REPORTING · 7th January 2014
With the recent report by the Joint Review Panel concerning their decision on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, a motion made by the Kitimat City Council over a year ago, to determine where the community stands on the Enbridge Project once the JRP review is complete, is once again coming to the forefront.
At the Regular Meeting of Kitimat City Council on Monday, January 6th, Council was given four options to discuss how to gather this information. The first, and recommended option, was to have an independent polling firm conduct a telephone survey of the people of Kitimat. Administration stated this would have a quick turnaround and be unbiased, while being reliable and secure. However, it was one of the more pricier options and might not be accurate depending on how many people participate in it.
The second option was a Plebiscite, a non-binding referendum, where most citizens can participate. However, it would be up to administration to create the question(s) which caused them concern about perceived bias and hidden fees.
The third option would be to mail out surveys to all the households in Kitimat. However, again, the administration was concerned with not being able to develop an unbiased question. They were also not sure what the number of the returned surveys would be.
The final option was an online survey, which would be quick and inexpensive. However, it would exclude citizens who do not have access to internet, would be difficult to limit participation to Kitimat residents and could be manipulated. Finally, administration was once again concerned they would not be able to come up with questions which are unbiased.
Finally, in the report, staff suggested talking points about what questions they would ask. Questions like whether the community supports the JRP findings, whether or not opinion is linked to a refinery, whether concerns are more about the marine aspect, pipeline or both, whether the opinion changes if Enbridge was not the proponent and also asked for input on further questions from the Council.
The Council decided to discuss what they wanted to do before creating a motion and the new procedures of Council permitted such. Councillor Rob Goffinet recommended option two, the Plebiscite, as the best option. He explained what the option was.
“Every person on the voters list, or wishing to get on the voters list, can pass a ballot on a survey of the community of what they feel about […] the Northern Gateway project. It references the JRP and we will make a clear, easy, yes or no basically ballot for every person in Kitimat on the voters list that wishes to express their opinion,” said Goffinet.
He stated option one, being a telephone poll, could try as hard as they can, to get an answer. Goffinet said he likes taking polls and answering his telephone, but he does not answer unidentified phone calls because he is determined not to get a pollster or fundraiser.
“The cost [of the phone survey] is greater, the contact with real people is minimal. It is minimized because people do not want a pollster to phone them and do a checklist, how do you feel on a project. If one person is not phoned, either for or against, they can come to us and say: ‘Your people didn’t count my vote and my opinion because no one called me.’ How can we be assured that a person in and out of their home will answer a call from a pollster,” said Goffinet.
He wanted to see a yes or no ballot set up like a municipal election or yes or no vote. He did not like the computers or professional canvassers. He wanted the people to come out and express their opinion via ballot.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated this would be a non-binding referendum.
Councillor Corinne Scott told Council she agreed with Councillor Goffinet. However, she also wanted to see the availability of advance polls for people who are not available during the actual polling. Monaghan suggested that as an amendment.
Councillor Phil Germuth stated he had full confidence in the staff of the District of Kitimat, with the assistance of Council, to develop questions which are not biased.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know how many questions there would be in the survey. Scott stated there could be any number of questions, although there could also be only one.
Empinado was concerned because only a handful of voters go to the polling station. He wanted everyone to be involved in this survey and suggested option three was the better suggestion. Empinado added he felt groups who are in favour and are opposed to the project should be the people developing the questions together.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff said he shares some concerns. “The key thing is, the sample selection methodology, there are weaknesses in each approach. No one approach in my opinion is perfect,” said Feldhoff.
He suggested the phone poll was the best approach. It would have a series of well-crafted questions and statistical sampling would allow them to get the feelings of the community. Mayor Joanne Monaghan suggested an Ipsos Reid was the most accurate way to do polling.
Empinado stated they need to a dialogue first which includes everyone. They do not need a debate, they need to discuss and meet halfway.
Germuth told Council the community has had two and a half years to engage in dialogue. “We said at the beginning, we were going to ask a question after the JRP was done, now it’s done,” said Germuth. “I do like option two. Just like an election, if a few people don’t come out, they don’t come out, but it gives everybody that opportunity to go out if they so choose, they want to be for or against, there is your opportunity to do it.”
He added phone polling predicted a different outcome of the last Provincial Election. Monaghan stated this was the only time they were not right.
Feldhoff made a motion to put forward option one. There was no seconder, so it failed. Councillor Rob Goffinet Made the motion to have a plebiscite, option two. He said it is open to everyone without prejudice.
Feldhoff was concerned with what the process would be, and if Council was asking staff to come back with a question. He wanted to know if the question would be whether people were in favour with the JRP process or just against Enbridge. He also wanted to know how many questions there would be on the plebiscite.
Deputy CAO Warren Waycheshen stated there was a referendum format which they could use for the plebiscite. Administration could bring back the questions to ask. There could be residency requirements for both elections and referendums. Council could choose to wave these. Will there be scrutinizers and signage? They will bring this back to Council.
They could use the local government act to tell them what to do, and the District plans to respect the three main aspects of an election: Can the voter get to a vote, one person means one vote and they will maintain the secrecy of the ballot and the vote.
Scott told Council they should have advance polls as a part of this survey and this was determined to be a friendly amendment.
Empinado stated he wanted to see the community involved in making the questions. He was told the Council would do this and there were ideas provided. However, staff would need to know what the Council’s interest is for what they wish see polled.
“What we are debating is the method to ask the people of Kitimat [for] their point of view. The discussion about what we will ask them is not germane to this motion. We should devide on this, is an open vote democratically given to every person in Kitimat what we want,” asked Goffinet.
The motion was called and carried with Councillor Empinado opposed.
Bring it on!
Comment by JT on 7th January 2014
Finally! I think the squeeky wheels are in for an eye opener. I really believe the result will NOT be in their favour.
door to door
Comment by rick on 7th January 2014
be fair,face to face voting, closed ballet. sure it cost more,but there is no tricky. every one deserves a right to vote,who`s on the election voters list. seems we `ve saved plenty on snow removal this season and a true voting , closed ballet. the honest way. with all the property tax increases,it should be affordable.fair is fair. let the truth prevail. garanteed........NO enbridge...... change it any way you want,some of you councilors are here for the wrong reasons.... and you know it. personal gain ,off the backs of the home stedders ,who call this HOME......election time is near,we`ll see who getts the last laugh..... councilors. " another pissed off tax payer" lies,lies lies..................
Sick....really, really ....Sick
Comment by Larry Walker on 7th January 2014
Who cares what the residents of Kitimat want...councils "inaction" throught out this whole process has made the question totally irrevelent.
Who gives a dam what the mayor and council or the residents think. The pipeline will be built under the guise of making Canada stronger and the rich richer. So much for the enviorment and our childerns future.