At least three rallies are planned for Kitimat on Tuesday, June 17, as BC Premier Christy Clark is scheduled to arrive to announce a new agreement with the Haisla Nation and, a few hours later, the Harper government will announce its decision on approving the Northern Gateway project.
The Harper government is expected to approve the highly controversial pipeline, terminal and tanker project and once that happens, it is likely that Kitimat will be the focus of protests against (and perhaps for) Northern Gateway.
District Council was told Monday, June 16, that the RCMP and District staff have had meetings to come up with contingency plans if large numbers of protesters come to Kitimat in the future.
Answering a question from Councillor Phil Germuth, Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison, Kitimat detachment commander told Council that RCMP had met with Kitimat deputy chief administrative officer Warren Waycheshen to discuss the groups they were aware of that might be protesting in Kitimat.
“It’s actually hard to plan for some of them, we don’t know how large they’re going to be, “Harrison told Councl, “There are all sorts of different factors that go into coming up with an operational plan for any kind of a demonstration
“We’ve talked about where we may be able to hold demonstrations, how we are going to do accommodate the people, what are we going to do for sanitation,
what we are going to do for garbage collection. all that kind of stuff,” the staff sergeant said.
“Until we get more information regarding what kind of demonstration it’s going to be, it’s hard to plan for. We do encourage any leaders of any organization that’s going to be demonstrating to come and chat with us.
:Demonstrations are fully legal in Canada. We have no problems with those. Our concern is when it comes to the safety of the public and so, therefore, if there isanything we can do to help to mitigate any kind of problems that might arise if the safety of the public, we’d like to know that before hand.”
Waycheshen said it was up to Council to set policy but noted that the staff has been working on long term plans, saying. ‘We do a lot of pre-planning and then just wait to see if it comes or not.”
Waycheshen said that while the RCMP and District staff have studied the more obvious locations, “as the RCMP point out, there are certain times when people won’t congregate where you want them to, so we have to work around their locations.’
“We’ve looked at the need for water, porta-potties, meals and stuff,” Waycheshen said. “It’s always tough until you know the numbers When they come in, are they going to be self sufficient or not?
“We’ve talked to our suppliers to make them aware that this could be happening at short notice, so they’re aware of it,
“We’ve done as much as we can And almost like the emergency plan, we’ve talked to the emergency planning group for the District. There might be a point where we activate the EOC [Emergency Operations Centre] plan, not to treat it as an emergency but to give you a lot more flexibility to react in a quick way.”
“Some of the suppliers say we should be able to get you this and that, but we will have to know at the time.
“It’s really contingent on when they’re coming in. Our purchasing department has been really good about contacting people, this is the potential of what we could
It all starts on Tuesday when Premier Clark is scheduled to arrive at the old hospital site to announce the agreement with the Haisla.
Douglas Channel Watch says it plans to rally at the “Downtown Kitimat” sign across the street from the hospital site at 10:45. Kitimat’s teachers who will officially be on strike on Tuesday, plan their own rally at Centennial Park at the same time.
The Harper government will announce its decision on the Northern Gateway shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern Time, after the market close in the east, 1 p.m, Pacific Time.
Shortly after the government announcement, Douglas Channel Watch will then hold a second rally in Centennial Park.
A study by Duke University of the US shale gas boom has found that oil and gas development from shale fields has generally helped the public finances of local communities, providing new revenues and resources that usually — but not always — outweigh the increased demand for public services and other costs.
It found that many local governments in western North Dakota and eastern Montana, near the Bakken shale formation, have thus far experienced net negative fiscal effects. Also, some municipalities in rural parts of Colorado and Wyoming struggled to manage rapid population growth as natural gas production accelerated in the mid-to-late 2000s.
The research is a snapshot of the fiscal impact to date in the eight states and does not examine the long-term economic impact to governments and the communities they serve, a question the authors say is important and needs additional study.
Daniel Raimi and Richard Newell gathered data from communities surrounding ten oil and gas “plays” from September 2013 through February 2014, traveling to Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming to interview local officials and collect information firsthand.
The report describes major revenue sources for local governments, which can include property taxes, sales taxes and state-collected severance taxes or fees that are sent back to the local level. Some local governments also partner with oil and gas companies to help maintain roads, an approach that helped reduce expenses associated with heavy truck traffic in states including Arkansas, Colorado and Pennsylvania.
New costs for local governments associated with oil and gas development, include damage to roads from heavy truck traffic, water and sewer service expansion, government staffing and other needs brought on by rapid population growth.
The researchers found that the net impact of recent oil and gas development has generally been positive for local public finances.
“The fiscal effects for local governments tend to vary from state to state, but we found that for most of them new revenues were outweighing new demand for services,” said Newell, director of the Duke University Energy Initiative and Gendell Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
Newell and Raimi found net positive fiscal effects in regions where oil and gas booms were ongoing or had slowed in recent years, as well as in regions that experienced different scales of activity. This includes local governments in diverse regions where population density and government capacity vary substantially.
“One of the key questions is how these fiscal effects change over time,” said Raimi, an associate in research with Duke’s Energy Initiative. “In very rural areas, some local governments have faced challenges when development first surges. In many cases, those challenges faded over time. In most other areas, we found net positive or at least roughly neutral financial effects on local government.”
“In some parts of North Dakota, populations have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled just in the past few years,” Raimi said. “For local governments in these areas, it’s hard to keep up with the demand for services, especially costly infrastructure projects such as sewer and water treatment plants.”
The study was financed with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Shale Public Finance project will continue to produce a series of publications that describes local experiences from a variety of U.S. local governments and identifies key findings.
MAPP stands for Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Ocean.
According to the documents the purpose of the North Coast Marine Plan “is to provide recommendations for achieving a sustainable balance between ecosystem health, social and cultural well-‐being and economic development through an ecosystem-‐based approach to planning and management.”
The plan is all about managing “common First Nation and provincial interests related to marine areas.”
The parners include the province and the Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS), representing the Metlakatla, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas, Haisla, Gitga’at, and Gitxaala Nations.
According to the doucments the North Coast plan area covers 27,000 kilometres of coastline;
that is indented with deep fjords and dotted with thousands of islands. It is a region of profound beauty, significant ecological diversity and remarkable cultural richness. Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat are the largest communities in the North Coast plan area, which supports an overall population of approximately 42,000.
According to the summary of the plan:
The physical complexity of the North Coast includes a range of ecosystem types, including important estuaries that support distinct marine ecosystems and species. A diverse range of economic and community activities occur within the North Coast plan area. Commercial fisheries and associated processing facilities and logging have supported communities along the coast since the early 1900s. These activities continue to be important to the well-‐being of coastal communities. Port activities centered around the communities of Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Stewart, and active recreational fishing and tourism sectors, continue to be strong economic drivers in the area. North Coast First Nations living in the region have distinct cultural and spiritual heritages that are intricately linked to the marine environment and the long-‐standing sustainable use and management of marine resources.
The plan appears to overlap some areas where there have been environmental assessments of the Northern Gateway and the numerous liquified natural gas proposals.
The plan summary goes on to say:
The draft plan brings together science and Aboriginal knowledge, input from the technical staff of NCSFNSS (representing the Gitga’at, Gitxaała, Metlakatla, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas and Haisla Nations) and the Province. Key information and direction was provided by First Nations strategic marine use plans and existing provincial planning and policy documents.
Ecological, cultural and social and economic data sources were compiled and analysed by the joint technical team and contract support. Relevant background scientific reports and technical documents from the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) process were also used, along with the BC Marine Conservation Analysis. Additional information was drawn from government reports and publications, academic literature, industry or sector publications, discussions with experts and local knowledge. Advice was also incorporated from the North Coast Marine Plan Advisory Committee and public and stakeholder engagement.
Corinne Scott resigned from District of Kitimat Council Monday night, effective immediately.
Because Scott’s resignation comes so close to the fall municipal general election there will be no by-election.
Council voted to accept Scott’s resignation “with regret.”
In her letter of resignation Scott said:
Please accept this letter as my resignation from Council effective immediately, for personal reasons. I’ve enjoyed working with all of you and apprectiate the accomplishments we’ve attained over the past three and a half years.
I feel I have accomplished what was asked of me by those individuals in the community that supported me first in the by-election and again in the general election of 2011. I’m grateful for the support received from the residents, businesses, industry and staff of the District of Kitimat and am proud of the road the municipality is on towards bigger and better things.
I want to assure you of my continued support in your endeavors and look forward to the coming years of development.
I ask that you respect by decision is personal and has no bearing on anyone either on staff or on Council.
In her remarks after reading her letter, Scott said Kitimat was facing many challenges in the coming years and she hoped that younger people would consider running for council in the fall election.
Scott’s resignation ends one area of speculation about that municipal election, since it was well known in Kitimat that many people were urging Scott to run for mayor, although Scott had not expressed interest, at least in public, in seeking the mayor’s chair.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan paid tribute to Scott, thanked her for her service to Kitimat and presented her with a gift.
It comes down to the idea that Harper will approve Gateway “in the national interest,” count on a vote split between the NDP and Liberals in British Columbia to avoid any consequences to the Conservative majority and then leave it up to Enbridge to actually get the job of building the pipeline and terminal project done.
Mason quotes “ a senior member of Mr. Harper’s government,” and while Mason doesn’t say what part of Canada the source is from, (unlikely in my view the source is from BC) what the member told Mason reveals that the Harper government is still mired in it the Matrix-world that has always governed its policy on Northern Gateway.
The first step, apparently coming in the next few days, is that the Harper government “rigorous” new tanker protocols for traffic along the west coast.
Even if the protocols are new, just who is going to enforce those policies?
Even if Gateway and the Kinder Morgan expansion went ahead, he argued, B.C. would still only see about 60 per cent of the annual oil tanker traffic the neighbouring state of Washington deals with. And yet Washington has an exceptionally clean record when it comes to the safe transport of oil in and out of its harbours – this, he noted, while operating under marine safety regulations that are not as rigorous as the ones Ottawa intends to put in place for the shipment of oil along the West Coast.
There are a lot big problems with that statement.
First, there’s an organization that the Mason’s source may have heard of known as the United States Coast Guard. The United States rigorously enforces its “weak” regulations, while Canada’s Coast Guard is plagued by staff shortages and budget cuts.
Second, the State of Washington also rigorously enforces its environmental regulations, not only on the coast but across the state. I have been told by retired British Columbia forestry and environmental officials (not to mention Fisheries and Oceans) that there are often more state environmental watch dogs in most Washington State counties than in all of northern British Columbia where the Northern Gateway is supposed to be going.
The September 2013, report by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration on the export of Canadian bitumen sands through the US shows that the Washington Department of Ecology is working on strengthening regulations for both pipelines and (where it’s in state jurisdiction) tanker traffic. The same report says the state of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is updating its plans and possible regulations in anticipation that bitumen filled tanker traffic from Kitimat would come close to the coast en route to Asia.
Third, the coast of northern British Columbia is more rugged and stormy than the waters off Washington.
The one factor that the urban media seems to ignore, is the big question.
Who pays to enforce the 209 conditions that the Joint Review Panel imposed on the Northern Gateway project?
If the Harper government announces new tanker regulations in the coming days, who pays to enforce those regulations?
There were no provisions in the February budget for enforcing the 209 conditions. Rather there were continuing budget cuts to the very departments that the JRP ruled must be involved in the studying, planning, implementation and enforcement of the 209 conditions, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada.
So while Mason says “The federal government will play its part in meeting the five conditions laid out by the B.C. government for support of the project,” the response must be “Show me the money!”
During the recent plebiscite campaign, Northern Gateway finally revealed its plans for the “super tugs” that will escort tankers along the coast and up Douglas Channel. Owen McHugh, a Northern Gateway emergency manager said, “Adding these four or five tugs to the north coast provides a rescue capability that doesn’t exist in this format. So for any large commercial vessel that is traveling on our coast, this capacity to protect the waters of the north coast.” Those tugs and Northern Gateway’s plans to station teams at small bases along the coast means that the company is, in effect, creating a parallel, private, coast guard on the BC Coast.
What about the Coast Guard itself? The Harper government has been gutting Coast Guard resources along the coast even before it had its majority. It closed and dismantled the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver. There is more dependence on the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers, who have to raise money locally for modern rescue boats which cost up to $750,000. The money that government was “generously” giving to RCMSAR had to be split up to 70 stations in 42 communities along the coast as well as its administrative and training staff.
Does anyone notice what is missing from that list? What’s missing are better Coast Guard vessels just to police all the expected tanker traffic on the west coast (whether LNG or bitumen) and no mention of dedicated spill response vessels, which under the “polluter pay” policy will likely be left to private contractors (and hope that the ships are available at the time of a spill)
How will we know?
Then there is the question of how will people even know if the 209 conditions are being enforced; whether or not the reports demanded by the Joint Review Panel are going be sitting on the National Energy Board server and ignored.
There is every indication, given the government’s obsession with secrecy that until there is a disaster the Canadian public will never know what’s going on. Harper’s muzzling doesn’t just cover government scientists, it covers the lowest level of bureaucrats, as District of Kitimat Council found out when low level DFO bureaucrats refused to appear publicly before council to discuss the risk to the Kitimat River.
So the scenario is, according to Mason’s source
“I think once this decision is made, Enbridge could have shovels in the ground the next day,” the member said. “They are ready to go. This means the First Nations could start realizing profits from this right away, as opposed to the promised profits from LNG, which may never materialize. I think they need to think about that.”
While the LNG market is volatile, the “member” forgets that most of the First Nations of British Columbia have opposed the Northern Gateway since Enbridge first floated the idea in 2001. The current LNG rush didn’t start until after Japan shut down its nuclear power plants after the March 2011 earthquake, The first major anti-Enbridge rally, “The Solidarity Gathering of Nations” was held at Kitamaat Village in May 2010.
Writing off BC
It appears that Conservatives, in their election strategy have already written off Gateway opponents:
Still, there is a raw political calculus that needs to be taken into account. Polls measuring support for the pr.oject in B.C. vary, but generally have shown that anywhere from 55 to 60 per cent of the province opposes Gateway and 40 to 45 per cent support it. Isn’t that enough to scare off a government that needs critical votes in B.C. to win another majority?
“Let’s say 60 per cent are against it,” he said. “And that vote splits between the Liberals and the NDP come the next election. Who are the 40 per cent going to vote for?”
Mason also speculates that Harper will approve Gateway to stick it to Barack Obama and the delays on Keystone XL. As he points out that’s a political, not an economic decision.
There are civil disobedience classes being held across northwestern BC this month. Access to Information requests by the Vancouver Observer revealed increased RCMP surveillance of the anti-Gateway movement. There has always been talk of a “war in the woods” if the pipeline project is forced on an unwilling population.
So it comes down to a question that Mason and the Conservatives are avoiding. Mason’s source says Northern Gateway is crucial to the national interest:
“At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right, not what’s politically expedient,” he said. “You have to ask: What’s in the best interests of all Canadians?”
So given all that will the Harper government leave Enbridge to tough it out on its own?
But will the Harper government, with its bean counting obsession on balancing the budget be willing to pay for all that is needed?
There’s lots of marine clay along the pipeline route, laid down by ancient oceans. That brings to mind just one word. Quagmire, not just the wet, sticky BC mud but a political quagmire.
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.
The federal government today announced that it is going to spend $9,127,000 through the Western Diversification Program to support “the development of Ocean Networks Canada’s (ONC) Smart Oceans BC program” to upgrade radar and other navigation aids on the BC coast.
The upgrades include adding the Automatic Identification System (AIS) ship tracking system, which means that those using a web-based ship tracker will be able to monitor major vessel traffic in Douglas Channel.
A news release from Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification said:
The project will add small scale underwater observatories, high frequency coastal radars and an Automatic Identification System to ONC’s existing marine observatory footprint including near Port Metro Vancouver, Campbell River, Kitimat, the Douglas Channel waterway, as well as Prince Rupert.
The news release goes on to say an “expanded footprint” will contribute to what the Conservatives call “responsible resource development” by helping to prevent accidents, predicting and warning of natural hazards, and “improving overall marine operational situational awareness.”
The government says that IBM is developing a system to monitor the data streams from the hundreds of sensors that are being expanded as part of the Smart Oceans BC program. Improved data collection will allow modeling systems to better support disaster planning. In addition, highly qualified personnel will be trained in ocean analytics.
Additionally, SMEs will gain access to technology demonstrations and commercialization assistance, as well as international business development services offered by the ONC Innovation Centre.
The news release places special emphasis on Kitimat saying:
This project will allow for real-time monitoring of vessel traffic, waves, currents and water quality, in areas such as the Douglas Channel, a shipping artery leading to Kitimat.
The news release quotes David Fissel, Chair and Senior Oceanographer, ASL Environmental Sciences, Inc, as saying: “This substantial investment in Smart Oceans BC will also benefit British Columbia’s many ocean science and technology SME’s. Access to ONC’s observatories and their innovative technology provides a competitive advantage to BC companies seeking to expand their export sales. Our success in global markets also benefits from the support of the ONC Innovation Centre’s international business development services.”
The Smart Oceans website describes the project this way: “Smart Oceans BC is the next phase in the world-class Ocean Networks Canada system that will position Canada as a global leader in ocean technology that delivers science and information for good ocean management and responsible ocean use.”
The Smart Ocean BC footprint will cover areas critical to Canada’s economic future including:
Strait of Georgia and Port of Vancouver
Proposed oil and gas export facilities located at the Port of Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Campbell River, Port Alberni, and Douglas Channel waterways
Associated shipping routes to the high seas
The announcement came just two days after the residents of Kitimat voted in a plebiscite against the Northern Gateway project. The ballot count from Saturday’s vote was 1,793 opposed versus 1,278 who supported the multi-billion dollar project — a margin of 58.4 per cent to 41.6 per cent.
A high turnout is expected Saturday for the non-binding plebiscite where residents of the District of Kitimat can, perhaps, say yes or no to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. In some ways, it all depends on how people interpret the convoluted question.
Warren Weychasen, Kitimat’s Deputy Administrative Officer said Thursday 910 people voted during advance polls on April 2 and April 9, compared to 470 over the two days of advance voting in the 2011 municipal election.
Even who can vote has can be the matter of heated debate. Members of the Haisla Nation who live in Kitamaat Village feel strongly that they should have a voice, even though legally they live outside the municipal boundaries. “It’s our land they’re talking about,” one Haisla member, who wouldn’t give his name, said Friday as he was getting off the Village bus at City Centre.
The District also decided to allow residents of Kitimat who have been here longer than 30 days to vote, even if they are not Canadian citizens.
Another group that can’t vote, many from outside the northwest region, are living at the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Camp or at smaller camps for the developing LNG projects. An informal poll of those workers at City Centre Friday showed that if camp workers had been allowed to cast a vote, many would have voted “yes,” something the opponents of Northern Gateway said they feared would overwhelm local residents.
The $6.5 billion project would see two pipelines, one carrying oil sands bitumen from Alberta to the port of Kitimat, and a second carrying a form of natural gas used to dilute the bitumen from Kitimat to Alberta. The bitumen would then be loaded onto tankers for shipment to Asia along environmentally sensitive areas of the British Columbia coast.
Northern Gateway’s campaign has concentrated on the promise of 180 permanent direct local jobs worth $17 million and more spinoff jobs for contractors and suppliers. The company also promises that the District will receive $5 million in property taxes.
Northern Gateway also emphasized its commitment to safety and the environment, saying that the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that held two years of hearings on the project, has made many of the company’s voluntary commitments a mandatory part of the conditions for granting permission to go ahead.
The main opponent, Douglas Channel Watch, maintains that the risk from either a tanker accident or pipeline breach is too high for the small number of jobs Northern Gateway will bring to the community.
Even the question, as chosen by the District of Kitimat Council, is controversial, because it focuses on the 209 conditions placed on the project by the Joint Review Panel:
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?
After the district council decided on that question, debate on the wording continued through several council sessions in January and February.
Public delegations, some from Douglas Channel Watch, told council that there should be a simple yes or no question.
On January 13, Donny van Dyk, Northern Gateway’s local manager for coastal aboriginal and community relations, told council that the company preferred a series of simple questions, because “We avoid an adversarial feeling plebiscite and we generate dialogue and debate amongst the plebiscite but also so we as a proponent can come away with value and create a better project.”
Council rejected a proposal for a series of simple of questions, leaving voters to decide on whether or not they supported the Joint Review recommendations. That raised the question of whether voters would make their choice on some of the provisions of the report and not the project itself.
What does it mean?
That means that even Council is unsure of what the vote will mean.
The main reason for holding the non-binding plebiscite is that it fulfills a promise from an all candidates meeting during the municipal election in November 2011, where every candidate agreed to “poll” the citizens of Kitimat on Northern Gateway.
After the new council took office, on Jan. 16, 2012, it voted to hold some sort of poll or vote to find out whether the community supports the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. At the time, it was unclear after the vote how the survey would take place.
For the almost two years of the Joint Review Panel, the District of Kitimat did little more than act as spectators when the JRP was in town, claiming its neutrality policy precluded participation.
The District could have participated without violating the neutrality provisions, but chose not to do so. It’s now clear that decision angered the Haisla Nation, as Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross said in a letter to the media, “the District stood by and did nothing”
The debate in the District of Kitimat Council on March 3 showed that even members of council were uncertain what the vote would mean.
Councillor Corinne Scott said, “As much as we wanted to know what the feeling of the community is, all we know so far is that we’re split. What the percentage of split is, we don’t know,” said Scott.
Councillor Phil Germuth said the vote is not on the project itself, but on the Joint Review decision. “We’re asking about 209 conditions that nobody understands fully. Even Enbridge doesn’t fully understand them.”
Councillor Edwin Empinado said once the results are known, that would give the District “more bargaining power” in future dealing with company and the federal government, a sentiment echoed by Douglas Channel Watch which admits the vote will do little more than send a message to Ottawa.
It was Northern Gateway’s decision to put major resources into the campaign that raised the profile of what was originally intended as way of discovering the feeling in the small community. With the ruling from the Joint Review Panel that Northern Gateway is in the national interest and the final decision in the hands of the federal cabinet, it is equally uncertain what effect, if any, the vote will have on Ottawa.
Throughout the hearings, most people in Kitimat kept their views to themselves. When the campaign began in earnest, which in turn, triggered a fierce and often acrimonious debate on social media, mainly on the Facebook group Kitimat Politics, showing the divide in the community, although it appears from the comments that there are more opponents than supporters on the forum. The e-debate on Kitimat Politics is continuing up to the last minute Friday night and will likely get hotter once the results are known.
The adversarial feeling that van Dyk had said the company wanted to avoid was amplified in the past month when Northern Gateway began an aggressive public relations campaign with newspaper ads, glossy brochures and a door-to-door campaign by employees, some brought in from Alberta.
When news of Northern Gateway’s campaign effort spread on social media, which in turn prompted a counter campaign using the hashtag #adsforkitimat. Ads created by people from across BC were posted on Facebook and YouTube.
Douglas Channel Watch positioned itself as the David vs. the Enbridge Goliath.
On Monday, Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch told Council, “When Kitimat and northern BC residents found out how many resources Enbridge was pouring into their Kitimat plebiscite advertising campaign, some of those citizens made unsolicited donations to Douglas Channel Watch. This has allowed our small group to mount an advertising campaign of our own.” Minchin said donations went up after the group launched a website adding, “People began handing us money on the street while we were putting up lawn signs. Somebody, anonymously, left a $2,000 money order in one of our member’s mailboxes.
On Thursday, Douglas Channel Watch released its advertising budget showing that the organization spent $10,970.00 on print media ads, $792.92 on supplies, and has an outstanding debt of approximately $2,600.00 in radio ads, for a total of $14,362.92. Minchin challenged Enbridge to release its own ad budget.
Ivan Giesbrecht, a spokesperson for Northern Gateway said in an e-mail to the media that the company “will discuss our advertising spending after it’s over [the plebiscite] this weekend.” Late Friday, Giesbrecht released partial figures to the Northern Sentinel, saying the company had spent $6,500 in print and $3,100 on radio advertisements during the campaign.
Those figures don’t include the glossy brochures Northern Gateway distributed in the community, sponsored posts on Facebook, or the signs the dot the streets of Kitimat.
Douglas Channel Watch did put up signs. Many were recycled from earlier protests, came from Friends of the Wild Salmon or were created by volunteers from as far away as Smithers.
Giesbrecht told the Sentinel said the company felt that the discussion in the community about which side of the vote has spent more had “become a distraction” from the real issues. But instead of a discussion on jobs and taxes, on Friday night there was a raging debate on Kitimat Politics on Facebook about the Gateway release on its spending and what was missing from those figures.
On a cold and rainy Tuesday afternoon, Northern Gateway hosted an Open House and barbeque at the Rod and Gun. Northern Gateway not only outlined the jobs they say the project would create, but emphasized how far along the company is coming in meeting BC Premier Christy Clark’s condition for a “world-class” tanker spill prevention and response system.
Janet Holder, Enbridge Vice President of Western Access described what she and Northern Gateway staff called “super tugs,” 50 metres long. “One will be tethered to the tanker, one will be following the tanker,” Holder said. “So there will be two escorts whenever that tanker is in Canadian waters. The important thing about the tugs is not just they can move that tanker if it get into difficulty. It also contains emergency response equipment right with the tankers. We’ll also have strategically placed barges with emergency response equipment along the shorelines. We will be bringing in an enormous amount of equipment before we even start operating.”
Owen McHugh, a Northern Gateway emergency manager said, “Adding these four or five tugs to the north coast provides a rescue capability that doesn’t exist in this format. So for any large commercial vessel that is traveling on our coast, this capacity to protect the waters of the north coast.” The tugs will also have firefighting capability. “The salvage capability that BC describes as ‘world-class,’ Northern Gateway is bringing that to the north coast,” McHugh said.
The plebiscite has raised tensions between the District of Kitimat and the nearby Haisla First Nation, which adamantly opposed to Northern Gateway.
Haisla chief counsellor Ellis Ross wrote a scathing letter to local media, saying, in part:
Deciding to hold a referendum at this late date is a slap in the face to all the work done by the Haisla Nation on this project. The Haisla Nation dedicated time and money toward testing Northern Gateway’s evidence and claims about safety and environmental protection, while the District stood by and did nothing.
The review process for this project has already left town, with the District taking no position on the project. Still undecided on what its views are on the project, the District now proposes to conduct a poll, instead of examining the facts in the JRP process. A poll to vote on a JRP report that we view as wrong to begin with including the flawed process itself!
On Sunday, the Haisla Senior Women were playing the Prince Rupert Thunder in finals of the annual Kitimat Open Basketball Tournament which has the aim of promoting “Cultural Warming” among everyone living in northwestern BC. At half time, members of the Haisla Nation distributed black T-shirts labelled with “No Enbridge” to spectators in the bleachers. After the Haisla won the game, 67 to 45, as Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan was called on to congratulate the winners, she was greeted by chants of “No Enbridge, No Enbridge.”
At Tuesday’s Open House, one of the audience asked Enbridge officials, including Janet Holder, “Why are you ignoring the Haisla?”
Donny van Dyke responded, “We are actively working to strengthen that relationship….” Then when the questioner persisted, van Dyke said, “With this question perhaps it’s better to take it offline.” Then he asked, “Are there any other questions?”
For years the District of Kitimat has been officially neutral but voting over the past years shows that council is evenly split on Enbridge issues with swing votes sometimes going one way and sometimes another on what are often four to three votes.
The federal cabinet has until mid-June, 180 days after the release of the Joint Review decision to approve the panel’s findings. It is expected by most observers that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will give the go ahead. That doesn’t mean the project will start immediately, the Joint Review findings already face about a dozen court challenges from First Nations and environmental groups.
Minchin said Saturday’s non-binding plebiscite “is not going to affect the Prime Minister’s decision per se. But it’s very important for Enbridge to squeak out a win here in Kitimat. It’s just my feeling that this proposal is associated with way too many risks for very little gain.
“If it comes back as a ‘no’ from Kitimat, it’s a clear signal back to Ottawa that they really need to rethink their priorities. For the amount of bitumen that would be coming here and exported as a raw product’ that same amount of bitumen would provide a couple of thousand direct jobs in Alberta. It seems crazy to be shipping off all our raw resources without any upgrading, it’s like raw log exports.”
Enbridge Vice President Janet Holder, speaking at the Open House said, “This is not a pie in the sky type project, it is real, we do have the shippers behind us, we have First Nations behind us.”
No matter what happens Saturday, both sides will continue to push their positions.
Holder said she would not speculate on the outcome of the plebiscite, “We’re going to communities throughout British Columbia, talking to citizens, providing the information, listening to their concerns. We’re just continuing with that outreach and we’ll continue with that outreach over the next year.”
How Kitimat voters cast their ballots depends on factors that go beyond the simple environment versus economy and jobs argument, so the outcome of Saturday’s plebiscite is far from certain.
In 2010, West Fraser’s Eurocan paper mill closed, with the loss of 500 jobs, a devastating blow to Kitimat’s economy. The Eurocan closure, the earlier closure of a Methanex plant and cutbacks at the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter and the abandonment of mills and mine across the northwest in recent years have left many people skeptical of corporate promises of jobs. Others believe the Northern Gateway project, along with proposed Liquefied Natural Gas projects in Kitimat and Prince Rupert will bring a much needed boost to a struggling economy.
Even though Kitimat has been an industrial town since the aluminum smelter was built in the 1950s, most residents fish in the Kitimat River, boat on Douglas Channel and hike or hunt in the back country, which means environmental concerns are always high on the agenda. There are fears even among some supporters of Northern Gateway of an environmental disaster.
Northern Gateway, which has admitted that its relations with northern communities started off badly in the early stages of the project, has a lot of catching up to do, no matter what the outcome of the plebiscite.
Nathan Cullen, NDP MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley and Opposition Finance Critic came to Kitimat last week to assist Douglas Channel Watch with its door-to-door campaign. “There will be PhDs written on how Enbridge blundered this,” Cullen told reporters at the time.
(Spelling of van Dyk was corrected. We regret the error)
In a letter to Northwest Coast Energy News, Murray Minchin says accusations that Douglas Channel Watch is “anti-development” is far from the truth:
Things are heating up in Kitimat as the April 12th Enbridge plebiscite gets closer. Assumptions have been made, and accusations hurled at Douglas Channel Watch for being an anti-development organization, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Our group formed because of our shared concerns regarding Enbridge’s history of spills and their Northern Gateway dual pipeline and supertanker port proposal. We have not stood in the way of any other project currently being proposed in Kitimat.
Many of us believe the tar sands should be refined in Alberta, thereby creating thousands of jobs for Canadians. Royalties and taxes garnered could fund research for better, cleaner energy solutions. The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones, it was because of the bronze age…we could utilize our tar sands in a wiser, forward looking way which could put Canada at the very forefront of cleaner energy systems into the future.
When you lay down on an issue, you get stepped on. Douglas Channel Watch prefers to stand firm with our conviction to protect the place we love, stare Enbridge and the Federal Government right in the eyes, and ask the hard questions while also demanding solid evidence, and will not apologize for doing so.
The JRP figures temporary foreign workers can build pipelines in Canada, that Enbridge’s project should be for the export of unrefined, raw, diluted bitumen, and that the Exxon Valdez and Kalamazoo spills, if they happened in BC’s salmon rivers or onto our pristine north coast, would be “justified in the circumstances”.
I, and many others, intend to send a massive, clear message to Ottawa that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway is a bad deal for Kitimat, for BC, and for all of Canada. They need to rethink their priorities, and why we are voting NO! to Enbridge.
At the moment the site redirects to the web designer site, as that company continues to build the site.
Full operation of the website is expected to begin in the next few days.
Douglas Channel Watch is playing catchup. Enbridge Northern Gateway launched a plebiscite vote yes website YesforKitimat, a couple of weeks ago.
Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen and the New Democratic Party also have a campaign website, largely aimed at the rest of the province, Take Back Our Coast promoting rallies in Campbell River, Powell River, Courtney, Duncan, Victoria and Vancouver.
The two major Kitimat LNG projects are also about to launch new websites. Shell’s LNG Canada held focus groups and discussions in Kitimat a few weeks ago as part of the company’s planning for its new website, which LNG Canada public relations staff said would be more engaging for the residents of the region. At the recent open house, Chevron, which is building the KM LNG project at Bish Cove also said they were redesigning their website.