To plebiscite or not to plebiscite, that is still the question

Murray Minchin
Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch gives District of Kitimat Council a preview of the group’s campaign presentation on the Northern Gateway project plebiscite at the council chambers. Feb. 24, 2014. DCW will host “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Enbridge Plebiscite, but Were Afraid to Ask” at Riverlodge, Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

District of Kitimat Council will take another look at the Northern Gateway project plebiscite next Monday, March 3, when it considers a motion from Councillor Phil Germuth to cancel the vote altogether.

This Monday, February 24, Council voted to cancel the “undecided” option on the ballot, leaving voters with a simple yes or no question. That decision costs the district taxpayers $500, since council was told by the deputy administrative officer, Warren Waycheshen that the ballots had already been printed.

The question of whether “undecided” was still on the ballot came up as council was discussing the advertising campaign for the coming plebiscite—if it survives next Monday’ s vote. Apparently after the confusing Council session on January 20, some members of council believed that the “undecided” option had already been eliminated.

“Can I get clarification on it. I thought it was going to be strictly: yes or no?” Germuth asked.

There was apparently some confusion among District staff after the meeting as well. Waycheshen said he and other staff members had reviewed the minutes of that meeting and concluded there was no motions that dropped “undecided.”

Asked about the ballots, Waycheshen replied the ballots had already been ordered, but the $500 cost was minimal. He told Council that amount should not stand in their way if they wanted to amend the response to the question.

Both Germuth and Mayor Joanne Monaghan said that by now everyone should now how they feel. Germuth said that leaving the undecided option might lead to misinterpreted results.

District staff will wait until next Monday and the vote on Germuth’s motion to cancel the plebiscite altogether before ordering new ballots.

Earlier in the evening, it was not clear whether or not everyone in the Kitimat community “should know how they feel.” Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch gave a preview of the environmental group’s campaign for a no vote:

Minchin began by rereading the plebiscite question.

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?”

Minchin then gave Council some samples of what will be a longer presentation at Riverlodge on Wednesday night.

He pointed to Condition #1 “Northern Gateway must comply with all the certificate conditions, unless the NEB otherwise directs.”

Minchin told council, “This means the plebiscite will be held on something that might not exist. It’s written in smoke and deposited on mirrors. Why are we voting on the Joint Review Panel conditions when they can be altered or removed at any time?”

He also said Condition 169, which calls on Enbridge to file a plan for a research program on spilled oil was rather late, “far into the game,” he said, and thus an example of how the conditions had no teeth.

Minchin said even those who support the project should be concerned about other conditions, including one that calls on Northern Gateway to notify the National Energy Board if they plan to hire foreign temporary workers.

“What about all of these jobs for Canadians which we have been hearing about since day one. It is supposed to be a job generating project for Canadians,” he asked Council.

He said the Joint Review Panel should have had conditions that there be no foreign temporary workers or that a certain percentage of jobs should go to Canadians and to people from the region.

Douglas Channel Watch will be hosting what they call “a community information forum” called ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Enbridge Plebiscite, but Were Afraid to Ask.’  –in effect a campaign for the no side,. at Riverlodge on Wednesday, February 26th at 7:00 pm. Minchin said DCW members who developed expertise in their role as a JRP intervenor will be speaking on various topics.