Letter to the editor, April 23, 2015
Plummeting oil prices have not been the only worry this spring for proponents of the TransCanada and Enbridge oil pipelines. Locally, several of our municipalities, led by Rigaud, have gone to bat for their citizens by asking the National Energy Board (NEB) to require hydrostatic pressure testing of pipelines crossing our fields and waterways before a million barrels a day of crude oil flows across them. An essential safety precaution to reduce the chance our shorelines will wind up looking worse than Vancouver’s English Bay. Provincially, the proposed oil port at Cacouna has been abandoned under pressure from the public, and belugas.
Without a port in Quebec, the mirage of jobs and oil for Quebecers has evaporated, leaving the province to shoulder all the risks these pipelines carry without any countervailing benefits. Th e Globe and Mail reported that National Energy Board Chair, Peter Watson, was setting out on a cross country tour “promising to open the pipeline safety issue to new levels of public scrutiny” because he felt “the Board hadn’t been doing enough in terms of its engagement and connection with communities....and helping people understand its regulatory role around safety and environmental protections.”
I had just finished reading that statement when I came upon last week’s editorial in Your Local Journal claiming the NEB was coming to town to host a secret, closed meeting with local Mayors and our MRC to which the public and press were distinctly not invited. That seemed to run counter to the NEB’s recent rhetoric so I went to the Community Centre in St. Lazare on Monday to see for myself. You were right.
There was a virtual ‘no entry’ sign hanging between two uniformed guards. The Regional Director of the NEB, Jean-Denis Charlebois, explained politely that the public and press were denied entry because the NEB wanted to discuss in private with the municipalities the “process” of how it regulates the industry.
There seemed a certain irony to that claim given that the ‘process’ of regulation is the crux of public concern. How the NEB regulates - or doesn’t regulate - the industry will have a major impact on everyone living along the pipelines’ 4600-kilometre routes - many millions of Canadians.
We are all stakeholders. Unfortunately, the NEB’s track record on regulatory process doesn’t inspire confidence. It has garnered almost as much bad press as the dangers of the pipelines themselves. Whatever case the NEB wants to make should be made to the people and press of the communities its pipelines will affect, not just the mayors.
If it wants to help the industry acquire the missing social license, locking citizens and press out of clandestine meetings is no way to go about it. Even if it is willing to alienate the public by closing the door in our face, there is no justification for barring the public’s representative - the press.
That is the democratic prerogative. I hope that Your Local Journal will keep informing us, even if you have to do so from outside the meeting halls.
That too is news.