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REPORTING · 24th April 2014
Walter McFarlane
- Councillor Mario Feldhoff

Watch the Council debate by clicking this sentance

Kitimat City Council discussed their position on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline on Tuesday April 22nd. Councillors Mary Murphy and Corinne Scott were not present at the meeting. Mayor Joanne Monaghan wanted to table the motion until they could be present, however, it was the will of Council to go ahead. However, Murphy or Scott could bring the motion back at a later meeting of Council.

Councillor Phil Germuth made the motion: “That Mayor and council support the results of the April 12th plebiscite, the Haisla, and our neighbouring communities by adopting a position of being opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.” It was seconded by Councillor Mario Feldhoff.


“Kitimat was built by industry. Kitimat exists because of industry. People of this community have supported the aluminium industry, the pulp and paper industry, the methanol and the ammonia industry and we look forward to supporting an LNG industry. People of this community appreciate and understand the amenities that we have here. Two rinks, a swimming pool, recreation facilities and many other benefits communities of this size don’t have. We appreciate that they are there, in part to the tax base provided by industry,” said Germuth.

He stated Kitimat was built on industry and 60% of the people came out to oppose an industrial project, it means something is wrong with the project and it is not just about the community. He expressed the Federal level is saying the project is in the best interests of Canada. It is in the best interest of Canada to extract the resource, transport it in it’s most destructive form through rugged, pristine wilderness and hope there is not a leak. Then transport it via boat through pristine waters and hope there is never an accident. Send it to be refined in a country which has bad pollution control policy.

“Don’t think this project is about providing a future for your children and grandchildren, because, somehow, it’s also in our best interests to propose hiring temporary foreign workers to extract our resources. Just because a government tells us something is in our best interests does not necessarily mean it’s true,” said Germuth.

He suggested slowing down the resource extraction while training future generations to work in technologically advance and environmentally sensitive refineries in Canada. Teach future generations about conservation and finding renewable energy options.

Germuth stated the regional neighbours to Kitimat have opposed the project for various reasons. He stated they support their decisions and stand united and let the Federal Government know the project is not in the best interests of the region.

He reminded Council they were there to make the tough decisions and by putting it on the people, caused a divide in Kitimat.


“A significant number of Kitimatian’s participated in the plebiscite and the result demonstrated that a majority of residents do not favour the Northern Gateway project, in spite of the recommendation of the JRP. The Plebiscite also shows that our community is divided; 3 to 2. I have been approached by many people since April12 who didn’t exercise their vote; maybe this will give them pause to consider the importance of participating in the democratic process in the future, non-binding or not,” said Feldhoff.

He stated he was going to represent the majority as he was elected to represent, despite voting with the minority. He remained concerned about the future of Kitimat jobs after the construction workers move on to other projects as the major employer will have fewer people working at the plant.

Feldhoff stated Kitimat needs to find employment opportunities or risk eroding services and seeing the community decline. He expressed he voted in favour of $5 million in property taxes associated with the project, feeling it would go a long way towards adding to Kitimat.

He also still supported the Joint Review Panel as it was unparalleled in its effort and put onerous conditions on Enbridge. However, 58% of the community voted against the project and the results are being forwarded to the senior levels of Government.

“That motion respected the will of the majority as well as the minority of citizens. Tonight’s motion unfortunately drives a wedge and does not reflect that there are still deep divisions within our community,” said Feldhoff. “The question for the Prime Minister and Cabinet is whether they should place greater weigh on the conditions of the JRP and the perceived benefits to Canada, or the wishes of Kitimat residents. We sometimes don’t appreciate that many Canadian’s livelihoods, including some former Kitimatians, are directly tied to the oil and gas development in land locked Alberta.”

He said it was time to turn the page away from Enbridge and towards the proposed refinery by David Black. While it will not eliminate all of the risks, it will increase the economic benefits. He hoped the neighbours and government will support the project. He pointed out the Plebiscite did not ask about the merits of shipping refined goods from Kitimat and the Kitimat Clean Refinery would employ the same amount of people as three Modernized Aluminium Smelters.

“Come November, the citizens of Kitimat will have their say as to who should represent them on Council. In the meantime, I will continue to do my best to further the best interests of the community. To conclude, based on the plebiscite results, I support the motion put forward tonight, that Kitimat adopt a position of being opposed to the northern Gateway project,” said Feldhoff.


Councillor Rob Goffinet agreed with the points raised by his colleagues. Kitimat accepts industrial development and the vote was in favour of economic developments but not every projects. Council will continue to advocate for industrial development in Kitimat.

However, the motion was not to go through the points raised during the referendum. While Goffinet voted no, he respects the people who voted yes.

“What I think this motion says, is we as a council support the results of the April 12th plebiscite conducted by us, and the participants were our fellow citizens of Kitimat,” said Goffinet. How do we support the results of what that vote was? By adopting a position of being opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.”

He expressed they really had no choice. Goffinet went through the history of Council’s neutral position. They heard all sides of the argument. Kitimat has had the opportunity to see all points of view. Everyone is conflicted on this project and the vote, but have spent the last 5 years in a respectful and meaningful discussion about the project. The community listened quietly to what was being said and then voted.

He felt the process was intensely educative, unprecedented and no other part of Canada had discussion as intense as Kitimat did. People knew what a yes vote meant and a no vote. While people feel the results are even, such results in an election would be distressing to politicians.

“I think all of us called it years ago, that it felt like about a 60-40. It depended on which side you were on which 60 and which 40 was your side and which 60 and which 40 was the other side. But there was a feeling in the community, five years of intensive debate and education and respectfully listening to each other and debating, it came down to a decisive 60-40 split of the most informed electorate in the country,” said Goffinet.

He said the turnout was 700 more than the last election. He said he would respect the results.


Councillor Edwin Empinado had several questions before he argued his point. His questions reflected on what will the motion mean, will they talk about it, will they entertain proponents, will Council commit to a stand or use their resources to go after the project and if they have control.

Councillor Rob Goffinet would answer later in the meeting. He said it would be adopting a stance against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, the Council would have freedom of opinion, they would still talk to proponents, there would be nothing Council could do to stop the project and the role of the Council would be to honour the results of the plebiscite.

“Is it within my role of power to decide to stop this project? Is it within the powers of the local government of Kitimat to decide whether this should go ahead or not. Or is it Federal Jurisdiction?” asked Empinado.

He said the 58% are represented by it but the 42% also have a voice. He asked where he has control and where he could be involved.

“It is not in our local government’s role to decide, the approval or disapproval of the Federal Government. We made it clear in the plebiscite, that it was non-binding and I wanted it that way so we can bring everyone’s concerns and interest to the bargaining table where we could use our municipal powers and where is that bargaining table, it is in this chamber. I personally believe that mayor and Council’s neutral positions were so we could continually pursue the bargaining power, to make sure there is a continuous quality assurance to make our waters safe, our environment and ocean,” said Empinado.

He said the Council is not showing disrespect to the Haisla, but like the Haisla, they need to be involved in the process. The concerns need to be at the table.

Goffinet explained, again, later in the meeting, that he felt this would give Kitimat some leverage. The leadership would stand with the community. He pointed out the Northern Gateway project would not have anything to do with a refinery.


“I guess that this is probably the most difficult motion that I’ve had to deal with in my 36 years of being on Council because, as Mayor, I take the representation of all of the population of Kitimat. Those who voted yes and those who voted no, and to me, there are a lot who did not vote, and a lot of them came to me and said this how we wanted to vote but we did not vote,” said Monaghan.

She stated she hoped this would give a push the next time there is an election. She said she would honour the vote and she sent the details to the Provincial and Federal levels. She does not support tankers in the Douglas Channel, but she would support the refinery as Kitimat and the North would benefit from all of the jobs it would bring here.

Monaghan expressed the motion before Council goes beyond the motion of supporting the plebiscite. She would not vote in favour of the motion as it includes the Haisla and Terrace.

Goffinet pointed out the Northern Gateway project would not have anything to do with a refinery. Monaghan stated the refinery was a part of this issue: “If Enbridge has nowhere to send their oil, guess where it’s going to go.”

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to amend the motion for the Mayor: “That Mayor and council support the results of the April 12th plebiscite by adopting a position of being opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.”

The amendment was considered friendly by Germuth.

“Yes, I will go along with this. It does not mean that I will be against economic development. I will be for economic development; we need economic development for our community. There are certain types of economic development that are not wanted and I understand that as well. However, I do know there are a lot of things that we could use in our community to make it a better community and there will be jobs and good paying jobs and that’s what I want. I will be continuing to work with the people and hopefully we can come together and work as a Council,” said Monaghan. “If this whole situation does go to a court case, I will not be in favour of a court case. I was in a court case once, twice, three times and we lost it. We lost a lot of money for our community and I will not go to a court case again.”

Empinado agreed. They would not pursue this with resources unless it fit into their boundaries. He said Council are not experts in this field. Change continues, there is always something new. Every day, there is a risk. He wants evidence which is unquestionable.

Feldhoff stated future actions will come from future motions. Tonight’s motion was to reflect the electorate. Goffinet agreed he was not an expert, but the people of Kitimat were. He said they did not lack any information, access to the reports, the JRP and 5 years of pro and con.

Germuth closed debate. Kitimat was built by industry and has supported industries. “This one just crossed the line, in that risk and benefit was weighted to be way too much on the risk side with the benefits not there. We are not closing the doors on talking to government or any proponent including Enbridge in the future on anything else,” said Germuth.

He pointed out Enbridge is involved in clean energy as well. The motion was called and carried. The vote went 4-1. Councillor Edwin Empinado was opposed.
This Council has finally shown real leadership
Comment by Larry Walker on 23rd April 2014
It has been said "the compromise is the art of politics" Well done Mayor and Council.