edited and interviewed by Stanley Lee
In early March, we’ve had the chance to interview Janet Routledge, BC NDP candidate for Burnaby-North. This is a rematch going against the BC Liberal incumbent Richard Lee, who is also the deputy speaker in the legislature. She lost a close race in 2013, and this time they’ve managed to open a campaign office earlier. As a former staffer in the 1990s working on policy, she sounds knowledgeable of how government and public systems work.
If you don’t learn anything else, you may learn how the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion is likely to kill more permanent jobs and make gasoline prices at the pump domestically more expensive in British Columbia.
Before we get to our interview, here are the links relevant to her campaign:
Here’s my first question. From our research, we know that you ran for office in the same riding in 2013 and lost a close race. Just curious why did you run in 2013 and why are you running again this time?
I am running for the same reason because I don’t like what I see happening in the province today, and I just can’t see myself sitting on the sidelines and whining about that. From what I can see, things are even worse in the province and in this community than they were in 2013, so I feel even more compelled to run and kind of make a difference. I think on the doorstep, there is a real advocate for change. I like to be part of that.
Okay, you said you didn’t like what things are happening, so you have any examples of how they did become worse or more specific examples?
Okay, you know the BC Liberals have been in power for 16 years. Basically, they’ve been taking care of their rich friends and they’ve been neglecting the rest of us, and I see the results of that. It’s quite noticeable in my neighborhood. This is my neighborhood, I live just down the street. I noticed that people are leaving. They’re complaining that they can’t afford to stay here, so they’re moving out and moving further into the Valley and the people who are staying here, I’m. finding are more stressed and more exhausted.
Life has become more unaffordable, and one of the key things that’s happened to people is the housing is out of reach. Whether or not they’re homeowners or renters, the available stock is shrinking and the costs are going up. It’s eating into their incomes. Also, there’s a lot of hidden fees and taxes that are eating away at disposable income and wages have remained flat. Shall I get them to quiet down or are you okay? This is a written interview, right?
Mostly transcribed from our conversation, with stuff cleaned up. It shouldn’t matter.
Personal debt is at an all-time high, so not only do people have their incomes a lot tighter, but I’m really noticing gridlock on the streets, in the highway, so people are spending a lot more time in their cars getting from one place to another or waiting for buses. If they’re working longer and they’re spending more time getting to and from work, or to and from things they want to do, they just have less time and they’re more stressed.
Other things that I see happening to people is the impact of the lack for childcare. My son and his family, they live in this neighborhood as well, and they’re fortunate that my husband and I live so close because we have a large extended family, and we’re all able to contribute to helping with child care. But even at that, you know they spend a lot of time taking their kids from events to events to events because it’s kind of cobbled together childcare. There’s a lot of people that can’t do that, don’t have extended family to help out with that, so that takes up a time and it’s very expensive. You know today childcare costs more. It costs more to put a child into childcare than to send to university. It’s that expensive.
Still talking about young parents, I mean then they also have to spend a lot of their free time raising money for their kids’ schools because the schools are underfunded. They’re having bake sales, car washes. Fundraising events takes up a lot of time. Those are the kinds of things that I see happening locally.
What I also want to talk about from that point of view is that not only do I see life getting a lot harder for people. I didn’t even talk about how life is harder for seniors really. At this point, we’re talking about young families. But you know at the same time, that quality of life is deteriorating in this neighborhood and in British Columbia generally, voter turnout has gone down. When the BC Liberals came to power in in 2001, the voter turnout in this area was around 70 percent.
That was 2001, so it was roughly 70 percent, I think it was a little more than 70 percent and now it’s a little more than 50 percent. There has been a huge drop in voter turnout.
I think it was about 55. I recall seeing that figure.
That’s a big drop, and so I think we should be worried about this trend because each time it drops more, and I think we should be worried about this because from the more research I’ve done, rich people vote and it’s not rich people who have decided to stop voting. It’s people who are being hurt the most by these government policies, who basically, I don’t know it looks like they’ve given up and they think that they can’t make a difference, or in some cases, it’s because even to take 20 minutes out of their life to go and vote, which they think they don’t have time to do that. It’s probably a combination. I don’t want to speculate, but I noticed that it’s a problem.
Back to your question why am I running, I feel like I my reason for running in 2017 because I’m even more passionate about it than I was in 2013 because of the situation and problems, so what I want to do, my goal is to connect with people who maybe given up on the democratic process, and who are hurt most by what’s happening in politics and more they tend to come out and vote.
For those points that you mentioned, I’m pretty sure we’ll cover most of them. The second question is what lessons did you think your campaign learned from last time that you guys are deploying already without going to the specifics?
Not to listen to polls. We call it the ground campaign, I don’t want this campaign to be influenced by the polls. I am going to run as if I’m afraid of losing. I’m going to run as if we have to take every single vote seriously and get every single vote out to the poll. We started earlier. We started more intensely. We have an office earlier than we had before, and we are trying some new ways of connecting with voters. For example, I’ve always been committed to door knocking. I’ve always wanted to have conversations with people on the doorstep and I’m continuing to do that. But one of the things that I’ve started to do and to do it fairly intensely is to try to connect with people on the bus stops. It’s a great way to find young voters who may be living in basement suites or who may not be on the voter’s list yet.
I’m having conversations with people at the bus stops. I’m going to public spaces. When the weather gets a little better, I’ll be going to parks and talking to people in parks. I’ll be talking to people at their kids’ soccer games and baseball games. You’re going to where people are, that’s the most important thing to do. From my point of view as a candidate is to take our party’s message to people.
Let’s talk about your current MLA right now, Richard Lee. We do know that he’s been the MLA for Burnaby North since 2001. Since the landslide. My question is, can you comment on your MLA’s performance in the past 15 years as the MLA for this region?
I prefer not to. I mean I do live in ‑ I don’t want to make it personal. I don’t want to do a personal campaign. I want to try to stay above that. People on the doorstep talk about him being quite invisible. They don’t feel that – maybe what I should do is I should talk about myself. I’d rather talk about myself and how I see myself as an MLA. I want to be an MLA who is very in tuned with the people of Burnaby-North, who stays in contact with the people of Burnaby-North, who will go to Victoria, and know what they want so well that I will fight for the issues that matter to people in Burnaby-North. I’ll fight for it in the legislature and I’ll fight for it the backrooms.
I have a pretty good sense, and I’m always developing an even better sense about matters to people in Burnaby-North because I go out of my way to engage people, and I ask them what matters to them. I can tell you that the second unprompted on the doorstep, when I say what’s the biggest thing to you in this election, unprompted, the biggest thing that comes up there and what comes up most often is get rid of Christy Clark, and the thing that comes up the second most closely is stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline.
Stopping the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is I have felt passionate about from the very beginning, so I feel like I’m in tuned with most of the voters in Burnaby North, and I would like to remind voters than in 2013 and since 2013, Richard Lee’s position on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline was it has nothing to do with Burnaby North. It stops in the neighboring riding. It has nothing to do with us, and that’s in spite of voters telling him repeatedly that they are worried about what would happen if there is a tanker collision right out here, which is in Burnaby-North, and you know pipeline spills they don’t stop at borders.
You’re talking about the diluted bitumen, right? We’re going to cover Kinder Morgan. I guess it’s an example of how the MLA over here that with the conflict between his party loyalty versus his constituents essentially, right?
I mean I don’t know. I mean I don’t want to speak about him. I do think I mean the role of an MLA is to speak for their constituents…
And listen to their constituents?
And listen to them and to bring back to their constituents other points of view.
Next question, let’s talk about Kinder Morgan. Since we’re already talking about it. Can you tell me more about how you feel about Kinder Morgan and what you’ve been hearing from the doorsteps?
Sure. I have been personally opposed to Kinder Morgan for a long time from the word go. I mean I don’t want to make it sound as if I didn’t do my research, and I got a lot of personal research on it. I live close to Second Narrows Bridge. I live close to the Second Narrows, you know the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.
The Number 1 Highway, right?
Yeah. I live just up the hill from there. If there’s going to be a tanker accident, it’s probably likely to be right in there. So I’ve done a fair bit of research, personal research. I’ve done a lot of reading. I’ve gone to lots of meetings. I am convinced that there are serious consequences to our health and safety if there’s a spill on land or on sea, and it will ruin our environment. On that issue, I got commenter status for the National Energy Board, so my husband and I did a joint statement. It was very restrictive. You’re only allowed to talk about how you think it will affect yourself. You’re not allowed to talk generally. You couldn’t talk about climate change, for example, which I think is a big issue. We can only talk about our concerns in terms of our personal health and safety.
For example, what’s going to happen if there’s a pipeline rupture right in your backyard, something, is that right? Essentially?
Yes, I mean the pipeline, who knows where the pipeline is going to go because they keep changing the route, but the current route would not have it come this close, but we’re on a hill. If there’s a rupture further up the hill, it will come Down the hill, right? Gravity, but of even more concern to me is the air pollution it would cause. If there’s a collision, there’s a spill at sea, there will be these toxic carcinogenic fumes that will go into the air. There’s a tank farm, which is up on the side of Burnaby Mountain where there would be jamming twice as many tanks in there, and according to the Burnaby Fire Department, they would be too close to be to be safe. One little spark, they’ll all blow. We will get toxic fumes, and I don’t know maybe a fireball here. It would be serious, more serious for the people who live up on Burnaby Mountain up at the university who will have no way out.
Because they’re trapped. For something, an inferno that big, of course it will affect us, and it will affect our grandchildren and their little lungs. It could have lifelong impact. That’s the health and safety issue, which I believe is quite well-documented, but what I also want to talk about is the economic issue and the economic risks, which I do not believe are well documented. Christy Clark and Justin Trudeau tell us that this is good for the Canadian economy, good for the BC economy, and it doesn’t add up. For one thing, just look from the point of view of the Chevron Refinery, which is here in Burnaby North. It’s already up for sale. It refines sweet crude, and the pipeline expansion has been approved for export only, which means they’re only anticipating that they will have to close.
What was it used for petroleum?
For sweet crude, not bitumen. It can’t handle bitumen
What’s that crude used for?
What that refinery provides right now is 40 percent of the gasoline used in British Columbia, half of the jet fuel at YVR and the diesel for the ferries, but you might want to let me do a fact check on this. I know it’s 40 percent, but is it lower mainland or British Columbia. It’s a lot, right? It’s a lot.
I don’t know if I remember correctly, but BC has to import a whole bunch of gasoline from California too, right?
Yes, we do it. Part of it now is complicated. It has to do with tariffs and space on the line. A lot of it has to do with space on the line. I’ve talk to the people who work at Chevron, and they’ve given quite a bit of information about it, but part of the implications of this is – I mean those are kind of finer details. But the bottom line is see what the outcome will be it that there will be a net job loss because that’s 450 good jobs including the pipefitters because what they tell me is that they have more pipelines in their refineries and stretches all across British Columbia, from the coast to-
From Edmonton to here, right?
That’s right, and so they employ pipefitters on a permanent basis to maintain the pipes.
They’re not temporary jobs to fill. To build the pipeline from Edmonton to here.
It would be a loss of really high-paid, really good local jobs, and our gasoline prices will go up because exported bitumen will not get the domestic discount. When Alberta and the national government talk about why the pipeline is good, what they say is because they’ll get more for their oil. They could sell their oil at a higher price.
They don’t need to give a discount anymore?
No. They won’t be able to give a discount. It’s like exporting raw oil. When we buy back our oil, they’re value added elsewhere and we’ll pay more for it. Now having said that, I believe we should get off fossil fuel. I absolutely believe we should get off fossil fuel. I do not believe that what is now an $8 billion pipeline extension is part of a plan to get off fossil fuels. The Chevron refinery can be part of the transition plan, so that’s where I’m coming from. Why is Christy Clark kind of going full steam and support it? Well, I don’t think it’s coincidental that Kinder Morgan has donated in the area of $700 million to her campaign fund.
Part of their campaign financing issues?
Yeah, yeah, $700,000. Yes, part of it. They give big money to her campaign.
I think we’re going to cover campaign financing when we discuss voter turnout, but let’s just wrap up Kinder Morgan With just two more questions. Even though that there’s from your research that there’s going to be a lot of permanent pipefitting jobs lost from selling that Chevron refinery facility, from what I can see from the media, it appears that there is at least a significant level of support from working class voters from the interior for the pipeline expansion just forward even maybe I don’t want to speak for them, but maybe their logic is that these temporary jobs might be better than nothing else that they could choose from. Logically they will probably be throwing their support behind the BC Liberals. Even though it may have different roles to play for your local campaign, how do you think it’s going to affect your party’s chances electrically against the BC Liberals even just from a geopolitical strategy point of view?
I know that John Horgan, he has been out in the interior talking to people about his plan and his vision to create jobs, and he has just been out there so much connecting with people and telling his telling his story. I’m confident that candidates like myself who are campaigning in interior ridings are making personal connections and talking to voters about alternatives to pipelines.
Certainly, my sense, I talk to a lot of construction workers. There’s a lot of construction workers who live in Burnaby North. I’m part of the labor movement, and so I know a lot of a lot of building trades through the labor movement and what they want is jobs. It’s incumbent on us to be clear enough and concrete enough that if we form government, we will offer them jobs that are as good or better than the jobs they’ll get on the pipeline.
For example, the things that we’re talking about, John Horgan has committed to double the highway, the Trans-Canada to the Alberta border for much of that highway in the interior it is two-lane, so he’s committed to doubling it. That’s a lot of construction jobs, and that normally is a lot of construction jobs, that’s a lot of friendships, so it creates opportunities for young people to get in to a good job market. We’ve also committed to implement the Metro Vancouver Mayor’s Council plan on public transit and committed to increase the provincial funding of that plan from 33 percent to 40 percent. That’s a lot of construction that will get a lot of people working. In fact, I think by our numbers more; it will get more create more construction jobs.
Let’s talk about another ‑ actually I have one more question. About Kinder Morgan. Now you do know that the Alberta NDP government, their interest like they want this pipeline expansion to be built and go through, right? If your party wins the government in BC, how do you think it’s going to play out with the conflicting interests between the two provinces on this portfolio?
I think that as NDP peers, I think that Rachel Notley’s NDP and John Horgan’s NDP share core basic values, and I’m pretty confident that they will be able to sit down together and reach a consensus that’s a win-win. I do not believe that Christy Clark has been negotiating with the needs of British Columbians in mind. I think she’s been negotiating with the needs of the huge fossil fuel industry in mind. I’m quite confident that if we can change the parameters of the debate, we can come up with something that works for everyone.
Let’s talk about liquefied natural gas. From what I know and from what my team at Neway Opinion knows, do you think Liberals under Christy Clark has made very bold promises in 2013 like we all know what the status is with that portfolio? If your party wins the government, what are you guys going to do regarding liquefied natural gas?
Well, what we’re trying to do is create a more diversified economy. Our goal is to move away from boom and bust industries. We want to put more emphasis on some of the parts of the economy that we think have not been supported enough and perhaps even have not been supported enough. So we would put more emphasis on high tech. There’s a really good basis for driving high-tech industries here, the film industry, and on forestry.
With forestry, you know is of part of the history and heritage of British Columbia that has fallen on hard times. My husband’s family I mean almost everyone for four generations almost everyone had a job of some kind or another in –
The paper and pulp mill, right?
In pulp and paper, directly or indirectly it was the engine of the BC economy, and we certainly would look at that. Yeah, in terms of LNG, Christy Clark made a promise in 2013, and it was all about LNG that this was going to be the engine of the economy, and we believe that the economy has many engines.
How would you respond to the comments from the public that the BC NDP hasn’t provided a whole lot of alternative solutions or alternatives to those so-called boom and bust industries like LNG or expanding pipelines, etc.?
I can’t say that the public, the public that I’m talking to, I can’t say that I’ve heard that.
On the doorsteps?
Yeah. I’ve not heard that on the doorstep. I mean we’re having engaging conversations on the doorstep, and I found that people are actually quite receptive to the things that I’m talking about in terms of our alternatives. I know that’s part of the narrative. I know that it’s part of Christy Clark’s narrative that we have not been providing alternatives. But I think that we have been providing alternatives, and I think as we get closer to the election, more details will be forthcoming. But the broad stroke of our narrative is that we want to move away from a boom and bust economy. We want to create an economy that has more value added, and we want to look at jobs from a generational point of view, so that we’re creating jobs for today and jobs for the future.
The reason I mentioned this narrative is it’s just that on the Internet and on different message boards. We appear to have found quite a bit of these narratives as well. I just thought of throwing it out there to learn how your team or your party would respond to that. I want to ask a follow-up question about the forestry industry. Two questions, first of all from your knowledge, what is it going to take for let’s say the value-added jobs that your party has discussed a lot about to come back.
I don’t have a lot of specifics at this point because forestry is not my area of expertise. But common sense tells me that we need to put a lot more resources into forestry renewal when you plant a lot more trees and nurture a lot more trees.
So we’re not planting enough trees right now?
I believe we’re not. My sense is we’re not. That’s all part of having like a generational view. It’s a renewable resource, so plant more trees that can be harvested. I think we need to be exporting fewer raw logs and exporting more processed, processed logs, processed wood. I think we need to look at what can we be doing to foster and stimulate local manufacturing.