A speech to the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel

I would like to acknowledge and thank the Coast Salish nations for hosting us on their territory.

My name is Anna Kemp. I am a mother, a freelance journalist and I run my own business here in Victoria. I stand firmly against the proposed Northern Gateway Project.

I grew up here on Vancouver Island. As a child, I dug for clams on Galiano beaches, I caught fish and crabs off docks, I hiked in the forest and explored the Gulf islands with my family on our sailboat. I have seen killer whales, bears, seals, sea lions, otters, minks, cormorants, eagles, ravens and many other birds, animals and sea creatures of our region.

I have a five year old boy. Among the greatest pleasures of my life is taking him to the beaches and forests of our wild coast, sharing with him the beauty and mystery of this place where we live.

I was 15 years old in 1989, when the Exxon-Valdez oil spill happened. Of course, there were many oil spills in the news before that point, but that one shook me awake. I will never forget that event and its devastating consequences: how the wildlife was decimated, how recovery efforts were frustrated by the remote location, and by just how difficult it is to clean up an oil spill.

Since then, the oil spills continue. I googled oil spill, coming up with a list of spills over the last 20 years and there are so many, every year. Boats sink, pipelines fissure, refineries leak, rigs are damaged. It happens. A lot.

Now, to think of building a pipeline, through an extremely treacherous mountain range, prone to avalanche and largely inaccessible in winter, down to a coastline in an active earthquake zone, then sending giant bitumen-laden tankers through the inside passage infamous for its currents and unpredictable winter weather… all without risking an oil spill? It seems profound and sobering folly.

What we have here in coastal BC is a unique and delicate ecosystem. The ecosystem is already under pressure: our salmon stocks are extremely fragile, wildlife is being squeezed by development and pollution. To put this coastline at such extreme risk needs careful weighing of the benefits.

But what are the benefits? For three years there will be jobs. Numbers vary, but a general estimate is around 2000 workers for three years. After that, according to Enbridge, less than 200 permanent jobs will be created by this project.

200. There are 2.4 million working people in BC.

 If we want to build jobs, why would we ship unrefined bitumen instead of refining it here in Canada?

And how does it make sense to import oil from the Middle East while simultaneously shipping it to China?

And what about investing in renewable and green energy sources? According to a Climate Justice Project Report put out in 2012 by the CCPA, a 5 billion dollar investment in green jobs and industries (the estimated cost of this project) would create between three and 34 times the number of jobs.

Building jobs for us is clearly not their top priority.

Both Enbridge, and its supporters in the government, portray the pipeline as a catalyst for economic growth in the North. But this is simply not true.

Enbridge investors and oil sands producers will benefit, not working British Columbians. In fact, we will be bearing the deeper costs of this project.

If there is an oil spill: communities who subsist off the land and sea will pay, the fishing industry will pay, the tourism industry will pay, people who live on the coast or along the path of the proposed pipeline will pay. And we all bear the health and environmental costs of increased carbon emissions.

I support the Coastal First Nations Declaration and the Save the Fraser Declaration and stand against tankers on our coast. My views are echoed by the majority in this province.

I thank the panel for the opportunity to share my opinion.

PS. I love you

I signed up with The World Needs More Love Letters to write a love letter a day for 12 days. I wrote the first one this morning to Emily, and while it derailed me from my day of bookkeeping (leading me down the digital garden path to watching Ted talks, researching article ideas, violating twitter protocol (Emily Post I need you!) and getting up to speed on Will and Kate’s pregnancy), it made my day.

I used to write a lot of letters. Actual from-my-hand-to-yours, licked-stamp, illegibly-scrawled, excitedly-plucked-from-the-mailbox letters. And I miss it.

I miss the time I would take to reflect on and describe my life and experiences to friends and family far away. I miss stationary. I miss stamps. I miss hand-crafting beautiful pieces of art to send to people who I knew would return the effort, often sending me something even more interesting. I once received a letter inside a plastic banana. I once received a letter written entirely on napkins and ripped gig posters from the bar where my friend spent an evening writing me. I once (from the same friend) received a dead goldfish.

I have not written or received a letter in years and it was sheer pleasure today to spend the time to write one. And a love letter, even more so. I can’t imagine how thrilled Emily will be when she opens up her mailbox to find a slew of letters full of love and encouragement.

The world needs more love letters, in fact the world needs more letters.