The federal government has committed to expanding the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline. Mayor Andy Adams says he supports the project. Black Press file photo

How an 11-year-old boy sent me on a fact-finding mission about the Trans Mountain pipeline

I learned that Mayor Andy Adams supports pipeline expansion after Sam Humphries, 11, asked me to find out

A local sixth grade student sent me on a mission lately, asking me to find out what Mayor Andy Adams thinks about the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Well, I found out that Adams supports its expansion. More on that below. But first, I wanted to share the story behind the story, because I think it’s a good example of kids being resourceful about getting answers to big questions.

Let me rewind. Recently, I was covering Transformations on the Shore, the power carving competition. The first prize in the semi-professional category went to Matthew Knee for a bust called Bob. After the awards ceremony wrapped up, I found Knee and asked him about the carving.

As he explained the special challenges of carving faces, his 11-year-old son Sam Humphries asked me a question: “Are you a news reporter?” I said yes and went back to interviewing his father.

But Sam persisted, as the interview wrapped up, and he asked me if I ever speak to Mayor Andy Adams, because he had a question for a school project: what does the mayor think about the Kinder Morgan pipeline?

The adults within earshot, myself included, burst out laughing: it wasn’t the question we were expecting. “That got political fast,” someone said.

But there’s nothing ridiculous about wanting to know where local elected officials stand on big political questions, and I promised Sam I’d ask the mayor what he thought the next time I saw him.

After all, it’s a big issue for some voters in the area. On my first day on the job last month, I covered an anti-pipeline rally in downtown Campbell River, outside the office of NDP MP Rachel Blaney. The federal government had provoked the wrath of protesters after deciding to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based energy firm. Many of the demonstrators were worried about oil spills on the coast, the effects of man-made climate change and the rights of Indigenous people on the pipeline’s right of way.

Sure enough, I ran into the mayor at the official opening of Campbell River’s new water treatment facility. After the speeches were over, I approached the mayor and asked what he thought about Kinder Morgan.

In brief, he’s for it. For the record, here’s a rundown of his remarks.

He argued that the project is in the national interest and falls within federal jurisdiction, and that all levels of government should work together to see the pipeline’s expansion go through.

On the matter of Indigenous rights, he said: “I certainly respect the position of the BC Assembly of First Nations having traditional rights and title to the property, but that being said there are over 30 written agreements with First Nations bands.”

Adams emphasized the importance of protecting the waterways, calling it the “number one priority.”

Overall, he said, “I think it would be good for the country, to have it built.” But he questioned whether Burnaby would be the best place for its terminus, saying that it could instead be diverted to Deltaport.

“At Deltaport you are eliminating the traffic in Vancouver Harbour, you’re eliminating going underneath Lions Gate Bridge,” he said, arguing that it would reduce the risk to areas such as the Spanish Banks beaches.

He argued that the Trans Mountain expansion, if not built in Canada, will go through Washington State.

“And so the traffic is going to come up through the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands, and go past out through the Strait of Juan de Fuca anyway,” he said. “And then it would be completely out of our jurisdiction.”

Readers can draw their own conclusions about Adams’ position on this divisive issue. But if his views are on the record in the Mirror for the first time, it’s because the question was put forward to me by Sam.

Unfortunately, his school assignment had already been graded by the time I spoke to Adams. But I hope that seeing this in print teaches him that asking questions can get results!

I’m not a parent, but I’ve got a few humble suggestions for those of you who are: encourage your children to ask questions, especially to politicians and decision-makers. Make them feel empowered to get answers from the people in charge.