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Marilyn Keddy

My boat is my paradise – Marilyn Keddy

Marilyn Keddy, Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia

Stonehurst, Nova Scotia

This interview is part of the Faces of Offshore Resistance project highlighting a number of community activists fighting to protect their homes, coastal communities, fisheries, tourism, and cultural history from the harms of offshore drilling. All photo credit goes to Robert Van Waarden.

Marilyn Keddy: I’m from a small lobster fishing cove In Lunenburg County, I was a social worker in my other life but I retired in 2006. Now I spend my time enjoying the shore and doing community activism and projects like the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia.

I have a little 15 foot boat with a six horsepower motor and with my dog go exploring around the islands. I’ve been saying to people throughout this campaign – it’s an old saying from the women’s movement – the personal is political. For me  the personal is where I live. Lots of boats, lots of activity. you know the season by whether they are breaking out ice, or getting ready for dump day. It’s a wonderful rhythm.

My boat is my paradise – the water, the landscape, the peacefulness. And when you think about what would happen if there was an oil spill – that’s political.

Robert Van Waarden: Is that what got you started? Where did this come from?

MK: I was interested in knowing more about what was happening offshore and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board was holding a series of open houses along the south shore in 2016 so I went to the one in Lunenburg only to find that it was an absolute dog and pony show. It had nothing to do with hearing from the public – it had to do with promoting oil and gas development.

That was the beginning. It was clear that the CNSOPB was an industry captured regulatory board and they’re both the regulator and the promoter, and soon as the federal government goes ahead with Bill C-69 the Board will have more to do with environmental assessment. These are massive conflicts of interest.

We then held a public meeting and people turned out and we started our campaign.

RVW: Is the driving force for you economics, or climate, or the environmental side?

MK: it’s all of those things for me. Activism usually boils down to some personal connection and something that hits you in your soul. This campaign is very personal. It does have to do with climate – the fact that we’re still looking for new fossil fuels when we should be turning to clean, sustainable energy alternatives and what a massive oil spill would do to southwestern Nova Scotia… it doesn’t make sense even from an economic point of view.

I guess it makes sense if you are a corporation and you are only interested in profit. But you would think that if you were the government of Nova Scotia you would be concerned about the way of life and the clean and sustainable industries, and those are fisheries and tourism. In one year they bring in twice as much as oil royalties were for 16 years ending in 2016. There’s not a long term vision. It’s the industry control of the whole decision making apparatus and their short term gains. That money doesn’t’ stay in our communities. The money from lobster fishing and tourism stays in our communities but the oil money will go wherever.

RVW: in terms of when you speak to your peers in Lunenburg county what’s the raction

MK: Our community is a very lovely close knit community. When I talk to my neighbours who are fishermen, I can’t even get the words out of my mouth about the petition and they just sign it. They say ‘Marilyn, if there is a spill out there we’ll be wiped out.’ They just know.

DFO has fishermen so swamped with regulations,one thing after another. Fishermen are concerned about everything that lives in the sea, that is their livelihood. They’ve coexisted with Right whales and other things that live in the ocean but the government isn’t talking about seismic testing and the effect that has on whales and their navigations systems, no. They’re saying to the fishermen ‘you have to pull your gear.’  Fishermen can’t drop a trap in a MPA but our premier wants to be able to go and put a drilling rig in there. It’s madness, and it’s their livelihood.

RVW: How do you win this?

MK: We win this with public support. We’re calling for a full public inquiry for which there are two precedents: the Georges Bank review panel which resulted in a full moratorium on drilling and exploration on Georges Bank, and what is commonly called the Wheeler Review – the review of onshore hydraulic fracturing that led to a moratorium. We feel that it is extremely important that we have an independent inquiry where all the research is looked at, all the pros and cons of drilling in conditions like those offshore Nova Scotia are looked at, and the public is really engaged, and for the first time we hear from all communities affected. Even though the board has a mandate around public involvement they don’t exercise that mandate.

I think the key to all of that is we’re run by corporations and in this case the government is run by the oil and gas industry, not the people we elected. Our democracy is being eroded consistently all over the place.

I think that’s one way we win. Such an inquiry would surely look at all the research and all the regulations we have and show that they are too weak. There needs to be a more rigorous regulatory process in place that represents a broader constituency than just the oil industry.

I’m an optimist when it comes to community activism. We are going to win. When we started, our MP said she hadn’t heard about this from anyone else’ and now she sees these big yellow signs ( Offshore Drilling Not Worth The Risk) and she knows that those are votes she’s gonna need come election day. So it’s harder and harder for her to dodge this.

RVW: What do you want to say to politicians?

MK: Offshore drilling is not worth the risk to our fisheries, tourism, and climate. We just shouldn’t be doing it. Listen to the people who elected  you, not to the oil and gas companies. Don’t fall into this classic example of industry capture.