REPORTING · 6th October 2011
Kitimat held an Educational Forum on the Northern Gateway Project on September 20th at Mount Elizabeth Theatre. The theatre was packed with people. Ron Poole, Municipal Manager for the District of Kitimat Moderated the Event. The presenters had an hour present, 15 minutes was allotted to Ellis Ross, Chief Councillor for Kitamaat Village, Mike Mike Bernier, Mayor of Dawson Creek, Greg Brown, from the Northwest Institute for Bio Regional Research, and John Caruthers, President of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, who presented in that order.
Bernier stepped up next. He explained Dawson Creek is in an oil and gas boom and wished to talk about his experiences.
“Dawson Creek, roughly around the same size as Terrace, we are about 13,000 people, we are growing constantly right now. What’s important for us to become a sustainable community is mostly around our planning. We need to be a planning for the known changes as we are booming right now and also looking at the unexpected changes are,” said Bernier .
He stated they compromise between the community and industry and try to find the balance. They have agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas and tourism. The last couple of years have been their best economic years. Survival is based on location.
Their goals include permanent investment, make sure the community is inviting and draw people in. The community was founded as agriculture. The last 5 years have changed things. Derricks drilling rigs and pipelines have changed the farming community.
“One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is, because of the jobs and the people coming into our community is the Children that are graduating from high school are no longer excited about graduating so they could move away. They are excited about graduating so they could stay in the community and have good paying jobs. That’s really changed the landscape of our community,” said Bernier . Last year, they had the highest paying wages in BC.
A number of companies are coming in and looking at the land. Right now, they have 40-50 new wells a year, but with the potential change of Kitimat to an LNG terminal, they might end up with 200 wells a year. A majority of the wells are natural gas but oil is also being found in Dawson Creek. Each new well means a new pipeline.
He explained there are a lot of decisions which need to be made at a municipal level and not everyone is happy. Farmers now look out at their canola field and see oil derricks. They receive compensation. This compensations does allow farmers to keep their farms because of the spin offs from the oil industry. Farming is not lucrative.
There are hundreds of kilometres of pipes going around the community. It takes water to remove the resources. Dawson Creek works to ensure these companies know the impact on their environment. They partnered with Shell to build a new water treatment plants. They are treating their effluent to potable standards.
They have town hall meetings constantly so people can understand the changes. They have built new arts centre, a new sports field, 3 apartment buildings, a new multiplex and 5 new hotels. None of this would have happened without the oil and gas industry.
Bernier explained they do not want to be a boom bust community so they have set up a bylaw forbidding camps in the community so people who come in either buy homes, rent apartments or stay in hotels.
He also explained how the communities in the region receive benefits on the activities taking place outside their boundaries. After a lot of political communication and commitment, they created a memorandum of understanding concerning a fair share program. They receive taxes from the government based on the activity around their community.
Finally, the balance has led to Dawson Creek being one of the greenest cities in Canada. They have a new energy college and won a green city award. They are working to diversify the community. He advised the region to communicate, decided whether the community is for the project or against it and decide what they can influence.
Comment by Walter Fricke on 11th October 2011
Mayor Mike Bernier had no reason to be at this forum, let alone the forum held in Terrace in the spring. He compares apples and oranges in his dialogue, making him sound like a mouthpiece for the industry. He should never have been there. He sounded like an Amway recruiter.