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Burnaby MP's phone ringing off the hook due to pipeline

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart -
Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart
— image credit:

The phone at Kennedy Stewart's office has been ringing off the hook. A small army of staff and volunteers is trying to keep up to the demand as each day, a page is removed from the makeshift calendar indicating the days left to deadline day.

If it sounds like an election campaign at the Burnaby-Douglas MP's office, that's because they're treating it like one.

But it isn't.

Instead, it's Stewart's campaign to help as many people as possible to apply to participate in the process that will review Kinder Morgan's application to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby.

Last weekend, he arranged for phone calls and mailouts to 30,000 households in his riding informing constituents of the National Energy Board's (NEB) Feb. 12 deadline to apply for intervenor status.

The start of the application period on Jan. 15 was earlier than Stewart expected, but it appears he's making the most of it.

On Monday, his office received 400 phone calls, the New Democrat said. They know this because apart from staff answering calls, their answering machine can hold a maximum of 50 messages, and they had to clear it off three times. He's fully expecting a further deluge of calls as the deadline approaches.

"I'm doing this as a 28-day campaign," he said. "It's the only way to keep my staff sane. I tell them, 'it's not forever.'"

The calls have ranged from people volunteering to help out—they've already trained 30 people to assist in the office—to people hearing about the project for the first time and being quite upset the deadline to apply is so soon, he said. Others who are supportive of the pipeline are also invited to register "to let their voice be heard."

As for some being unaware of the project despite it being in the news for the past couple years, Stewart credited Kinder Morgan with doing a "slick sales job" focused on the pipeline being twinned when in fact in Burnaby and other parts of Greater Vancouver, the expansion will follow a whole new route from the existing corridor.

Stewart's office at 4658 Hastings St. has been turned into a registration centre where staff and volunteers can help people apply online. The key is for applicants to  articulate how they're directly impacted by the proposal as only those who are will be considered eligible for intervenor status, he said.

Stewart stressed that it's better to apply even if people are not sure they're going to participate because that keeps their options open.

"If they don't register they won't even be able to send a letter [when the review process begins]."

On Saturday, Jan. 25 from 3 to 5 p.m., Stewart will be hosting a meeting at Confederation Community Centre, 4585 Albert St., Burnaby, to explain how people can get involved in the NEB hearing process for the project.

The MP arranged the event after the NEB cancelled its own local information meetings last fall, opting to hold online sessions instead.

Last month, Kinder Morgan filed its 15,000-page formal application with the NEB to almost triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline, which would significantly increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet as it's aimed at increasing exports of oil sands crude oil to overseas markets.

Those planning to attend the meeting are asked to pre-register at http://bit.ly/1a103Se and visit www.letbcdecide.ca for more information.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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