From saving refinery jobs to leading a revolution in civic powers, Derek Corrigan has bigger plans.
On Derek Corrigan's desk sits a wooden slingshot, a gift from a Burnaby resident to the mayor at the centre of an increasingly heated battle with Kinder Morgan.''It's a David and Goliath analogy,'' he says, turning the weapon over in his hand. ''I guess I'm David.''
Against Corrigan's wishes -- and despite several ongoing city legal challenges -- the Texas pipeline giant conducted exploratory drilling deep into Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area last week, sparking more than 100 arrests this week under a court injunction protecting company workers.
But the pugilistic mayor's growing confidence is tempered by the limited powers held by municipalities in Canada. Because of that, some call his protests merely quixotic -- tilting at borehole drills.
Cities have no protected status or role under the country's constitution. So if a municipality like Burnaby doesn't want a pipeline -- or if Vancouver rejects oil tanker traffic -- neither actually has any say over the matter.
''Municipalities are creatures of the province in our constitution,'' explains Simon Fraser University political scientist Patrick Smith, who researches metropolitan governance and local democracy. ''The silent player here in all this has been the province.
''It's not the federal government that can wipe out a municipality if it wants to… The feds have less capacity to whipsaw municipalities into submission if they need to.''
BC government 'abdicated': Corrigan
If anything, the province's silence on Kinder Morgan has galvanized Corrigan's resentment over having his wishes bulldozed.
''The provincial government has abdicated its responsibility,'' he laments. ''They've simply thrown us to the wolves as far as the federal government is concerned.''
''We're being stymied … which is incredibly frustrating,'' Robertson complains. ''But it is difficult given the archaic laws of Canada and the constitution not recognizing local governments.
''I'll be very interested in seeing what happens with the constitutional challenge from Burnaby, because obviously it has massive implications for local governments across the country.''
But for Corrigan, the issues go well beyond one project, company or regulator. ''This is a battle worth fighting'' for more than just reasons for climate change or peak oil, he says.
Corrigan's war is over enlarging the power of cities.
''It's an issue that will affect municipalities right across Canada,'' he says, ''…and the ability of local governments to be able to uphold their citizens' interests against the interests of multinational corporations under the auspices of the federal government.''
Corrigan feels he's in the right place at the right time to set the stage for a historic showdown over cities' short end of the constitutional stick.