COMMENTARY · 24th January 2014
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A group of citizens, concerned about a project or proposal, take time to present these concerns to Council. Council turns around and does the opposite of what these people ask. This happened twice almost a year ago with two other investors, an escort service and Peace Trailers Incorporated (PTI).
The old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you… Fool me twice, shame on me.” What happens if the public is fooled by our Council for a fourth time?
Council has spent the last three meetings putting together a plebiscite, in this case, a non-binding referendum which is going to poll the community of Kitimat on… well… a complex question which can be read differently depending on where you stand.
Do you support the final report recommendations of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and National Energy Board, that the Enbridge Northern Gateway project be approved, subject to 209 conditions set out in Volume 2 of the JRP's final report?
What does it mean? According to the Councillor who wrote, it asks: Are you in favour of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, as well as a number of other questions. However, nowhere in the question does it ask that. In my opinion, the Councillors who voted for it do not know what it means.
To me, it reads: Are you in favour of the Joint Review Panel’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, subject to 209 conditions?
The common problem, which the vocal majority of the people of Kitimat have confronted Council on, is that Council has chosen a long winded and over complex question to ask. But the majority of our City Council has turned a deaf ear to these concerns, as would be expected from them.
But there are other problems with this Plebiscite as well. The 209 conditions can be removed, appealed or changed. It’s right in the JRP Report. Another concern revolves around the Joint Review Panel’s limited mandate. Certain aspects of the project, such as the Bituminous Sands or Aboriginal Title were outside the mandate of the JRP.
Question: If the town votes yes to the approval of the Northern Gateway Project as subject to 209 conditions and that number changes, would Council have to re-poll the public?
Council’s question has very little to do with Enbridge, and this should be called, the Joint Review Panel Plebiscite. When that is done, Council should do a second Plebiscite on Enbridge to actually gauge how the community feels without beating around the bush.
By Mayor Joanne Monaghan’s own definition of leadership: “I think leadership is doing what your electorate tells you to do,” Council has not shown leadership in designing the Plebiscite question. A number of people came out to let Council know there was a problem. No one came out to tell Council they have done things right.
Council has not shown this leadership a number times in the past, doing what they want to do rather than what their electorate tell them to do. Ironically, Council shows very poor leadership by choosing a complex question which would confuse the average voter.
Council got nowhere on Monday night because they refused to listen to what the community was telling them, because they refused to look for common ground and because they chose to remain divided. This is Council being dysfunctional again.
The funny thing is, the entirety of Council stood against Enbridge, Northern Gateway who requested multiple questions on Monday January 13th. Multiple questions so they could be more informed about where the majority of Kitimat’s concerns rest and try to put these concerns at ease.
However, the truth about this project is it is a divisive topic for a number of reasons. It has two very vocal sides, both in person and on the internet, pro and con, which shout back and forth at each other endlessly, making a lot of noise.
They do this while trying to bully the other into backing down. Both sides claim they have the majority of the public backing them, but in reality, they have bullied a lot of people out of speaking their minds through their offensive. I mean, who wants to be called a redneck? Who wants to be called a NIMBY?
In fact, probably the wisest thing the Council could have done, was keep the question simple. Learn where the community stands on this issue, and then vote to stay neutral, to keep the divide already in Kitimat on this pipeline question from getting bigger.
The sad thing is, this issue will most likely come up again pretty soon, perhaps even at the next Council meeting.
In my opinion, Council should give this question sober third thought before putting it to the public.