Working with the Sierra Club of Canada and the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, I went to Sydney, NS, last week to highlight our concerns with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB)’s ‘consultation’ process on oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
I spoke at a press conference, along with Mary Gorman of Save Our Seas and Shores, Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club, Leonard LeBlanc who is treasurer of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, and Ronnie Heighton, president of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board.
Then at 5pm, C-NLOPB’s farce of a consultation began. With displays some referred to as ‘high school science fair’ – style, AMEC (the consultant who also has ties to the oil and gas industry, hired by the C-NLOPB to organize and execute the consultation mandated by the federal government) and had several staff members there mingling with the few who came. The majority of people who came were connected to the fishery or to environmental groups and not much interested in having any oil and gas development in the Gulf.
Some asked questions of AMEC and C-NLOPB staff present, looking for guarantees that the Gulf would not be harmed or wanting to better understand the next step in the process; one which has been convoluted from the outset.
Others pressed on why groups like ours didn’t receive invitations to the closed door session, planned for the following day. Thankfully the consultation was nothing to write home about; we were told it was not much different from the open houses, except they reviewed the powerpoint together. And the snacks were better.
Staff were mostly good and helpful, but one senior staff person became defensive and condescending when being asked to provide a list of projects for which AMEC led the consultation and that the end result was NOT recommending moving ahead with oil and gas.
All in all, despite many travelling longer distances to participate, no one felt truly consulted. Even the one page feedback form they handed you upon departure (they didn’t provide pens or chairs to complete the form there) somehow didn’t seem any more meaningful than the open house, sorry – consultation – at all.