Watch Video of Enbridge Rejection Debate by Clicking Here.
In a move characterized by Councillor James Cordeiro as supporting the Coastal First Nations, Terrace has become one of the first non-native communities to stand opposed to accepting money at any cost to the environment. Time after time throughout the debate at Terrace City council Monday evening, February 13, 2012, statements reflecting First Nations understanding were made; the environment is worth more than any amount of money.
It was a small community on Haida Gwaii, the West Coast Island formally known as Queen Charlotte Island, which made two motions at a provincial gathering of Municipal Councils, the UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) in Whistler BC in September of 2010. The Village of Queen Charlotte, on Haida Nation Territory had their motions broadly supported. One was to rejecter tanker traffic in the waters around the Haida, Haisla and Tsimshian waters collectively referred to as; Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. The other was to reject any pipeline proposition to bring tar sands crude oil to the West Coast across northern BC.
Cordeiro first introduced a motion to rescind a previous motion confirming Terrace City Council remain neutral. This was argued by Councillor Brian Downie who questioned if it was proper as those who voted to remain neutral were no longer part of Council. He argued there was a time period upon which a motion could be recalled. The acting City administrator cleared up the confusion. When this vote was called Downie and Mayor Pernarowski voted against it while all other Councillors supported Cordeiro.
Cordeiro’s main motion was to have Terrace support the two motions put forward by the Village of Queen Charlotte at the UBCM. These received overwhelming support at the UBCM according to those present and the media covering the gathering. The motions were B140 opposing the shipping of the tar sands oil in pipelines across northern BC for loading onto crude oil tankers and B139 opposing any expansion of bulk crude oil tanker traffic in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.
Carderio read a prepared statement explaining his position, which was primarily stating he was doing what he was elected to do, follow the wishes of the vast majority of the population. He stated those who argue the City should remain neutral are actually already on record as being in favour of the project and their arguments to request the City remain neutral, until the JRP process is complete, are hollow arguments.
“If there is indeed enough information to be supportive of the project, as they are, then there also must therefore be enough information to formulate the opposite opinion.”
Cordeiro then put forward an argument on when it might be correct to vote against the publics wishes. After offering examples and details he firmly concluded how Enbridge did not fall into that position.
Councillor Bruce Bidgood also read a prepared statement but his most notable statement was when he declared his staunch opposition stance after Stephen Harper called those opposed “Enemies of Canada”.
“I no longer believe it’s a fair process. I don’t think it’s a neutral process. I’ve lost faith in the Joint Review process. I mean I sat there when they were right there,” Bidgood stated as he pointed to his right, “and I asked them ‘How many projects do you turn down?’ and they said ‘well, we don’t turn any down, we modify them.’
“To my mind, regardless of what information they’re going to produce I’m highly sceptical of the actions of the Federal Government.”
Bidgood expressed his solid opposition to the project by claiming he has been boycotting every single Enbridge sponsored event adding he wished he could amend the motion to include not expanding the tarsands in Alberta.
“Because I think Canada’s reputation as an environmental steward has been tremendously damaged by this particular operation, however that would probably be ultravires, or beyond our jurisdiction because it belongs to another Province, and I’m hoping that our neighbouring Provinces will also respect our sovereignty over Canada’s Western Coast.”
To address the concerns of those who have suggested making this move to reject Enbridge might communicate ambivalence towards business hoping to open or expand in this area, Bidgood had this to say.
“The City of Terrace is very excited to be a key part of the economic expansion of the Northwest. I believe that Terrace is open for business, it’s just not for sale at any price.”
Councillor Marylin Davies express how she found during campaigning, out of an estimated 450 people she talked to about this subject only one percent expressed support. She expressed her personal concern by referring to the Rena disaster off of the coast of New Zealand where she visits. After describing how the Tarsands crude will be sold F.O.B. the port, meaning ‘Freight On Board’, after it gets onto the tankers Enbridge will claim it no longer has any responsibility.
“When that oil leaves the port, is going to be a case of ‘oh that oil spills not ours, oh it must be yours,” gesturing another direction, “oh it must be yours over there.” Speaking to the Rena disaster she stated “They have 500 containers still floating about because they’re in court arguing about whose responsibility it is.”
Davies closed by stating, “You all know I am a free enterpriser, I think this is not a free enterprise I can support.”
Councillor Christiansen appeared pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion. When the vote was called at the UBCM, she was the only attending Terrace Councillor who supported these motions originally in 2010. She stated she had not changed her mind and would continue to support these resolutions, thanking Cordeiro for bringing the motion forward. Raising concerns about Enbridge’s deplorable track record on the environment and questioning the arguments on what we might loose by upgrading (refining the product) she had another message and it was for all Canadians.
“What we would loose on the other hand is just totally irreplaceable. We’ve had some foreign policies that address this and they’ve seemed to just kind of evaporated, you don’t hear too much about that anymore. Canada was, or should be, I hope is, a voice against human rights abuses in China, but that seems to have just sort of disappeared. Why should we gamble with this? At best we might get very little on very short term, on the other hand we stand to loose something that we never will be able to replace.”
Councillor Downie questioned whether the motions passed at the UBCM were even relevant. He questioned the manner in which the voting took place at the UBCM.
“They don’t reflect, it would be hard to say that the vote at the UBCM reflects the will of Councils.” He claimed there was maybe only 1 percent of the local governments in the Province that have taken a position on the Northern Gateway project. “So, it seems like this is a bit of a stretch, using UBCM as the leverage to bring this to the table.”
He made arguments for individual responsibility being separate from the responsibility of local governments. Downie then spoke about the fragile recovery the Terrace economy is presently in and expressed concerns about the impact a decision like this might have on this rebounding of the economy.
“I’m concerned about the implications to our economic reputation. Others would say taking a position on an environmental issue is laudable and important. I’m concerned how this affects investment in our community, how this effects the ability of our supply industry which is the life blood of our economy when we are competing with other neighbouring municipalities for economic value, I think its, ah, interesting.”
He then referred to the positions taken by Smithers and Kitimat to defer making any decision until after the JRP issues its final report. “I believe that our best position as a City is to take a position of deferring until the Joint Review Panel makes its report and at that time take the political positions that we must take as a result of that report. Right now we’re speculating what that, what those positions are going to be. That’s not in the City’s best interest.”
Councillor Stacey Tyers countered Downies statements immediately.
“”With all due respect to Councillor Downies thoughts on that matter, what we are saying is that the Judicial Review process, we don’t trust it, we do need to take a position. It went from an environmental review to an environmental and economic review.” Tapping the table with her pen she accentuated, “This project is very good for Ottawa. It’s very good for Alberta. It’s not very good for our community. We reap very few benefits and do shoulder a huge portion of the risks.
“It’s important as leaders of our community that we take a stand one way or the other. Continuing to sit on the fence when the community has asked repeatedly that we stop sitting on the fence, I think it’s imperative that we make that decision and that we take a stand, one way or the other, but get off the fence and actually look at what the community is asking us to do.
“Just because one percent of the City Councils in the province have not taken a stand doesn’t mean that we cease to take leadership here, and be a progressive voice here and take that stand now and join the Coastal First Nations down the entire Province in taking this stand and opposing what isn’t good for our community. If it’s good for Kitimat, let them vote to approve it.”
With that Mayor Pernarowski stated, “Well I’ve done the math,” referring to the four councillors who had now expressed their support for the motion made by councillor Cordeiro, making the eventual outcome at least a five vote success.
He went on a lengthy impassioned plea to remain neutral stating that his personal opinion was opposed to the project but like Downie felt remaining neutral was the best position. He reiterated his statement made during the election campaign that he would stand arm in arm with the citizens of Terrace if they wanted him to stand opposed to Enbridge.
“But that’s my personal opinion. I’ve always maintained as a City that as elected by the citizens of the community that we must continue to show courage and commitment to remain open to hearing all facts on industrial development projects and to really understand what the majority of our community is saying. I would agree with Councillor Cordeiro that the majority of the people that I’ve heard from have been opposed, there’s no denying that, but I’m also hearing from individuals […] and certainly recently from our own economic development authority that remaining neutral on this project makes sense to allow us to continue to hear from people.
“I worry that prematurely opposing any industrial development project before allowing the environmental and federal review processes […] puts us in a bit of a precarious position.”
Pernarowski concluded by suggesting the recent announcement by the Premier of Alberta that they might throw money at BC to encourage acceptance of the project might be a reason they should hold off making a decision to oppose. This sparked a response by Cordeiro.
“The idea that we have to wait until Alberta sweetens the deal, as Councillor Bidgood said it’s not a matter of us being open for business it’s just we’re not for sale at any price.”
Councillor Tyers also rebuked the previous comments, “We’re a municipal council, we’re not a Provincial council. I don’t need to wait for people in Kelowna or Calgary. I need to listen to people in this community and they have spoken time and time again. They want opposition to this. The people who came out and asked us to stay neutral, like Councillor Cordeiro has pointed out, primarily are people who are actually publically for the project and are asking us to remain neutral because we don’t have enough information. It’s time we stood by our community. Not the provincial government, not the federal government, not what people in Kelowna have to say.
Pernarowski again suggested waiting would not be letting people down but agreed they had all had their say and stated once again he had done the math.
“And I don’t know that my impassioned plea has changed any of the minds at this council table.” And he then called for a show of hands on the final vote. Five hands went up in favour of the motion to support the rejection of Enbridge and tanker traffic. Then as he called for those opposed, he raised his hand along with Councillor Downie.
Bidgood demonstrates where the JRP representatives were when he asked them how many projects had they rejected, when they replied, "None"
Councillor Stacey Tyers challenges Council to be leaders and to stand up for the communities wishes
Kitimat could have been the leader.
Congratualtions to Terrace.