Why a small mayoral election in Canada has got the oil industry shaking…

Lee Brain, Prince Rupert's new Mayor from December 1st

Lee Brain, Prince Rupert’s new Mayor from December 1st

A small provincial town in Canada has given the world a lesson in what younger-generation politically led change can look like, and it’s sending shock waves through the oil industry. Prince Rupert and Lee Brain’s recent piece of history can be an example for the rest of the world to follow..

Prince Rupert is a small port town on Kaien Island in British Columbia, Canada. For the twelve-thousand or so resident’s that call it home, Prince Rupert, a town who’s main industry has always been fishing, has just this month taken a significant political step, that many should be taking note of.

On November 15th, Prince Rupert went to the polls for both Mayoral and Council elections. Running that day for the first time, was a young local man by the name of Lee Brain.

Lee is the son of a big oil CEO and by ‘big’, I mean BIG. 
Lee first caught international attention for his outspoken testimony at an Enbridge Northern Gateway  Oil Pipeline hearing. Lee was staunchly opposed to any further oil pipeline business in Canada and his online testimony went viral.

His words were soon being heard by thousands, as people were both moved by the young mans intelligence, passion and personal story, but equally by the notion that these were the words of the son of someone so clearly in favor of Big Oil.

I first met Lee in 2012 at the annual Transition Network Conference in London. Even then it was clear this young man, passionate and hopeful about a better world that is possible, would have a clear future role to play.

A co-founder of Transition Prince Rupert, Lee is amongst a growing number of a more than necessary young

Prince Rupert form above

Prince Rupert form above

generation who, whilst seeing the importance of engaging with the activist role against the big and fateful environmental challenges of our time (big oil), recognize that local politics can indeed present a viable opportunity for creating that ‘better world’.

Even when I met him, something bigger was in the works for Lee- I could tell. Lee (who did visit Totnes), told me that his time in Europe would be spent visiting communities with innovative solutions to global and local problems. He was keen to learn all he could and ‘take it back home’, back to Prince Rupert.

Lee’s testimony or not, Prince Rupert would always have a key role in the fate of big oil in Canada. Primly situated on the Pacific ocean and with hugely important transport routes by sea, air, rail and road, the major port town has long been a point of much interest for Canadian oil industry- just last month Enbridge were considering moving their main pipeline terminal to Prince Rupert, after it’s original planned base at Kitimat came under severe local pressure from Kitimat locals and local councilors. For all those reasons, Enbridge will be sweating at the election results in Prince Rupert…

Lee, at the first time of trying, won with over 58% of the vote- amassing an impressive 2,495 votes, with incumbent Jack Mussallem in  second place with only 890 against his name. The margin of victory was even a surprise to Lee, but it was a testament to Lee’s desire to work for the future of his community, as well as a testament to the people of Prince Rupert, who were ready for change and had the courage to follow Lee’s impressive, holistic and extensive vision for the town.

Prince Rupert's unique location makes it a constant target for tar sands oil

Prince Rupert’s unique location makes it a constant target for tar sands oil transport routes

Lee was quick to assure voters, hopefuls and activists all over Canada and the world, that Enbridge had no business in Prince Rupert; “I’m not in favour of any oil through Prince Rupert. I think even if it’s by rail — people in this community are not interested in shipping out bitumen.

“I’ll be absolutely firm in my stance on Enbridge. I don’t think (Northern Gateway) is an economically or environmentally sound proposal. I will absolutely be vocal about that.”

Lee Brain’s victory goes far beyond the election result pages in the news the morning after, it will have much deeper significance than to only the lives of the Prince Ruperites of BC.

Lee’s victory is a victory for real youth-led change, a victory against the pipelines projects of North America. If more of the younger generation woke up to this potential, the world could be a far different place- it’s a no Brainer…


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