The rise of Lee Brain and oil pipeline critics as mayors in B.C.

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[Municipal opposition to oil and gas projects continues to mount in BC. Another "what the.."? moment for oil companies: the new mayors of B.C.'s northern communities aren't big fans of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project. *RON*]

 Jenny Uechi, Vancouver Observer, 18 November 2014

Top left: Prince Rupert mayor Lee Brain; top right: Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth; bottom left: Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson; bottom right: Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan
Lee Brain, who many remember as the oil executive's son who delivered a powerful testimony against Enbridge at the Northern Gateway hearings two years ago, just became mayor of Prince Rupert.

It's not good news for Enbridge, which was -- until recently -- considering moving its terminal for the Northern Gateway pipeline from Kitimat to Prince Rupert, after Kitimat residents and city council came out against the project.

Brain told the Vancouver Observer he remains categorically opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

"I'm not in favour of any oil through Prince Rupert. I think even if it's by rail -- people in this community are not interested in shipping out bitumen.

"I'll be absolutely firm in my stance on Enbridge. I don't think (Northern Gateway) is an economically or environmentally sound proposal. I will absolutely be vocal about that," Brain said.

Brain's stance on Northern Gateway was shared by outgoing Prince Rupert mayor, Jack Mussallem, who said the community wasn't interested in helping Alberta move its oil to Asia.

Brain said people began seeking him out to run for mayor after his speech on Northern Gateway.

"After my Enbridge testimony, people law me as a leader in the town. So I said, 'You know what? It's time for me to step up."

In what Northwest Coast Energy news described as a "What the..." moment for Enbridge, then-Kitimat councillor Phil Germuth grilled Northern Gateway president John Carruthers in March with hard, technical questions about the company's capability to prevent oil spills.

That same councillor has now been elected as Kitimat's new mayor.

Germuth won an overwhelming victory with 1,828 votes, while Kitimat Chamber of Commerce director Trish Parsons garnered 530 votes. Outgoing mayor Joanne Monaghan, who tried to remain positive but neutral on the Northern Gateway proposal, came in third at 447 votes. According to Northwest Coast Energy, Germuth told supporters after his victory that he was "pro-development". However, he has demonstrated skepticism toward corporate promises to protect the environment.

In Smithers, incumbent mayor Taylor Bachrach -- who testified to the Joint Review Panel in 2012 that Enbridge Northern Gateway would ruin the salmon economy in Northern B.C. -- kept his seat.

Further south, other mayors who have been vocal in their criticism of pipeline projects scored wins in the election.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan -- whose fiery speeches in opposition of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are now famous -- won a crushing victory for his fifth consecutive term.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan at anti-Kinder Morgan rally on Sept. 13, 2014 - Photo by Mark Klotz
In Vancouver, Gregor Robertson was elected mayor for the third term, despite strong criticism of his Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker opposition by the NPA as overreaching on issues outside the city's jurisdiction.

According to a recent report, Robertson's strong stance on Kinder Morgan actually helped him secure a victory in a tight race against his opponent, who he suggested was being funded by big oil money.

The election results, combined with the U.S. Senate's surprise rejection of a Keystone XL pipeline approval bill today, signify uncertain times for large oil infrastructure projects in the year ahead. 
 
Photo of Mayor Gregor Robertson by Mychaylo Prystupa

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