Where One’s Sympathies Lie: Tar Sands Pipeline Projects, Old Friends, and the 2015 Manning Networking Conference
Any outstanding questions as to what Tim Laidler’s (the local Conservative candidate in the newly established riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam) position is in regards to the proposed Tar Sands pipeline developments within B.C. was answered for me by Mr. Laidler’s recent participation and interactions, prior to and during, the recent Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa that took place March 5th-7th, 2015.
The first indication was provided by what at first glance seemed to be a fairly innocuous tweet (seen below) from a fellow named Donny van Dyk who posted a tweet saying “Who’s pumped for #MNC2015?” (the 2015 Manning Networking Conference), identifying Tim Laidler and a fellow named Patrick Beatty in the tweet.
As noted, at first the tweet all seemed fairly innocuous, a tweet between a couple of young Conservatives (old buddies?) excited to reconnect at the upcoming conference in Ottawa. Who can blame them? Innocuous until you realize that both Mr. van Dyk and Mr. Beatty are both heavily involved in the Tar Sands industry. In fact, Mr. van Dyk is (since 2013) the Kitimat-based Manager of Coastal Aboriginal and Community Relations of the Northern Gateway Project and was one of the more prominent faces in the recent failed plebiscite in Kitimat. Mr. van Dyk, who is a former New Hazelton administrator, was also very actively politically in the BC Liberal party and its youth wing (as was Mr. Laidler). The other recipient of the tweet, Patrick Beatty, is in fact the Governmental Relations advisor at Suncor (since 2012), a major energy giant involved heavily in Tar Sands development. Interestingly, Mr. Beatty is the son of former Conservative cabinet minister Perrin Beatty who lists maverick Conservative MP Michael Chong as a hero (suggesting that he too may not be a fan of Stephen Harper but I digress…).
The fact that Mr. Laidler was going to be closely interacting with such obvious representatives of the Tar Sands industry was probably reason enough to question where Mr. Laidler’s sympathies lie in the pipeline debate. This was further compounded however by a random photograph from the conference that showed a receiving line for Premier Christine Clark which showed Mr. Laidler chatting with someone very familiar to anyone familiar with Mr. Laidler’s political past (see photo below). The person to the right of Mr. Laidler appears to be none other than Mr. Gavin Dew.
Mr. Dew, for those who are not familiar with him, is currently a consultant working on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project for Kinder Morgan who works on stakeholder engagement and communications for the project. Mr. Laidler and Mr. Dew in fact go way, way back (back to UBC days?) with them both being former directors of the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) at the same time (see photo below). Mr. Dew was in fact described as the NPA’s former Social Media expert, and was part of former Premier Gordon Campbell’s constituency campaign, and along with Tim Laidler, was a founding member of the group known as the Build 2030 Public Engagement Society, a group loosely associated with the B.C. Liberals which was described as “a not-for-profit group which caters to what it calls the next generation of movers and shakers”. Mr. Dew, like Tim Laidler, was also a campaign manager for the B.C. Liberals running a successful re-election campaign for Ralph Sultan in the riding of West Vancouver-Capilano. Additional details concerning Mr. Laidler’s past involvement with the NPA and BC Liberals including his time a director with the NPA and as a campaign manager for the BC Liberals can be found here. Clearly, there are many parallels between Mr. Dew and Mr. Laidler’s political careers.
Very interestingly (and somewhat simultaneously timely and topical at the same time), Mr. Dew’s Masters of Business Administration (MBA) thesis at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School focused on pipeline politics particularly Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project. In his MBA, he spoke of the vagueness of the concept of “Social Licence” concerning pipeline developments (somewhat echoing Joe Oliver’s recent comments no?) and suggested that “the prognosis for Enbridge isn’t great” as “Enbridge has a major moral legitimacy problem”. See here for further information concerning his MBA Thesis and a survey that was conducted as part of his MBA research. A September 26, 2012 BC Almanac CBC radio interview with Mr. Dew concerning his MBA, Enbridge, and the concept of Social Licence in regards to pipeline developments does apparently exist but it is no longer available on the CBC website. Is it any wonder that he was retained by the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project accordingly given his familiarity with the failings of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project concerning gaining social licence? And one wonders whether or not Joe Oliver, Trans Mountain, and others were/are aware of Mr. Dew’s MBA research and thesis given the nature of the social licence discussion that is currently taking place?
(Edit: Rumour has it that Mr. Dew is in fact the campaign manager for Mr. Laidler. Not surprising given his presence in nomination meeting photos, his past experience as a campaign manager, his presence at campaign fundraisers, and his long-standing relationship with Mr. Laidler).
(see below for a picture of both Mr. van Dyk [Northern Gateway project] and Mr. Dew [Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project] [“the pipeline guys!!”] at the Manning Conference that was tweeted out by the Manager of the Campaigns [Christina Pilarski] for the Canadian Association of Petroleum producers. You get the sense that Mr. Laidler is just to the side of whoever took the photograph.)
A quick few words about the Manning Conference itself. The conference, which included numerous oil sands interests as sponsors including TransCanada, Enbridge, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum producers, was where Rex Murphy quipped about “ludicrous global warming”, where former Natural Resources Minister and current Finance Minister Joe Oliver suggested that the concept of social licence shouldn’t be used to block pipeline developments(!!), where one of the speakers insisted that society pays a price for “encouraging some of our most intelligent women to have a career instead of having children”, where a New Brunswick Conservative MP John Williamson quipped that “it makes no sense to pay “whities” to stay home while companies bring on “brown people” as temporary foreign workers (not the first time for this particular MP to make racially charged statements incidentally), where one of the keynote speakers (Jason Kenney) two days after the conference tweeted out a series of misleading photos as propaganda on Women’s Day, and James Moore quipped (in a thinly veiled reference to pipeline expansion projects) that when nation building projects are taking place is when Canada is at its best. This was a conference where the very presence of Christy Clark, the Premier of B.C. was questioned by some as not being right wing enough to attend the conference and was branded a Liberal (see tweet below). This is not the first time that this complaint has come up. Other “highlights” from the Manning Networking Conference can be found here.
Back to the matter at hand, as there are now what appears to be some fairly clear and demonstrable ties between Mr. Laidler and both the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project and the Northern Gateway pipeline project in B.C., it is now clear in my mind where the allegiances of Mr. Laidler lie in reference to proposed tar sands pipeline projects. This confirms my earlier suspicions which were identified during the City of Port Moody National Energy Board Trans Mountain Town Hall Meeting that took place on June 25, 2014 concerning the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project. During the meeting, at which numerous environmental concerns over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project were expressed, Mr. Laidler stood up, walked up to the mike, and made the following statement/question.
Tim Laidler, Port Moody: Hi there. I grew up in Anmore, but I have recently moved into Port Moody. I think what we’re faced with here is weighing the risks and the benefits of the project. So my question is specifically around the economic benefits and some of the jobs numbers. I, myself, served in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces and, since coming home have been working at a non-profit organization helping Veterans transition with things like PTSD. And what we found from the veterans is we can help them with some of the psychological issues from war, but if they don’t get back into meaningful careers, they tend to struggle quite a bit. So what would be really important to me and to my colleagues who are all transitioning back into the work force is some of those job numbers, during the construction, but also are there going to be jobs after the construction. Also the second question is around the access to world markets. I’ve heard that a lot, and I was wondering if you could explain that a little bit better.
Michael Davies: Okay, there is a lot there. In terms of economic benefits, it’s a $5.4 billion construction project. About 60% of that will be spent in British Columbia. There will probably be about 4,500 jobs at the peak of the construction and 750 of those would be in Burnaby. And those would develop benefits or spinoffs for all of the local communities along the pipeline and, particularly, there is a lot of construction that is proposed for the Lower Mainland here. In terms of longer term jobs, we have about 130 employees in BC now. I think there would be about another 90 jobs in total in Trans Mountain. About 50 of those would be in BC. What Scott didn’t get to with his part of the presentation around Western Canada Marine Response and those new spill bases and the expansion of the existing spill response; that would probably result in, and the early estimates right now is probably 90-100 new positions as well in those communities along, well there would be more here in Burnaby as well, but certainly along the route through the Salish Sea. The, we pay local taxes. We pay about $50,000 a year in taxes to Port Moody for the piece of pipeline that we have now. That’s not going to change because there is no change to the pipe, but the local taxes in BC would increase by about $20 million. About $6 million of that is for the City of Burnaby. So there are some significant benefits. Those are the ones that are directly related to the project. The second part of your question is about world markets. Of late, the price of oil in North America has been about $20-$30 less per barrel than what it is in the rest of the world. Canada can only sell into the continental US market, that market with the depressed price. So we are selling our oil to the US at a markdown price, where if we had access to tide water and global markets, we would be able to, I mentioned earlier two million barrels a day that is exported, we would have the opportunity to raise the price of those two million barrels a day by $20-$30. That’s a big part of what this project is about. Now those differentials come and go. Things will change in the market and they won’t always be there, but the point is that when they occur, Canada has no opportunity to take advantage of that. And that’s where the interest is in expanding our infrastructure to be able to serve international markets.
Tim Laidler: Thank you. Can I do a follow-up? (Sure.) I just want to say thanks. That answers my questions. And I just wanted to offer something to the process here. Again, my experience in Afghanistan, we saw a lot of community type forums like this that were not nearly as civilized, so I think we all are doing a pretty good job in the process. Thanks so much to the City of Port Moody for hosting.
A link to the video of the Port Moody Town Hall Meeting can be found here on the City of Port Moody website. Go to 78:21 to see Mr. Laidler’s participation in the meeting. Please consider his question/statement in the context of the rest of the questions that were being asked that day and remember that at the time of the Town Hall meeting that Mr. Laidler was already actively seeking the Conservative nomination for the riding (note the date on the tweet below indicating that a reception took place almost a full month before the Kinder Morgan hearings). However, he choose not to disclose that as part of his question/statement. Knowing now his close relationship to Mr. Dew and in turn Mr. Dew’s employment with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project makes his statement/question even more interesting. Did he attend the meeting at Mr. Dew’s request I wonder?
So what are we to take from the Conservative candidate of Port Moody-Coquitlam’s question to the NEB concerning the Trans Mountain Pipeline project? Was he concerned about the environmental impacts of the project on his potential constituency? Clearly, the answer is no. Did he somewhat oddly repeat the same talking points about himself out of context when the only instruction to speakers from the NEB was to “clearly state their name, City of residence and whether they are representing a Port Moody business”. Well, frankly yes. Did he take the job values and economic spinoff values provided by the Trans Mountain representatives at face value? Yes, numbers that have since been shown to be greatly exaggerated as identified in the recently published SFU report (Nov. 10, 2014) entitled “Economic Costs and Benefits of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) for BC and Metro Vancouver” which clearly identifies that Kinder Morgan has inflated the pipeline’s job numbers by a factor of three while dramatically underestimating spill costs. So where does Mr. Laidler stand on the singular most paramount environmental issue potentially facing the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam? His question to the NEB during the Town Hall meeting would seem to indicate that environmental concerns are not a concern of his at all.
In summation, Mr. Laidler’s past participation in public hearings concerning tar sands pipelines and his seemingly cozy relationship with various Tar Sands pipeline proponents would suggest that if elected by the people of the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, that you can pretty much guarantee that Mr. Laidler will back any Tar Sands pipeline project in B.C. without reservation or question. If as a voter in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam that is what you are looking for, then by all means vote for Mr. Laidler and the Conservative party in the upcoming election. If not, if you have at least some question in your mind regarding the projects, then perhaps you will need to seek a candidate from another party that does not seem so obviously tied to the development of the Tar Sands and Tar Sands pipeline developments and who is willing to at least consider the environmental damage that could be caused both locally and globally by the continued unfettered development of the Tar Sands. Again the above all speaks to Mr. Laidler being a seasoned and well-connected politico who just happens to be an Afghan vet rather than an Afghan vet who is suddenly drawn to politics in order to serve for the greater good. OK this post is going to get me on the Bill C51 subversive list now for sure…
(PS: Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, I have to point out that I am not against all pipeline developments. I, in fact, own a considerable amount of stock in a company that will likely benefit greatly from LNG development and in my profession have worked on a number of resource extraction and development projects. By being against Tar Sands pipeline development and expansion and pipelines in B.C. does not make one by default against all resource development and large scale developments in B.C. It makes one for responsible, environmentally sensible, development instead).