Friday, October 9, 2015

LNG issues bring out the rebuttal cards at Prince Rupert debate

The proposed LNG terminal at 
Lulu Island provided for a vigorous
discussion on Wednesday evening
(photo from Pacific NW LNG website)
Wednesday's Election Forum at the Lester Centre covered a lot of territory as far as potential election issues go, with the media panel on the night providing ten questions for the candidates to offer an opinion on during the stop in Prince Rupert.

However, when it comes to the one issue that seemed to generate the most rhetoric and raise the most passionate commentary, the prospect for LNG development on the North Coast was the one that seemed to bring out the best talking points for  most of the candidates.

And while at times the candidates may not have mentioned it by name, the focus of the discussion on the night did seem to take hold around the proposed LNG develop for Lelu Island.

The theme was introduced by George Baker of CBC's Daybreak North, asking the final question of the evening of "How will you ensure that Lelu Island and Flora Bank will not be harmed by LNG development."

Don Spratt of the Christian Heritage Party noted that the most important aspect of any LNG development was where it is placed, noting that it needs to be in a location where should it blow up, it won't kill a lot of people.

Jeannie Parnell from the Green Party noted that the issue goes towards Aboriginal rights and title and how Lelu Island has a very important relationship with the Tsimshian people who are stewards of that land. Later in the debate during her closing comments, she would urge caution when it came to LNG, observing as to the impact that the industry could have on housing in Prince Rupert and might deliver even more  homeless to the city.

Tyler Nesbitt, first made note of the recent moves of Lax Kw'alaams to seek aboriginal rights and title over the Lelu Island and Flora Bank area, expressing how they are fully empowered to do so.  He then moved towards his support for the industry in the region, making comment towards some of the benefits that the industry could bring to both to Prince Rupert and Port Edward as well as for First Nation communities on the North Coast and up country. Something he said that many of the First Nations communities of the region, with the exception of Lax Kw'alaams, have recognized through the recently signed benefit agreements.
The Five candidates for the riding
of Skeena-Bulkley Valley
discussing LNG issues on Wednesday 
(photo from CityWest broadcast)

Liberal Brad Layton highlighted his party's dedication towards economic development but cautioned that there has to be strong environmental protection in place as well.  Highlighting some of his concerns with the industry and observing that since he has been talking to residents of the North Coast he has even more questions. On the prospect of development for Lelu Island he noted that there had been five possible sites mentioned as on a short list for the project and has not, as of yet been able to find out what the other four sites were.

Nathan Cullen opened his overview of the issue by offering his thoughts on the challenges that Lelu Island poses for the project, with a focus on the importance of the eel grass and spawning area to both First Nations culture and as a key aspect of the commercial fishing industry. He reviewed a series of meetings that he had hosted over the year across the riding, gatherings which area LNG companies had attended and which he believes provided for good discussion. As for Pacific NorthWest and their plans for Lelu Island, he acknowledged their recent design change for the proposed terminal complex, but observed that they still have work to do when it comes to the standards for the Lax Kw'alaams community and how there is still opportunity for the company to correct its course and get this done.

That overview of the situation seemed to bring on a flurry of rebuttal cards to wrap up the debate, with Tyler Nesbit offering the first counter comment. Noting of the recent design changes from Pacific NorthWest LNG that he said addresses some of the issues of Flora Bank. He also observed that Mr. Cullen hasn't seen the science, or any of the reports yet, adding that the only job creation proposal that Mr. Cullen has made to this point, has been towards the hiring of lawyers to help sue the government. He wrapped up his rebuttal with what would be the take away line from his LNG discussion of If you want to kill LNG, vote NDP.

That push back provided for a rebuttal of his own from Mr. Cullen, who called the comments from his opponent as an unfortunate exchange. On the issue of LNG he noted that the signing of benefits agreements with Chief or a Council does not represent any First Nation support of things, suggesting that the federal government does this all the time, as part of the Conservatives Divide and Conquer strategy. He stated that it is fair to raise questions about projects and that you shouldn't be vilified as anti-this, or anti-that, adding that asking questions suggests intelligence and is the job of an MP, something that he doesn't apologize for. Earlier in the evening, during a discussion on a similar theme, the Eagle Spirit pipeline proposal, Mr. Cullen provided what perhaps could be described as his guiding policy when it comes to development issues, when he noted that any decisions related to the proposed developments in the province need to be based on science and not politics.

The final contribution on the LNG theme came from Liberal Brad Layton, who using his own rebuttal card noted that the exchange between Mr. Cullen and Mr. Nesbitt highlights how citizens have lost faith in the environmental process. Adding that while the process could be good, but that it's secretive and very hard for Canadians to get information from it. And while he stressed his support for industry and LNG, he added that he wants to be able to trust those decisions that we are making are based on evidence.

You can review the full account of Wednesday nights forum from our overview piece here.

While the latest items of note from the Northwest campaign trail can be found on our election archive page.

More items related to the Lelu Island proposal can be found on our Pacific Northwest project page.

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