Kitimat residents vote no on Northern Gateway
Posted by Zig Zag
By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun, April 12, 2014
OTTAWA – Proponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline, anxious to show it has public support in the B.C. community expected to benefit the post from the $7.9 billion project, lost badly in a non-binding plebiscite in Kitimat Saturday.
The unofficial preliminary results showed 1,793 voted against the project, or 58.4 per cent, compared to 1,278 who endorsed it, or 41.6 per cent, according to the District of Kitimat. The turnout was impressive, with 75 per cent of the 4,100 eligible voters casting ballots.
The plebiscite has no legal impact on the project, but Enbridge Inc. poured considerable resources into its “Vote yes for our future” campaign.
The company touted the expected creation of 180 permanent jobs in the community where tankers would load and ship hundreds of thousands of barrels of diluted bitumen a day to Asia-Pacific markets.
Kitimat municipal council will consider the results at a meeting Monday, and one option could be for the council to declare that it shares the community’s opposition to the project, according to Mayor Joanne Monaghan.
She said she wasn’t surprised by the result.
“I predicted a 40-60 split, but I think the main thing is the people of Kitimat were able to have their say and it was a democratic process.”
The vote “just goes to show that you can’t buy social licence in this region,” crowed environmentalist Nikki Skuce, of the group ForestEthics Advocacy, in one of the first social media comments after the results were released.
A statement from the environmental group Dogwood Initiative said the company was handed a “resounding” defeat despite spending “unlimited” money in the campaign.
“This shows what happens when you actually give people the chance to vote on Enbridge’s proposal,” said spokesman Kai Nagata.
“What would happen if we opened it up to a provincewide vote?”
Enbridge said it will continue its efforts to obtain public approval.
“Today’s result shows that while there is support for Northern Gateway in Kitimat, we have more work to do,” said Donny van Dyk, the company’s Kitimat-based Manager of Coastal Aboriginal and Community Relations.
“And over the coming weeks and months we will continue to reach out and listen to our neighbours and friends so that Northern Gateway can build a lasting legacy for the people of our community.”
The company came under criticism during the lead-up to Saturday’s vote, with opponents accusing the company of taking advantage of the lack of any rules on spending limits for municipal plebiscites and referendums.
Enbridge posted pro-pipeline signs around the community, waged an aggressive media advertising campaign, and had a dozen employees in the community making presentations and going door-to-door.
The company’s main opponent was Douglas Channel Watch, a tiny group headed by postal worker Murray Minchin that began its campaign with $200 and relied on handmade and recycled posters.
The plebiscite question had come under scrutiny, with some critics suggesting it was too wordy and confusing because it was tied to a federal panel’s massive December report that endorsed Northern Gateway with 209 conditions.
The 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?”