of this.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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