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Sackville becomes the first to oppose Energy East, paving the way for other municipalities in New Brunswick

There are moments in time where courageous people step forward, speak up, and do the right thing in order to pave the way to make it easier for others. The 5-to-3 vote on Feb. 14, 2017 by the Sackville Town Council to officially oppose the Energy East Pipeline is one of those moments.  We need to congratulate the leadership of the student group at Mount Allison University who brought forward this initiative, Sackville, No Energy East (S.N.O.E), and the Sackville Councillors who supported it based on the reality of climate change.

(5 Councillors in Sackville Town Council raise their hand in support of the resolution to oppose Energy East, Feb. 14, 2017)

Sackville and Mount Allison University are in the frontlines of climate change. Situated at the northern tip of the Bay of Fundy, Sackville and the surrounding Tantramar area are among the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change in New Brunswick.  24% of the Town of Sackville is in the fresh water floodplain and the risk due to salt water flooding is “imminent” (see the Town of Sackville’s Powerpoint Presentation to the Legislative Select Committee on Climate Change, August 31, 2016).  

And New Brunswick has just recovered from widespread power blackouts of more than 200,000 customers caused by a record-breaking ice storm.  The Canadian Armed Forces were called in a week later into the northeastern part of the province, where it took a total of 2 weeks before 20,000 customers were reconnected while crews fixed the damage to the transmission lines and poles.

“It is a big deal and we do have the right and the obligation to stand up and say something that we don’t like what’s happening.”

(MTA student Claire Neufeld)

“They kept talking about flooding and everything,” said student and S.N.O.E. member Claire Neufeld after the Council vote. “It is a big deal and we do have the right and the obligation to stand up and say something that we don’t like what’s happening. So I am really happy that the majority of the Council was able to say that and support the motion that we brought forward.”

TransCanada’s attempt last week to persaude the Council to defeat this resolution proved unsuccessful.  TransCanada brought in their NB Manager and 3 other representatives from across Canada for their presentation to Sackville Town Council. See my blog article which clearly documents how TransCanada officials misinformed Sackville Town Council on a wide range of issues (8) concerning Energy East.

A total of 5 Councillors voted to approve the resolution (see text of resolution at the end of this article).  Councillors Andrew Black, Allison Butcher, Bill Evans, Megan Mitton, and Bruce Phinney made it clear that they were strongly opposed to the Energy East pipeline project (see some highlights below).

The other 3 Councillors in Sackville Town Council voted against the resolution.  Councillors Ron Aiken, Joyce O’Neil, and Mike Tower all argued that it was not the right place or procedure to make a decision on this pipeline project.  In fact, 2 of these Councillors said that they were against pipelines.  “If anyone on council wants to protest the pipeline, fight against it, lay down in front of bulldozers,” Councillor Aiken said, “I’m behind you. It’s a great thing. But it’s not the role of this council to be making motions to the Federal Government on these issues.”

Councillor Tower recommended, “Instead of opposing a pipeline, I’d like to see us make recommendations to the government for financial incentives, assistance to help New Brunswick and other provinces to offer rebates on the purchasing of green cars, backyard windmills, solar panels for creating electricity, and possibly hot water.”

Mayor John Higham did not vote on the motion but stepped aside from his podium in order to voice his opinion.  Mayor Higham argued that this decision should be left up to the review process of the National Energy Board and that Sackville should focus on their mandate such as the town’s Sustainability Plan and Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

The voices of young people have been heard

“A lot of people are always scared to go up against industry and they always think they are professional and they know what they are talking about. It kind of shows that youth has power and that we are educated,” says student and S.N.O.E. member Claire Newfeld. “And we were not just bringing them random facts. We were telling them truth.”

(Beaming faces on Dr. Brad Walters, Will Balser, Claire Neufeld and Mara Ostafichuk at Sackville Town Council after the successful vote to oppose Energy East, Feb. 14, 2017)

“A number of the Councillors made specific reference to their own children. And the youth issue, that certainly resonated with at least some of the Councillors,” says Dr. Brad Walters.  The ‘Sackville, No Energy East’ group is a wholly student-led initiative that was started in the Environmental Activism course given by Dr. Brad Walters, the winner of last year’s highest teaching award at Mount Allison University.

“……younger people have moral standing to argue and try to convince people who are older, and in positions of greater influence, to change their positions on this [climate change] stuff.”

(Dr. Brad Walters)

“The first and foremost social justice issue regarding climate change is that it is an inter-generational social justice issue.  The younger you are, people not yet born, are the ones who pay the heaviest price.  And so younger people have moral standing to argue and try to convince people who are older, and in positions of greater influence, to change their positions on this [climate change] stuff.  It is unquestionably the case.  And this is one of those cases where if they are seriously listening to young people, and seeing things from their vantage, they are far more likely to be swayed by it, rather than thinking about maintaining the status quo.”

This resolution puts significant public pressure on Mount Allison University to divest from fossil fuels

“I think what Council demonstrated today is the type of leadership that Mount Allison University will definitely have to take and follow through with.” says Tina Oh, a spokesperson for the student group DIVEST MTA. “The Town and this community is better at listening to students than it is the actual university listening to students.”  “The university should feel embarrassed for not being able to stand up like that.”

This resolution will encourage young people and other citizens to bring this public debate to their own municipality in New Brunswick

“I hope other municipalities look at it, especially those that are along the pipeline route. I hope they look at it as a symbolic gesture,” says student and S.N.O.E. member Will Balser.  “And one that speaks towards a greater responsibility than your small municipality and the direct influence of that.  We are talking about the responsibility to protect Sackville, and the residents of Sackville, from a problem that will literally every human and every creature on this earth.”

“It looks good for the future.  If a governing body is going to side with the next generation, there is hope for the future,” concludes Claire Neufeld.

The message to other New Brunswick municipalities and universities is simple.  Climate leaders don’t build pipelines. And it is just a matter of time (15% risk each year) when this tar sands pipeline would have a major leak.  Our municipalities need to take a leadership role in protecting our rivers and bays, diversifying our local economy, and to make our communities resilient against the severe rain, ice storms, and hurricanes of climate change.  We all have to speak up and protect our communities and the climate future of our young people.

For more on the Council of Canadians campaign to stop the Energy East pipeline, please click here.



(1) Text of resolution which Sackville Town Council approved on Feb. 14, 2017

WHEREAS global climate change is a real threat and the extraction and burning of fossil fuels exacerbates this threat and,

WHEREAS transporting diluted bitumen through Canadian communities, sensitive ecosystems and waterways is demonstrably dangerous to health and safety and,

WHEREAS encouraging and investing in such activities would not be consistent with our stated goals of sustainability and,

WHEREAS a more rational course of action would be to use scarce economic resources to develop and expand the use of renewable resources,

BE IT RESOLVED that the Town of Sackville request that the Government of Canada protect the health and safety of our communities by denying approval for the Energy East pipeline.


(2) Talking points to support your own Council’s decision to oppose Energy East

10 Compelling Reasons Why Mount Allison University and Sackville Should Oppose Energy East


(3) Talking points to counter the spin and disinformation from TransCanada on Energy East

TransCanada delivers a barrel of alternative facts on Energy East to Sackville Town Council