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Thunder Bay chapter releases election report card on Energy East pipeline

Municipal elections will take place in Thunder Bay and across Ontario on October 27.

Our Thunder Bay chapter says, “In order to bring the issue [of the Energy East pipeline] to the table in the municipal election, we asked all of the candidates for their position on the [pipeline] so that electors could add this to their understanding of what each candidate stands for.”

Thunder Bay chapter municipal election report card.

Thunder Bay chapter municipal election report card.

They found that, “By far, the majority of the candidates are not in favour of Energy East. Many gave a somewhat qualified response, as they did not feel they had sufficient information to give a truly informed response, but most of them still were not in favour of this pipeline through our boreal forest, wetlands, and crossing rivers and lakes. Only two of the mayoralty candidates are in favour of the pipeline proposal: Shane Judge (a qualified ‘yes’ as he wanted more information), and Henry Wojak. Mayor Keith Hobbs, Ken Boshcoff, Colin Burridge and Douglas MacKay are all opposed to this pipeline proposal.”

Energy East has emerged as an election issue in other communities too.

In Kenora, the Daily Miner and News reports, “[Incumbent Mayor Dave] Canfield explained the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association of which he is president is applying for intervenor status to engage in discussions on the project on behalf of all the municipalities in region. He noted pipeline safety and the installation of computerized shut-off valves on either sides of water crossings is a key issue to protect the environment in the event of a spill. …Candidate for council Robert Kitowski commented that the relative merits of oil transport by pipeline, rail and truck through Kenora must be fully analyzed to determine the best option.” In September, Canfield appeared more pro-pipeline when he commented, “For me, I’m a realist. I take a look at ‘is oil going to stop flowing?’ I don’t think so. And if it’s going to flow, what’s the safest way to have it flow? And that’s pipeline. To me, it’s a no-brainer. But not everybody would agree with me with that one.”

In West Nipissing, the Tribune reports on an all-candidates meeting where, “Ward 6 candidates, representing the Northern part of the municipality where the TransCanada Energy East pipeline is projected to cross, were asked if the town should collaborate with North Bay and other communities concerned about the potential impact of this project on our environment and drinking water sources.” Some of their responses can be read here.

In North Bay, the Nugget reports, “The North Bay Civic League is helping to start the process of getting people to think about what they want their next city council to look at as priorities. Committee member Peggy Walsh-Craig said a community values survey has been launched to gauge public interest in various community values and to document residents’ perception of the work of city council. …She said there could be many surprises, however Walsh-Craig is confident safe drinking water remains one of the top five concerns especially with the pipeline project in the news.” The survey results can be read here.

In Ottawa, compiled responses about the Energy East pipeline from municipal candidates. Their responses can be found here. The frontrunner and incumbent mayor Jim Watson says, “I have concerns but I do not support the City doing an assessment of its own. …If there is deemed to be significant risk to Ottawa’s natural surroundings and waterways I will oppose it.” Ecology Ottawa will also be releasing its ‘Tar Free 613’ report card on municipal candidates shortly. That will be available here.

We will also be watching the election results in Mattawa. That town sits about 65 kilometres east of North Bay on the path of the pipeline and accepted a $30,000 donation from TransCanada for the purchase of a rescue truck. The agreement contained a clause that says, “The Town of Mattawa will not publicly comment on TransCanada’s operations or business projects.” In response to the controversy, Mattawa Mayor Dean Backer insisted that despite the clause, “At no time have we been put on a gag order.”

We congratulate the Thunder Bay chapter on its report card and see it as a model that could be used in upcoming municipal elections in Manitoba (though they take place this Wednesday), New Brunswick (May 9, 2016). Nova Scotia (October 15, 2016), Saskatchewan (October 26, 2016 with some variations), Alberta (October 16, 2017) and Quebec (November 5, 2017).

Further reading
What to ask candidates for the Ontario municipal election (October 2014 blog by Emma Lui)
Communities express watershed concerns along Energy East route (December 2013 blog)