The ‘Our Risk – Their Reward’ Energy East tour of six Ontario communities has just come to a close. What a whirlwind it has been!
Spending two days in each community, we held a series of public forums, meetings, site visits and actions. This was done in collaboration with local organizers and groups – who we’ve learned so much from throughout this process – and looked a little different for each stop.
We’ve had excellent turnouts at all events (speaking both to the hard work of organizers involved and public concern), reaching over 1300 people. Significant local media coverage and the over 1000 Our Risk – Their Reward window signs distributed ensures the message is getting even further.
Throughout the tour, we’ve had very meaningful discussions with local residents, impacted landowners and First Nation representatives as well as elected officials including Mayors, City Councillors and federally elected representatives and candidates. We've help collect contacts for local organizers, added names to our petition against Energy East, mobilized people to participate in the Ontario Energy Board consultations and are in the process of discussing next steps with local organizers.
Here are some highlights from the tour
Kenora: An area rich in freshwater, the pipeline crosses numerous bodies of water including the Winnipeg River near its mouth and runs very close to Shoal Lake (Winnipeg’s water source).
- Around 100 people attended the public forum. Eriel, Adam and Maude were joined by Teika Newton of Transition Initiative Kenora on the local pipeline route and impacts and Peter Kirby of Save the ELA linking the pipeline to the protection of the ELA.
- Maude, Eriel and Mark visited TransCanada’s natural gas compressor station (See photo above with Maude Barlow)
- Public forum covered by Kenora Online Energy East Pipeline meetings this week Kenora Online, Council of Canadians hosts Pipeline Discussion Tonight, the Kenora Online, Council argues against Energy East pipeline Kenora Daily Miner and News Kenora Pipeline Opponents Meet to Discuss Risks of Energy East project
- Meetings with local elected officials.
Thunder Bay: The pipeline passes outside of Thunder Bay and crosses the nearby Nipigon River which flows into Lake Superior.
- Over 300 packed the public forum which featured Jason MacLean from Lakehead University Faculty of Law alongside Adam, Eriel and Maude. Jason is representing our local Thunder Bay Council of Canadians chapter in the ongoing legal challenge of Harper’s changes to the National Energy Board
- Press conference / action challenging the false assumptive that Energy East would reduce dangerous oil tanker traffic in Thunder Bay held with oil tankers in the background, covered by local tv media (press release).
- Meetings with local elected officials.
- Front page news in Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, Pipeline under Fire, TB Newswatch, Council of Canadians rally against Energy East pipeline; Wawatay News Energy East Pipeline Sparks Debate and Protest in Thunder Bay
North Bay: The pipeline crosses above Trout Lake, the local drinking water source and heart of the community. It crosses a number of creeks that feed into Trout Lake, including Doran creek about 2km away from Trout Lake and quite close to the drinking water intake area.
- Over 400 packed the public forum where the lively crowd heard from a series of local speakers alongside myself, Eriel and Maude. This included a welcome from Lorraine Liberty-Whiteduck of Nipissing First Nation, Yan Roberts as MC and presentations from Kelly Anne-Smith, Tim Merrin, Donna and Jim Sinclair (all well researched and active local organizers) and City Councillor Chris Mayne.
- Met with local City Councillor, two individuals running for a local federal Liberal candidacy, representatives of local organizing in the scenic board room of the local water treatment plan overlooking Trout Lake, their drinking water source which is directly threatened by a diluted bitumen spill. We also took a tour of the plant with the manager.
- Breakfast briefing with local organizers alongside individuals involved in the community from business owners to individuals with the local conservation authority, and the Mayor of North Bay, Al McDonald who (with the full support of the North Bay Council) will be representing the community's interests in defending Trout Lake from an oil spill, before the National Energy Board.
- Public gathering to honour the water on the shores of Lake Nipissing led by Lorraine Liberty-Whiteduck of Nipissing First Nation and mass march to the public forum
- Visit and tasty dinner at the amazing Piebird Vegan Farmstay, Yan Roberts has been an important part of the amazing local organizing happening, including kicking off the great Save-Canada spoof of TransCanada’s open houses. When he’s not busy stopping this pipeline, he’s helping run this vegan B&B with Sherry Milford.
- Media coverage included North Bay Nippissing News Activist/Author to talk pipeline proposal, North Bay Nugget Don't Bow to Pressure, Barlow says, North Bay Nugget, Every Development has a Price, Bay Today, Stop Energy East tour arrives in the Bay
Ottawa: The pipeline crosses the Rideau River (near North Gower) which flows into the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River, as well as the Mississippi river over aquifers and groundwater classified as ‘highly vulnerable.’
- Around 250 people attended the public forum held at a local iconic cinema – the Mayfair Theatre. I was MC and the discussion featured Graham Saul of Ecology Ottawa alongside Eriel (see photo above) and Maude.
- Meetings with local elected officials.
- The public forum was recorded by Rogers, Sunmedia, CTV and a reporter, Les was in attendance and wrote a great article for the Toronto Star on the subject, Harper's Vision of Canada as an Energy Superpower Thwarted by Opposition to Pipeline. There was also an op-ed featured in The Embassy by Maude and Eriel, Eastern Export of Crude not worth the Risk (press release)
Kemptville: The pipeline crosses on top of the highly vulnerable Oxford Aquifer which supplies 70% of North Grenville’s residents with drinking water, and passes through a groundwater recharge area.
- Around 150 people attended the public forum which featured Maude and myself along with this video (Eriel had to leave early for Fort McMurray) and Ian Angus of Sustainable North Grenville. Ian described the local route of the pipeline over top the highly vulnerable Oxford aquifer which supplies around 10,000 people drinking water in the area, as well as through a groundwater recharge area near the Baxter Conservation Area (which the pipeline also crosses through). Find out more from Ian here.
- We visited the scenic Tranquil Acres Therapeutic Equestrian Centre 30 minutes from Ottawa, run by Ryan Theriault. We heard from Ryan about how they use interactions with the horses to help people with varying social, emotion physical and mental health needs. It is quite an incredible established that deserves support, and is directly threatened by the pipeline which backs onto their property. In this area, the pipeline runs through a marsh. A leak near his property would flow towards the stable and paddocks that house the horses and his drinking water well.
- North Grenville Times, Op-ed by Maude Barlow and Ian Angus, A Tar Sands Pipeline through North Grenville? Kemptville Advance, Pipeline East talks are raising awareness and dispelling myths.
Cornwall: The proposed Iroquois pumping station just outside of Cornwall is where TransCanada intends on building new pipeline, attached to their existing, converted natural gas pipeline. The new pipeline runs close to the St Lawrence river, the source of Cornwall’s drinking water.
- Over 50 people attended the public forum which featured Maude Barlow alongside myself and Sabrina Bowman of Environmental Defence. Cornwall is the only large community in Ontario where both Energy East and Enbridge's Line 9 passes. It is a community that has been plagued with the boom and bust of industry leaving a toxic legacy. There is also a real need for jobs in the community. People here are concerned about their drinking water and the health of the St Lawrence. As one individual shared with me afterwards, "I don't want to pull my kayak out of the St Lawrence covered in oil."
Urging public to oppose Energy East, Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Stop Energy East tour set for Cornwall stop, Seaway News
You can check out pictures from the tour here.
The Our Risk - Their Reward Energy East Ontario tour had several goals:
- Highlight the risks of the Energy East pipeline including: up to 40% tar sands expansion; enough climate pollution to cancel of Ontario’s phase out of coal; TransCanada’s questionable pipeline safety track record; the serious threat of shipping diluted bitumen across some of Canada’s most precious waterways.
- Question proposed benefits by: exposing Energy East as an export pipeline for Big Oil’s advantage; long-term infrastructure that threatens jobs dependent on clean water and land for mostly short-term jobs; broader context of Canada’s environmental regulations being gutted.
- Participation in the Ontario Energy Board Energy East consultation.
- Participation in local organizing efforts and ways the Council can support this.
- Foster communication amongst different communities’ organizing efforts – our strength is in each other!