NWT MP Michael McLeod hosted a summer barbecue at Somba K’e Park, Tuesday, but found himself politely grilled when local social justice organizations showed up.
Members of the NWT chapter of the Council of Canadians and 350.org hand-delivered a letter to the politician demanding that he consult with constituents on the federal government’s recent purchase of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline.
In May, the federal government bought the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline to ensure a major energy project is built to carry crude oil from Northern Alberta to tidewater on the West coast.
The letter from the organizations states that building the pipeline will have a negative impact on the environment because the tar sands region will be expanded, climate change impacts will increase, up to 1300 freshwater bodies will be exposed to toxins, and the Pacific coastline could be damaged. As well, local organizations fear that Indigenous rights and title will be undermined if the project goes through.
Lois Little, co-chair of the Council of Canadians gave the letter to the politician with local environmental activists.
“Your party said you were going to be a climate champion,” Little said to the minister in front of onlookers. “This is not being a climate champion.”
Little said there has not been a lot of opportunity to discuss the issue with McLeod since the pipeline purchase and that the barbecue was a chance to express her concerns. Ultimately she wants McLeod to show leadership by hearing northern concerns on the issue and expressing to his government the need for investments in other energy solutions.
McLeod told Little he appreciated the input and said there is “another side” to the pipeline purchase – meaning that the government wants to ensure it is responsible by protecting the environment while developing the economy.
“For me, I stand on the party’s position of balancing the environment and the economy,” he said. “We have to be very mindful that the tar sands are coming into our watershed and are impacting our communities. I live in one (Fort Providence) so that has been a concern for years among Indigenous governments and municipal governments. We have to make sure when we are talking about these things that he regulatory process is very thorough. There are a number of recommendations that this project has to meet and we are watching it very closely.”
McLeod said he feels the government is meeting the promises that he campaigned on with regards to climate change and added that the pipeline purchase is a very important issue on a long list of other priorities he is facing from constituents. Among them heard at the barbecue included the Phoenix pay system, human rights, postal banking, and developing the green economy.
Little handed out copies of the letter to people in the long line up for barbecue food while informing them of the issue. Among the recipients of the letter was Leslie Marie, who was visiting from Mikisew Cree First Nation in Northeastern Alberta.
“I’m not really against it and I am kind of for it because it would be kind of good for First Nations to take care of it,” he said. “Let them handle it because this way we can make sure that there are no leaks, we can make sure it is maintained, we can make sure it is a lifetime chance for First Nations to make money off of it. If they (First Nations) want to fight it, sure fight it. But if we can’t win, then let’s us make sure we get in there and do something about it.”