City holds tongue on pipeline plan

TERRACE city council is staying neutral on approving or opposing Enbridge's planned $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project to transport oil from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.

  • Apr. 12, 2011 8:00 p.m.

TERRACE city council is staying neutral on approving or opposing Enbridge’s planned $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project to transport oil from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.

The decision to stay neutral came in the form of a 4-3 vote on a councillor Brad Pollard motion.

It was prompted by an appeal from the Kitimat – Terrace District Labour Council delegation for council to take a stand.

Councillors Brian Downie and Carol Leclerc and mayor Dave Pernarowski joined Pollard and voted to stay neutral while councillors Bruce Martindale, Lynne Christiansen and Bruce Bidgood, who all oppose the pipeline plan, wanted council to take a stance.

Bidgood said council should reconsider.

“I believe that we have a responsibility to be responsive to our constituents,” he said.

Christiansen agreed.

“For all the information that I’ve heard…I’m not in support of the project, and mainly because of the environmental price. I just can’t see anything that justifies the environmental price,” she said. “We’re expected to say how we stand on these things, and that’s how I stand.”

Leclerc supported council staying neutral.

“I am concerned about long-termed pigeon-holing of the council into one spot,” she said. “I think by staying neutral, we’re staying on safe ground.”

Downie also supported the neutral stance, saying the the environmental assessment of the project continues.

“It’s well outside our purview, our mandate, to be involved in that decision, and…it’s a place where we want to watch where we go,” he said, adding that council doesn’t take a stance on many federal issues.

Martindale pointed out that council has very much supported the Northwest Transmission Line project which is now awaiting federal approval after receiving provincial environmental approval in February.

“It’s critical that we start to take positions on these, and we start to be firm and we start to direct these industries and these corporations and tell them what we think is appropriate and what isn’t,” he said. “We should be prepared here right now, as a council, to have that discussion on what type of industry we want in that area, and whether that (Enbridge) fits that description.”

Pollard echoed Leclerc’s thoughts.

“In the last two years, my personal opinion on this project has changed. It has gone one direction to the other, to the other one, back and forth; next week it might change again,” he said. “But if we have something on council that’s either for it or against it, my options for decision-making has been limited by that.”

The mayor also said he’s gone back and forth on the issue.

“I think that we need to, as a council, and as leaders in the community, wait to hear all the information and remain neutral,” said Pernarowski.

Martindale said he hoped that council would be able to reopen the discussion and take a stand after the municipal election this fall.

The labour council, which represents around 3,700 union members in the area, was a host with the city and the Terrace Economic Development Authority in holding a Northern Gateway information session earlier this year.

Labour council members attending the meeting last night said later that council’s decision to remain neutral on the pipeline project was disappointing.

The labour council on Feb. 23, 2011 voted to oppose the Gateway project.

Labour council secretary treasurer Be Gomes said the outcome was somewhat expected, but said as the labour council thought it had enough information to make a decision, council should have been able to make a decision as well.

She also pointed out that since the city is showing favouritism in supporting the transmission line project, she couldn’t see why it  couldn’t make a decision on the Enbridge project.

Gomes said the project won’t provide long-term employment.

“The economics, the environmental aspect, does not support what this labour council believes to have that sustainable work for the community to be a healthy community, and a very safe community,” she told council.

Tom La Porte, past president of the labour council, said council has a responsibility to represent their constituents.

“What I really am disturbed with is the way politicians don’t take a position when it’s really clear…that the public is asking for it,” he said.

“At a certain point, you have to take a stand.”