By Andru McCracken
Trans Mountain has made its decision about a building worker accommodation in Blue River: The camp will not be built.
Senior Strategic Advisor and Manager of Communications for Trans Mountain Ali Hounsell explained the company’s reasons.
“It is partly because of the continued pandemic and availability of local accommodation we hadn’t foreseen,” said Hounsell.
Blue River workforce numbers
Hounsel expects there to be 30 to 40 people continuing to work on the pump station construction over the winter and up to 150 workers based in the community in the spring.
“Based on our numbers and what we are hearing from the locals, people were asking about having workers stay in their communities,” said Hounsell.
She said that Tiny House Warriors protest camp near the entrance to the camp was not a factor.
“The decision was purely on the numbers,” she said.
She said the community had expressed a lot of concern about the Tiny House Warriors. The Warriors have been occupying a backroad in the community since 2018 often coming into conflict with locals.
She said some residents felt that building the camp would resolve the situation, while others believed that the prospect of the camp was keeping the warriors there.
Hounsell said that there are 11 accommodations providers registered in Blue River so far. She believes more may sign up once the word is out that the camp will not be built.
“If people want to, they can register their interest online,” she said.
Hounsell said that cancelling the camp will have a positive impact on local businesses in the midst of the pandemic.
“Our focus was to do what was best for the project. It will be a benefit to the community and accommodation providers that are probably hurting, especially without the opportunity to have international tourists and now visitors from other parts of the province. We hope that this will provide some economic stimulation,” she said.
When asked whether Trans Mountain will promote Blue River’s struggling accommodation sector to workers. “These workers will receive a Living Out Allowance. They can apply to stay at a local accommodation provider, but at the end of the day it is their own comfort level,” she said.
Hounsell said local accommodation providers can sign up to let workers know about their offerings on the website. https://www.transmountain.com/procurement
The decision to can the work camp comes even as the Tiny House Warriors are coming under scrutiny by the Secwepemc hereditary leadership for their use of funds and from others for not supporting effective protest of the pipeline project and not living up to their commitment to funders, namely housing Indigenous people.
“We are asking for accountability and transparency from the Tiny House Warriors on the funding of the tiny houses which are intended to house Secwepemc families,” read an open letter from Sagwses Henry Sauls, Hereditary Chief and Miranda Dick, Hereditary Matriarch of the Secwepemc Nation to the warriors.
Michael Mckenzie, co-founder of the Tiny House Warriors, is critical of the decisions made since his forced departure from the group.
“She […] moved her camp to Blue River where she has been holding down a side road while our grassroots people and some of our matriarchs are focusing on real direct action at construction,” said Mckenzie.
We reached out to the Tiny House Warriors for comment at the time of publication but have not heard back.