The son of a Master Mariner and Canadian prairie pioneer, Ross Laing fondly remembers his childhood growing up near the Trans Mountain Pipeline right-of-way in the Westridge area of Burnaby.

“My father was a British Master Mariner who served in the Canadian navy in World War II and my mother was a true Canadian pioneer born in a sod hut in Saskatchewan in 1914. They bought a two-acre lot on Burnaby Mountain through veteran funding in 1949,” says Laing. Their modest home was built in 1950 and overlooked what was to become the Shell Oil Refinery. “By the time I came along in1954, the refinery was built. We were a typical family of first- and second-generation Canadians in the area.”

The Laing family was an active, integral part of the young Westridge community. Laing’s parents were involved in building the United Church and the community centre, and his mother served on the committee to form the Burnaby Mountain Park. She lived in the area for the rest of her life, until she passed away in 2012 at a care home across the street from Trans Mountain’s Burnaby Terminal.

When Laing reflects on his years growing up in the area, he recalls positive memories from within the community about the refinery and the tanks. The refinery employed many of his friends’ parents and Laing says it was seen as a very positive addition to North Burnaby.

“I can honestly say I don’t ever remember thinking anything negative about the Burnaby Terminal or the refinery. There was never any pollution or bad smells. Our home, schools, recreation areas and parks were all part of the fabric of our community,” recounts Laing. “As a child and young man, I wasn’t even aware that oil was being shipped from the facility.” Laing says Trans Mountain and Shell were model corporate citizens. And he carries those views today.

Having spent the past 37 years in Kelowna, Laing has many friends and associates from Alberta and says he understands the importance of bringing our natural resources to tidewater. “I also respect the fact that Alberta and Saskatchewan have, to a great degree, been responsible for supporting our social programs in all of Canada through natural resource development.” Laing adds that natural resource industries have also supplied jobs for our young people when they needed them. “Kelowna would be a very different place without the support of our neighbours to the east.” 

Laing supports the pipeline expansion “as the existing pipeline has been pretty much trouble-free for 65-plus years and this is all new technology. The oil will move one way or the other and this is by far the safest option. We all look at a time in the future where we use less fossil fuels but we are not quite there yet.”

When asked what he would say to those who aren’t sure they agree with the Expansion Project, Laing says he would try to get people to rethink Canada as a nation where we do what is best for Canada as a whole. “Our prairie provinces and resource companies, including Kinder Morgan, are some of the most environmentally friendly and safest in the world thanks to modern technology and a huge investment in safety from our federal government,” states Laing. “The Lower Mainland is but a small part of this province and a smaller part of Canada, and instead of spending time and energy opposing projects like this that will bring our resources to tidewater, we need to work together for the common good.”