Non-peaceful pipeline protests will be met by police and military, federal minister tells Edmonton business leaders
By Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun, December 1, 2016
Two days after the federal government approved two major pipeline projects, two feelings are surfacing in Alberta’s business sector — elation that the approval has finally been given and concern that protests may keep the line from being built at all.
“We’ve already heard in these few short days since the announcement some voices raised saying this is going to be a hill for them to die on,” said Paul De Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, at an Alberta Enterprise Group-sponsored breakfast with federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr at the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton Thursday.
De Jong, who represents companies that employ thousands of people in the construction industry, alluded to comments made by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May that she would go to jail to keep the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline — one of two approved by the federal government Tuesday — from being built.
Not everyone is taking the protest comments seriously.
“Elizabeth May has declared war on common sense and Canadian unity,” said Ric McIver, interim leader of the Alberta PC party, following Carr’s speech.
“We can’t let the pipeline get held up by people that will never agree to any standard,” he added. “The law of the jungle cannot prevail.”
Carr fielded questions from business leaders about the potential for protest escalating to the kind of civil unrest seen recently at Standing Rock in North Dakota.
He said he welcomes peaceful dissent but draws the line at breaking the law.
“If people choose for their own reasons not to be peaceful, then the government of Canada, through its defence forces, through its police forces, will ensure that people will be kept safe,” he said to applause from the room. “We have a history of peaceful dialogue and dissent in Canada. I’m certainly hopeful that that tradition will continue. If people determine for their own reasons that that’s not the path they want to follow, then we live under the rule of law.”
De Jong was happy with that response but remains cautious.
“In Canada we have a long tradition of building major infrastructure projects like railways and highways under the rule of law where there’s a fair negotiation for access to land and the effect it has on communities,” he said. “Once those decisions are made, people fall in line and our workers have always been pleased to work in that kind of safe environment. We now see the possibility that perhaps some conditions may be different.”
He said the companies that he represents have not had to deal with major protests in the past but employees are told to put their own safety first and he expects no one to put themselves at risk to get a project done.
For now, Carr is welcoming conflicting views to come forward.
“These decisions are in the best interest of Canada. They are difficult and they are controversial,” he said. “Those who feel as if they have been, for their own reasons, treated badly by this decision, we welcome to hear from them still, to know that peaceful protest is part of our DNA as Canadians. We respect it, we honour it and we cherish it.”