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Cacouna, Quebec likely to hold referendum on Energy East pipeline

The town of Cacouna, Quebec may hold a referendum on the Energy East pipeline.

That’s because a critical part of the Energy East pipeline project is to construct a marine terminal near their community on the eastern shore of the St. Lawrence River to load supertankers – typically 50 metres wide (equivalent to a building 15 storeys high) and 285 metres in length (86 storeys) – with 700,000 to 1.1 million barrels of tar sands bitumen for export. The terminal would be located in a habitat critical for the endangered beluga whale. TransCanada is proposing that the supertankers would transport bitumen on the St. Lawrence about 175 times a year.

Yesterday, Mayor Ghislaine Daris said, “We sense that the population is divided. If we, [as a council], support the project, for sure we also want the people’s opinion. We did a referendum in 2005 [on a proposed TransCanada-Suncor LNG import terminal] and I think that it’s a legitimate thing to do.”

This would follow a referendum that took place in Kitimat, British Columbia this past April. Despite Enbridge’s promises of jobs and investment, that community voted 58 per cent against the Northern Gateway pipeline project. Enbridge wants Kitimat to be the site of a two-berth marine terminal and tank farm to store tar sands crude before its loaded onto supertankers there.

Mayors on the St. Lawrence River are beginning to speak against the Energy East pipeline saying it will provide only a few jobs and endanger their valuable tourism economy. Tadoussac mayor Hugues Tremblay says, “Water is our life. And I have serious concerns about what this project will mean for our local economy. Those accidents in the Gulf of Mexico and with Japan’s nuclear reactors weren’t supposed to happen but they did. We’re not insulated from a mishap either.” Saint-Siméon mayor Sylvain Tremblay says, “We’re on our knees for what probably amounts to about 20 or so jobs. We’re being asked to pay the price so people somewhere in the rest of Canada might make more money.”

Earlier this week, Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC (regional county municipality) announced that it is opposed to the Energy East pipeline. The pipeline would pass through this community. The MRC represents 23 municipalities in the region and has a population of about 150,000 people.

An online petition calling for a permanent ban on “all work in the critical habitat for the beluga” has also collected more than 47,815 signatures.

The Council of Canadians stands in full solidarity with this demand. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “To protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River we must ban all transport of tar sands bitumen on, under and near the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.”

In early October, the federal NDP put forward a motion rejecting the construction of the oil terminal on the St. Lawrence. It was defeated in a House of Commons vote by both the Conservatives and the Liberals.

The Council of Canadians is in Edmundston tonight helping to build a wall of opposition to the pipeline in New Brunswick.