District of Kitimat Council voted four to one Monday night to officially oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline, terminal and tanker project.
After a lengthy debate, Mayor Joanne Monaghan, Councillors Phil Germuth, Mario Feldhoff and Rob Goffinet voted in favour of the motion. Councillor Edwin Empinado voted against the motion. Councillors Mary Murphy and Corrine Scott were absent due to illness.
Part of the debate was a search for unanimity and that meant simplifying the original motion from Phil Germuth, eliminating references to the Haisla Nation and “neighboring communities,” largely at the insistence of Mayor Monaghan.
Germuth’s original motion read:
That Mayor and Council support the results of the April 12th plebiscite, the Haisla and our neighboring communities by adopting a position of being opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.
What passed is:
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.
Council was in a search for unanimity, so Germuth eventually agreed to a friendly amendment that eliminated the references to neighboring communities. Mayor Monaghan, in the debate, said that Germuth’s full motion was against the spirit of the plebiscite, which she argued was just for Kitimat.
In opening the debate, Germuth specifically told council that it was time for Kitimat to join and support both the Haisla Nation and neighboring communities Terrace, Prince Rupert and Smithers which had earlier voted to oppose the Northern Gateway project.
Germuth noted that Kitimat is an industrial town and does support industrial projects but for him and the people who voted against the project, Enbridge Northern Gateway is the wrong project.
Mario Feldhoff, who earlier in the year had said he supported Northern Gateway, told council that with the plebiscite result, it was time for council to support the will of the majority of Kitimat residents. Feldhoff went on to say that he had reservations about rejecting Gateway. He added that he hoped that newspaper magnate David Black’s plan for a refinery at Onion Flats outside Kitimat would bring thousands of jobs to the region.
Rob Goffinet pointed out residents of Kitimat, if anyone, were experts on the Northern Gateway, after five years of presentations before council from Enbridge Northern Gateway, from Douglas Channel Watch and others. He said that Kitimatians also had the opportunity to read the full report from the Joint Review Panel. Overall, Goffinet said he was in “favour of certain industrial development,” but Northern Gateway failed the test. He called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to respect the decision by the people of Kitimat.
Edwin Empinado asked council to consider five questions, mainly about potential changes in the future for scientific and technical advances. Empinado also worried that saying no to Northern Gateway was beyond the powers of a municipality. He said he would vote against the motion because he preferred council to remain neutral.
Monaghan said she was having difficulty with Germuth’s motion because she felt that it went further than what Kitimat had voted for. She also said she supports the David Black refinery, believing that it would bring much need jobs to the region.
At the point it looked as the motion would pass three to two and council struggled to find a compromise. Feldhoff suggested an amendment dropping the references to the Haisla and neighbors. Goffinet pointed out that if the simplified motion passed, Kitimat would be joining the Haisla, Terrace, Prince Rupert and Smithers anyway. Germuth then agreed to make the amendment “friendly.”
Empinado maintained his position against the motion, saying that the motion would not allow the council to make changes in the future. Empinado stuck by his position that there must be scientific rigour applied to the Northern Gateway issue and his belief that the motion did not allow for future changes.
Feldhoff then said there was nothing in the motion that precluded council for re-examining the issue in the future.
Monaghan then called the motion and it passed with Empinado’s dissenting vote.
Both Feldhoff and Monaghan said that they had been approached by people who did not vote but who were in favour of Northern Gateway. Feldhoff said he hoped that would be a lesson for those who do not turn out at the polls.
Monaghan had opened the debate by asking that it be tabled until Councillors Scott and Murphy could be present. That motion was defeated 4 to 1.