If the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline gets National Energy Board approval, the city will see a new $1.3 million clubhouse and restaurant at Ledgeview Golf Course, courtesy Kinder Morgan Canada.
Call it what you will – a deal, an agreement, compensation or a gift. The fact remains that despite being interveners in federal pipeline hearings, and having voiced concerns about the mega-project, the city has signed off on the arrangement long before approval has been given.
The potential for perception of bias is obvious, and only Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross was uncomfortable enough with those optics to vote against accepting the offer on Monday.
Kinder Morgan has made such lucrative deals with dozens of other communities its pipeline work will impact. There’s nothing wrong with compensation, whether it comes in the form of outright payments of promised projects which benefit the community.
There’s bound to be debate whether a golf course clubhouse fits well into that category, but for the sake of this argument, let’s accept that it does, as the golf course is an attraction and does generate revenue for the city and spin-off business dollars.
Chilliwack council recently deferred its decision on a similar Kinder Morgan contribution to that city.
Abbotsford would have done far better to follow suit.
As Ross points out, the city has outstanding issues with the proposed pipeline. Holding a $1.3 million promise directly linked to the project’s approval can taint public perception and trust as the city pursues resolutions to its concerns.
Given the rising awareness surrounding issues of political perception, and in particular, the Kinder Morgan community benefit agreements, more reflection and caution were in order by Ross’s council colleagues.