Tim Uppal Interview: Pipelines, Indigenous consultations, and Trudeau
Tim Uppal, a former Conservative Member of Parliament from 2008 – 2015, spoke with The Post Millennial on the state of Indigenous consultations on energy projects and the delay in building the Trans Mountain pipeline.
TPM: So the Trans Mountain Pipeline project was announced by Kinder Morgan on May 23, 2012. Once completed, it was to transport up to 890,000 barrels of petroleum products a day, and it would cost about $7.4 billion. Initially, there was a 15,000-page facilities application filed by the National Energy Board in late 2013. While you were in office, under the Harper government, did you feel at the time that there was a sufficient amount of consultation efforts up into 2015?
Uppal: Yes, there was a significant consultation that was done to ensure that those that would be significantly affected by the pipeline would have their say. And we feel strongly that that was done and strong enough that I feel that even when the court did the approval that many people felt that the current government should have appealed to the Supreme Court and should have appealed that decision. They could have continued doing the consultations that they’re doing now and also appeal to the Supreme Court. It is very possible that the Supreme Court could have ruled in their favour because qualifications were that okay.
TPM: There was a 29-month review done taking into account the scientific and technical examinations, taking into account traditional Aboriginal evidence as well as a comprehensive environment mental assessment. And after the nearly three-year review was concluded by the National Energy Board, the expansion project was found to be in the public interest. However, today, construction on the project has yet to commence despite numerous approvals by the National Energy Board since its $4.5 billion purchase by the LPC and which the Federal Court of Appeals has halted because of flawed consultations. How would you characterize the success of the Trudeau government’s consultation efforts up to date?
Uppal: I think right now, the biggest concern is that they are dragging this on; significant consultations were done. And now they are saying that they are to be more consultations, they have, again, now said that there’s going to be a delay and delay it by about a month. So I am concerned that this is being dragged on, just for, you know, for political reasons. At some point down the road before an election, they will make an announcement that they have approved this pipeline, but not in any meaningful sense where you would actually get work done and work started on this pipeline. And that’s a serious concern, not just for me, but for a number of Aboriginal people that I have talked to are very concerned. There’s at least one Aboriginal chief who said that they haven’t even been contacted by the Liberals for the consultation. So, you know, what does that mean that they’ve taken on this time, extra time? And there are still people who said that they have not been contacted, who feel that they should be. What does that mean for another potential court challenge? So, I think there are some serious concerns in the way that they’re managing this. And, and I’m not the only one that is very concerned.
TPM: You know, it’s interesting that you bring it up. The president of the Indian Resource Council, Steven Buffalo, he went on CTV to call out Minister Sohi and the Trudeau government for failing to get back to them despite multiple attempts reaching out. Sohi claimed to have met with 85 Indigenous communities in February, and in March, 100 such communities were contacted by retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci. So do we give any credence or any credibility to said claims, as in terms of the diversity of opinion in the First Nation communities, is there a concern that only one side of the argument is being heard?
Uppal: I think there definitely is a concern that a number of the pro-development, pro-pipeline, First Nations communities that would like to see this project and other projects as well move forward in a way that would benefit everyone. It’s not only their communities, but all Canadians, especially in Alberta, heading into BC, that their voices are not being heard, through the media, and even through some politicians. Many of the opponents of the pipeline are said to be Aboriginal communities, but many of the ones that are wanting to work with the government, in making this pipeline reality, are actually First Nations themselves. Jason Kenney is a great example of somebody who has said that he’s going to work with First Nations, and help to create jobs in those communities, and that’s a great way to set up that partnership. And we need to see more of that. And unfortunately, we’re just not seeing that in the general public. I’m not seeing because of how this debate is being covered.
TPM: There was an article released by the Edmonton Journal recently, where businessmen Calvin Helin, of First Nation origin, he comes from northwest BC, and he sees a threat posed more by, quote, “wealthy, big city, environmentalists” who are quote, “more concerned with landlocking Alberta oil and keeping the donations flowing than they are with supporting environmentally sound projects that will create jobs.” He labels this as eco-colonialism. Is this the first instance you’ve ever heard of the term eco-colonialism?
Uppal: I don’t know about eco-colonialism. That’s true. That might be the first time I’ve heard of it. But, and I did read that article, it really comes down to what we’ve been hearing before about foreign entities influencing decisions that are made here in Canada, so through their funding, funnelling money into Canada, and trying to shape the debate on something that is very important to Canadians. And that’s a very serious matter. That is something that needs to be addressed. And especially, you know, with the federal election coming up, I think that is a serious concern of this foreign influence on our debate. Essentially, what’s going to have to happen here is that there are differences of opinion on this project. It is a very major project, one that is in the best interest of constituents, the benefit of Canadians, and difficult decisions will have to be made. The Liberal government, the Trudeau government, will not be able to please everybody. But that is their problem. That’s what they’d like to do. And I think they’re just trying to delay this decision. Because of the election that’s coming up, this has been delayed for political reasons. And it’s unfortunate, that’s happening, because people, you know, their, their livelihoods are at play here. There are people in Alberta who have lost their jobs, I have talked to so many people who are now working half as much as they were before. So there are many people who are now going driving up to Fort McMurray half the time, four days, then four days back. And it’s very difficult for them to be able to provide for their families, there are other people who are living off of lines of credit, because we can’t find jobs. And so we need to figure this out, sort of put the politics aside and get this pipeline approved.
TPM: The article in the Edmonton Journal, on eco-colonialism, says that conservatives have a “generational change in attitude, and are more inclusive about energy projects,” while the opponents to energy projects are quote, “tone deaf to anything Indigenous people have said.” In reference to the recent Alberta election, Kenney has pledged to create a $1 billion crown corporation to promote energy projects, Indigenous consultations, and reconciliation efforts. Do you think this is a step in the right direction?
Uppal: I do. I think a strong positive partnership with First Nations communities is very important. It is a way to help to create jobs in these communities, but it’s also a way to share the opportunities that we have.
TPM: I’d like to hear your thoughts on the crude-by-rail plan by the former NDP government. So initially, they intended to purchase 7000 rail cars, 800 locomotives to ease the ‘crisis’ in oil price differentials. In reality, they were only able to lease 4400 cars, no locomotives, and at a purchase price of $3.7 billion, which was approximately $700 million more than the original cost at, you know, half of what they said they would do. Experts say that this could have been done more effectively through the private sector at less cost. What are your thoughts on this plan?
Uppal: Generally, it was not very well thought out, I think this is something where the NDP was trying to put out a plan out there just to show that they had a plan, when they really realized how badly things were going to go. They were asleep when C-69 was presented, and when it was being debated. And, you know, that is when they should have been speaking up. We saw the government remain silent on C-48 too. So, you know, time came and all of a sudden, they needed to present a plan, because with the economic situation being so poor, they brought this plan forward and it was not thought out well. They didn’t even look into if these rail cars were available to purchase, what the actual price would be to acquire. I do believe that a private company would have saved money. But also, you know, you can increase the number of cars if available, but you cannot increase the number the tracks themselves. And so you are competing with grain that needs to be moved and other goods that also need to be moved. So you’re not creating another lane, while a pipeline would be for specifically for our oil sands sector. For our oil industry, this is, you know, another avenue that is also being used by other industries. Just goes to show that they were so far behind on overall management as well.
TPM: It remains to be seen, if the Trudeau government can turn the ship around in terms of convincing not only Indigenous Canadians, but all Canadians that they are the party that should be tasked with getting our oil to market.
Uppal: No, I think, first of all, I have no doubt that before the election sometime during the summer, the Trudeau government will come up with with an announcement that they have approved this pipeline. And that will be met with high levels of skepticism. Because there is concrete evidence of the Trudeau government’s attempt to slow down the industry through C-69 and C-48. They are absolutely hurting any possible future development of major pipeline development, and also C-48 as well, where there’s a tanker ban off the West Coast? So, if anybody was looking to make significant investments into Alberta, all of Canada, they would have to think twice because of the legislation. So, I don’t think people want to believe the Liberals when they do make this announcement, if they make an announcement in favour of it. I think they’re going to wait and see what their actual actions are. To date, they’ve presented legislation that has actually hurt the industry.
Via Rail announced this morning that CN has notified them that partial routes between Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa will be back up and running as early as Thursday, Feb. 20.
Only trains that serve full trips between Quebec City and Ottawa will resume service. This comes after the better part of two weeks of being shut down as a result of protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people who are against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Trains 22, 24, 26, 28 leaving from Ottawa will be resuming as well as trains 33, 35, 37, and 39 leaving from Quebec City.
All other train services remain cancelled until further notice with the exception of Sudbury–White River (CP Rail) and Churchill–The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway).
The Minister of Indigneous, Marc Miller met with blockade protestors Saturday in Belleville in hopes to negotiate a swift and peaceful resolution. The meeting took place in a nearby community centre and lasted over eight hours, although the minister wasn’t able to give the press many details about what was discussed in said meeting.
If you reward something, you get more of it.
If you punish something, you get less of it.
It’s one of the most basic precepts of human nature, and it should be the bare minimum level of knowledge a government official possesses in the execution of their duties.
It’s the entire reason we have laws.
We punish behaviour that is illegal, in order to discourage that illegal behaviour.
Of course, no system is perfect, and we don’t want a “perfect system”, particularly not in a democracy.
But it has to work most of the time, particularly when the illegality is obvious and potentially damaging to the entire nation.
And when it comes to “rewards”, often the reward is in the elevation and respect of those who act in a way that helps that country and makes Canada a better place.
That’s what the majority of community members and the ELECTED Wet’suwet’en Chiefs were doing when they worked to get a good deal for their community, approved the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and worked to help encourage jobs and prosperity.
They followed the rules. They worked for the good of their community.
And what did they get in return?
They got betrayed by Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
Meanwhile, the radical blockaders–many of whom don’t even represent the Wet’suwet’en community–broke the laws, are damaging Canada’s economy, and are ignoring repeated court injunctions.
In short, they broke the rules, and they’re working against the good of their community.
And what did they get in return?
They got rewarded, by Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
Trudeau has elevated them, offered meetings, sent a Minister to talk to them, and has in effect given them control over the country by refusing to enforce the rule of law.
Now, as you read at the top of this article, when you reward something you get more of it, and when you punish something you get less of it.
And the consequences are clear:
Trudeau has shown that illegal protests will be rewarded with a gain of status and an ability to meet with government leaders.
Trudeau has also shown that the majority of community members who followed the rules and followed the laws will be ignored and betrayed, with their majority voices drowned out by the more extremist minority.
As a result, Canada can expect more and more illegal protests, while fewer communities will choose to follow the law.
You can already imagine what a massive disaster that will be.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau has confirmed that anti-pipeline protestors tampered with railroad crossings, specifically, the lights that indicate a coming train.
Garneau appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics on Monday, explaining the situation “I have with concerns with respect to safety here. There have been instances with the railroads where people have climbed on railway cars, that happened over the weekend. There have been instances where unexpected blockade was put in an area where a train was, in fact, operating and the railway company was not aware of that, and that can be extremely dangerous,” said Garneau.
Garneau went on to mention tampering instances that have taken place. Tampering with rail is considered a very serious offence, as previous instances of rail tampering involve full police investigations along with the CN Police Service.
“There have also been instances of tampering on the railways… One that concerns me is disabling the signalling that occurs at a road crossing… We accept peaceful protests and demonstrations in this country that are peaceful and lawful, but it is concerning if people aren’t respecting the fact that they injure themselves and other people.”
No further figures or specifics were provided by Garneau.
Hours before, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave an update to the situation to media in Ottawa, though no mention was given of any potential tampering with train tracks or disabled signalling.
“We had a good meeting with morning with the incident response group, discussions with ministers, I made some phone calls to Indigenous leadership as well as a number of premiers,” said Trudeau.
“I understand how worrisome this is for so many Canadians and difficult for many families across the country. We’re going to continue to focus on resolving the situation quickly and peacefully, and that’s what we’re going to do”
Over 83,000 VIA rail passengers have been affected by the blockades. CN has also temporarily laid-off employees in several provinces.
A lesbian event has been removed from Sydney, Australia’s LGBT Pride after a vocal minority protested the participation of a popular lesbian YouTuber with critical views towards transgender self-ID.
Arielle Scarcella runs an LGBT-centred YouTube channel with over 630,000 subscribers.
She has also spoken out against self-ID laws which have enabled biological males to be transferred to women’s prisons after the commission of serious offences, such as sexual assaults. In 2018, Scarcella collaborated on a video with Blaire White discussing how lesbian sexual preferences that do not include an attraction to biological males who transition to female were not “transphobic.”
Les-Talk was originally planned to be one of the events featured at Sydney Mardi Gras, the local Pride parade and festival. A panel-style discussion also featuring Tania Safi of Buzzfeed, the event began to draw ire from trans rights activists for including Scarcella. A petition was launched on February 15 demanding Scarcella be removed and replaced “preferably by someone of intersectionality.”
The petition was launched by Johnny Valkyrie, a transman and drag performer most notorious for a January incident at the Brisbane National Library. Valkyrie hosted Drag Storytime at the library, and was one of the two performers confronted by demonstrators from the University of Queensland National Liberal Club chanting “drag queens are not for kids.” The protestors were filmed and doxed.
The doxing resulted in one of the protestors, an openly gay student named Wilson Gavin, committing suicide the next day. Valkyrie used the opportunity at the library to raise funds for his “top surgery,” including a post on the day-of Gavin’s death—later updating the post to claim it was made prior to knowledge of his passing.
According to Valkyrie’s petition, Tania Safi of Buzzfeed has already dropped out of Les-Talk stating “I do not agree with Arielle’s transphobic and biphobic beliefs.”
10 Hours ago, Valkyrie uploaded an update to the petition, celebrating the “deplatforming” of Scarcella and Les-Talk.
Les-Talk was not officially cancelled, but was disassociated from Mardi Gras, according to a Facebook post made on the event’s official page. According to the post, the event is going forward being “privately held” by the “POC Queer women” organizing it.
Scarcella has not been disinvited from the event, and the event will proceed at another venue, separate from the LGBT Pride festivities.
Les-Talk’s Facebook page was littered with offers of support posted to the page’s wall by individuals outraged by Scarcella’s treatment.
Even multiple transpeople defended Scarcella’s beliefs, asserting she was not transphobic. One transwoman pleaded with the community to give Scarcella a “second chance,” while a transman praised Scarcella for “saying things no one else talks about.”
Scarcella is dismissive of the claims of transphobia, asserting she is anything but. “People have labeled me transphobic for being critical of trans ideas. I have no issues with being transgender. I’ve had more trans people in my videos than any other YouTuber to date,” she told The Post Millennial, noting that her only issue is with self-identification laws which might put women in danger.
“To those who truly believe I’m transphobic, I hope you change your hive-mind mentality and see how much you’re hurting your own community by acting so hateful.”