FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 3, 2016
Victoria, B.C.—Sierra Club BC released the following statement from campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon.
“The report by the ministerial panel, released today by Natural Resources Canada, highlights the failures of the NEB process and raises a series of crucial questions for cabinet’s consideration.
“These questions make approval impossible.
“In answer to the panel’s question about climate change, the science is clear: building this pipeline would make it impossible to meet Canada’s climate commitments. You can’t build pipelines and be a climate leader.
“Regarding the panel’s question about how cabinet could square approval with a federal commitment to reconciliation with First Nations, the answer can be found in the numerous First Nations who firmly oppose this project.
“The panel also raises the question of how cabinet can be confident in an assessment based in a process full of flaws, both the NEB process and the ministerial panel meetings themselves.
“The panel asks—given recent spills and the inadequacy of spill response—whether this pipeline and tankers project is worth the risk.
“They also note the evidence presented to the NEB that the project would have significant impact on southern resident killer whales that are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act.
“This panel was no remedy for a flawed NEB process, and this report does not provide the basis for a federal cabinet approval.
“Approving this project would be abandoning our commitment to real climate action, imposing a death sentence on the southern resident orca population and inviting ecological and economic disaster in the form of an inevitable tanker spill.
“If cabinet takes these questions seriously and bases its decision on the best available science, there is no way this pipeline will be built.”
See attached backgrounder for a summary of flaws in the ministerial panel processes.
Director of Communications, Sierra Club BC
The problems that Sierra Club BC and other organizations have identified with the ministerial panel’s approach include the following:
Lack of clear mandate
- Panel had no mandate to make recommendations based on their findings, and therefore no clarity for participants on how the government would use the information it compiled, how it would be compiled, or how it might impact Cabinet decision-making.
Inadequate outreach to key participants
- Some local First Nations leaders and municipal officials only heard about the meetings through Facebook and other unofficial channels, while others were informed on short notice.
- Meetings of “experts” were scheduled, but no outreach was made to experts who had concerns about the project. They were left to self-identify.
Panelist conflict of interest/perception of bias
- Panel Chair Kim Baird had a past business relationship with the proponent, was a registered LNG lobbyist, and penned a pro-pipeline op-ed in a national newspaper while the panel process was underway.
Unreasonable, late stage interference in submissions process
- Approximately 55,000 people submitted comments and letters, but 2 days before the comment deadline, the Panel sent letters to numerous individuals and citizens’ groups that said they would not consider repetitive letters initiated by third parties. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association found this “dismissal is an unreasonable interference in expression of freedom of individuals and their participation in a public consultation process.” After the BCCLA letter, the NEB reversed its decision, but the experience left participants with a continued sense of government bias against citizens opposed to the proposal.
Poor Meeting Organization
- Meetings were announced on short notice in the middle of summer. The online process to register was cumbersome and a deterrent to participation.
- Locations in many communities were difficult to access and no provisions were made to make access easier. Due to time and room capacity limitations, hundreds of attendees were not able to participate.
- No translation was available for French-speaking participants until the last 2 days of meetings.
- No official records (no stenographer or audio-video recordings) were taken and the Panel’s mandate was broad and poorly defined, amplifying concerns of process bias.