On Nov. 17 we sounded the alarm
Blog by Chris Gusen
Yesterday, the Trans Mountain Crown corporation — the publicly owned company that Trudeau created when he bought the Trans Mountain pipeline back in 2018 — held their Annual “Public” Meeting. While the CEO of the Trans Mountain Crown Corporation recorded a video update on the taxpayer-funded pipeline expansion, people across the country took to the streets to make one thing clear: it’s time to defund TMX.
A not-so-public meeting
The contrast could not have been clearer. What the Canadian Development Investment Corporation (CDEV) had advertised as a public meeting turned out to be nothing more than four white men in suits, awkwardly reading statements from their nondescript offices. Meanwhile, from coast to coast people of all ages and backgrounds flexed our people power with creativity, song, noisemakers and light. The whole day of action was a stirring reminder: we will win because we love life more.
In an attempt to appear to engage the public, Trans Mountain invited people across the country to submit their questions in the weeks leading up to the meeting. Thousands of people responded by emailing CDEV with legitimate questions about the $12.6 billion (or likely more) we’re collectively spending on TMX. For example, “How many boil water advisories in First Nations communities could we end with that money?” or, “How many units of affordable, low-carbon housing could we build?” TMX’s Ian Anderson didn’t even acknowledge the barrage of tough questions in his prepared remarks. It’s not clear if he ever will. Naturally, he didn’t mention the climate emergency either, nor did he mention the recent report showing that the pipeline expansion makes no economic sense. He certainly didn’t acknowledge the ongoing collaboration between the state and Big Oil to criminalize Indigenous people exercising their rights to protect the land. Instead, he rattled off a series of figures (barrels-per-day, labour costs, revenues, time-to-completion) that seemed designed to numb the viewer. Even Anderson himself looked profoundly bored.
Our so-called leaders are asleep at the wheel
In many ways, that’s exactly what yesterday’s actions were about. Our society is in crisis. But our so-called leaders are asleep at the wheel, hypnotized by greed and complacency. Meanwhile, the pandemic, the climate emergency, rising inequality and resurgent white supremacy are overlapping in nightmarish ways. It’s up to us to wake politicians up.
If they still won’t listen, it’s time for them to get out of the way. Our people-powered movements are ready to tackle these crises head on, and build a much better world in the process. We need to put our big, bold ideas for a just transition into action as soon as humanly possible. It’s time to defund TMX, end all fossil fuel subsidies and mobilize our whole economy around a Green New Deal that leaves no one behind.
Sounding the alarm across the country
Waking up politicians
That’s why Trudeau was one of the main targets yesterday. It’s critical that we force him to pick a side. The November 17th actions kicked off in Ottawa, where organizers from Climate Justice Ottawa and other local groups hoisted an enormous pair of eyes above the fence surrounding Rideau Cottage, the Prime Minister’s home. It’s satisfying to imagine the PM peeking out between his curtains to see those eyes staring back at him, representing the growing number of Canadians who see through his doublespeak on the climate emergency.
Organizers in other cities and towns targeted elected officials too. In Saint John, a crowd gathered outside Liberal MP Wayne Long’s office and they actually got him to come outside for a conversation. In London, organizers demonstrated outside the office of MP Peter Fragiskatos, holding up signs demanding Climate Action Now and calling for the government to truly respect Indigenous sovereignty.
Waking up the public
Many groups decided to target the broader public, choosing busy intersections where they knew they would get the attention of morning commuters. Members of 350 Toronto and allied groups held their actions outside the CDEV office where the “public” meeting on TMX was slated to take place. They read poetry, banged on pans, and chalked the entire surrounding area with messages of resistance and hope.
350 Hamilton chose a major downtown intersection, King and James, for their action too. They sounded the alarm by banging on pots and blasting a version of anti-fascist anthem Bella Ciao with lyrics adapted for the climate crisis. Passing drivers, and even a few public buses, honked to show their support for banners reading “Respect Indigenous Rights” and “No More Pipelines.” They probably loved the big, blue elephant too.
Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition chose Portage and Main for their action, hanging a massive banner outside CBC’s Winnipeg headquarters that read “Invest our $13 billion in a Green Recovery not the TMX pipeline.”
In Alberta, organizers with Climate Justice Edmonton hung a “Defund TMX: Green New Deal Now” banner off an overpass, the green fabric popping beautifully against the snow. Feeling alarmed about the climate emergency can feel lonely in the so-called heart of oil country but, as one organizer put it, “More and more Albertans are ready for a just transition away from oil and gas. In fact, a majority of Albertans support the principles of a Green New Deal.”
Sounding the alarm with art and creativity
In Kingston, members of PSAC Local 901 and 350 Kingston held a candlelight vigil at the break of dawn. They transformed a local landmark, a sculpture called Pollution, into a symbol of TMX resistance with chalk and banners. Here’s a great article on that particular action, featuring extensive quotes from one of the organizers.
In Parry Sound, organizers rang a magnificent old bell, adding a reflective moment to a high-energy day.
In Victoria, to close off an unforgettable day, organizers used the rain and darkness as a backdrop for illuminated Defund TMX signs and projections featuring messages of hope and visions for a made-in-Canada Green New Deal.
Sounding the alarm online
The good folks at 350 Vancouver got creative with a digital-only action where they took selfies wearing their #DefundTMX masks and holding up signs featuring the things they’d like us to spend the billions of dollars on instead. Even Ruth, one of the organizers’ dogs got involved!
Dogwood BC coordinated a Twitter storm to coincide with the TMX meeting, which helped get #StopTMX, #DefundTMX and #TransMountain trending all day. Climate Justice Edmonton had some fun with their Twitter followers speculating on what could possibly be happening at that closed-door AGM.
Sounding the alarm with direct action
Finally, while not officially affiliated with the Sound the Alarm Day of Action, Extinction Rebellion Vancouver chose the day of the TMX AGM to blockade a railway in Burnaby, BC. Faced with a complacent government, nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience are among the most effective tools citizens have to protect our future.
We’ll keep escalating the pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau to Defund TMX and put those billions into projects that will accelerate a just transition off fossil fuels. And we know we’re going to win because we have countless individuals and grassroots organizations fighting alongside us. If you haven’t already signed the Defund TMX petition and signed up for updates on this ongoing campaign, now is the time.
More on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a new fossil fuel pipeline that would carry tar sands from Alberta to just outside of Vancouver. It was originally owned by Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan, but the Government of Canada bailed the project out in 2018 when the company threatened to walk away. At the time, the Trudeau government bought the pipeline (with our tax dollars) for $4.5 billion. Since then, the projected cost to the public has jumped to nearly $13 billion. TMX doesn’t make economic sense, it has faced significant local opposition, it tramples indigenous rights, and it locks in more carbon emissions when science tells us we should be slashing them. That’s why there’s a growing movement across the country to Defund TMX and focus public money on accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels.