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NL fracking consultations: Corner Brook, night 4 (final night)

The final night of public consultations with the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracking Review Panel was another lively one in Corner Brook on Friday. The crowd was again around 100 people, not counting several people who left due to the small room originally booked for the session. Thankfully they were able to switch to another room after the first 30mins or so, however not all were patient enough to wait.

The tone from the panel was about the same, although perhaps a little more rushed due to the number of expected presentations (18) so that the night wouldn’t go on too long. Strong presentations happened throughout the evening, with most making the link to climate change and fossil fuels.

I presented on behalf of the Council in Corner Brook, and after recognizing we were on unceded Mi’kmaq territory I touched on a few points made in our submission to the panel. These mostly addressed the ‘cradle to grave’ perspective, including the amount of water required to frack and the wastewater left behind. I also spoke on the socio-economic impacts that would come along with the industry.

Paula Graham, St. John’s chapter member, made the trek to the West Coast to present one of her spoken word submissions, which was very powerful.

Ken Kavanagh, Atlantic representative to the board with the Council of Canadians then livened up the room even more by blasting the panel about their supossed independence, along with questioning the government’s reasoning for establishing the panel to begin with. He even went as far as to demand an apology from panel member Wade Locke, who had been quoted in Sept 2014 as insinuating that the people on the West Coast were basing their opinions around fracking on ill-informed emotion.

Several people came up to Ken afterwards to thank him for his words, which many others were feeling but were hesitant to submit or present.

Brendan Mitchell, another candidate running for Chief of the Qalipu First Nation spoke at the end, and having visited many communities along the West Coast, said that not one person (Indigenous or non) felt that fracking was the right direction for them. An Indigenous artist and one of Mitchell’s supporters had a piece of art at the front of the room, made in part with the oil still leaking into Port-au-Port Bay.

The evening wrapped up earlier than expected (around the same time as the others), with the panel chair thanking everyone who had taken the time to participate in the submission and consultation processes.

One interesting note is the lack of municipal government participation in the process. Other than the Town of Kippins, no other municipality seems to have engaged in the process (and Gosine indicated the panel reached out to them). 

Having attended all four sessions, despite the direction of some of the questions asked by the panel and the direction they seemed to want to take the answers in, I have a very good feeling about this process. It is undeniable that not only are the local communities opposed to fracking and that social license does not exist here, but that the panel would be hard pressed to recommend the government do anything but extend or legislate the moratorium on fracking here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

A huge thank you to friends and allies Raymond Cusson and Graham Oliver for all of their work not just this past week but the years leading up to this moment. And for being wonderful hosts too! I look forward to working more with this group who I have come to respect and admire.