PM visiting Vancouver for Lunar New Year amid public debate over pipeline - InfoNews

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PM visiting Vancouver for Lunar New Year amid public debate over pipeline

FILE PHOTO - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in regards to his party's throne speech, in the House of Commons in Ottawa, on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
January 29, 2017 - 2:30 PM

VANCOUVER - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be visiting Vancouver today for the second time since approving the Kinder Morgan Canada Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Trudeau will be participating in Lunar New Year celebrations, including a parade in the city's historic Chinatown.

Trudeau's arrival comes after a string of town hall meetings in communities across the country, that notably have not included British Columbia.

He last visited the province in December following the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that will triple the capacity of an existing pipeline that runs from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. It will increase tanker traffic seven-fold within the densely populated Burrard Inlet.

Trudeau downplayed questions about lengthy protests related the project when meeting with local media last month.

He said some people will disagree with the decision to approve the project and expressing that disagreement is part of the democratic process.

But he also defended the approval, saying, "We need to both protect the environment and build a stronger economy at the same time."

Aaron Sam, Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band near Merritt, says Trudeau should hold public discussions in B.C.

The Trans Mountain pipeline crosses through the band's territory and members will be voting next month whether they should approve an agreement with Kinder Morgan.

Like much of the country, Sam says attitudes toward the pipeline are varied in his community.

He says he raised concerns about how the pipeline and its related tanker traffic will affect the salmon population the community relies on but doesn't feel that the federal government has taken those concerns seriously.

"(The Prime Minister) never sat down with us once," he said in an interview Saturday.

The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations, as well as the Coldwater Indian Band, launched legal challenges against federal government earlier this month claiming they were not properly consulted for the pipeline's approval.

Although the Lower Nicola Indian Band has not taken similar action, Sam says the community is disappointed in the Trudeau government for the lack of consultation about the pipeline and failure to meet other promises to boost indigenous rights in Canada.

Shachi Kurl, executive director for the Angus Reid Institute, says previous polls have suggested that about half of British Columbians are pleased with the pipeline approval while only a third are opposed.

Most of the opposition within B.C. appears centred to those who live in city of Vancouver and Burnaby, she says.

While environmental issues are a major concern for Canadians, Kurl said the economy is also a priority that can sway political perception.

Although Trudeau's approval ratings have dipped since he was elected in 2015, an Angus Reid poll in early December shows that he still maintains more than 50 per cent approval nationally.

"The prime minister starts year two in a fairly enviable position politically," Kurl says, adding that the town hall tour signals its not a position Trudeau is taking for granted.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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