For a project being sold as a ‘no-brainer,’ TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal is already facing significant opposition.
The most recent example took place last night in North Bay, organized by a group of concerned residents. A group of 50 people attended TransCanada’s open house wearing outfits branded ‘SaveCanada,’ a riff off of TransCanada’s similar logo. Outnumbering the company employees, the group shared their serious concerns about the project and the format of the community consultation.
Instead of offering opportunities for people to stand up, ask questions and make statements as part of one discussion, TransCanada has opted for a trade-show style set up that limits questions and conversations to an individual level.
"This format doesn't allow for actual community consultation, even though that is what they are required to do. So we had our presence, and the real information, but mostly were encouraging folks to have their concerns be recorded so that they may make their way to TransCanada's National Energy Board application," said a spokesperson for the group. "The slight confusion about who was TransCanada and who was SaveCanada really helped the attendees not feel so helpless with their concerns. Everyone I talked to was against this project, they wanted our real information and not TransCanada's half-truths and gift bags."
According to Yan Roberts, a local organizer:
The town of North Bay has been escalating in concern over this pipeline even since the route was announced. The natural gas mainline that TransCanada plans on converting runs right through the watershed for Trout Lake, which supplies the municipal drinking water for 54,000 people. The citizens are concerned that if this pipeline gets converted to transport diluted bitumen from the tar sands, then when a spill happens it would never be able to be cleaned up from their lake. Built over a generation ago, the pipeline actually crosses the east end of the lake.
The group was diverse from grandparents to young students, coming together with specific local concerns about this pipeline and the broader impacts on the environment and the economy. The concerned citizens group even went as far to have their handout material designed exactly like the info sheets TransCanada was handing out. Half the group wore "concerned citizen" shirts and attended tables set up outside where attendees were encouraged to write letters and sign petitions.
Council of Canadians chapters and staff are also organizing in response to these open houses. Chapter representatives have been present at open houses in the Prairies and in Saint John. We are organizing a public discussion alongside Ecology Ottawa in Stittsville in preparation for the open house there on October 10. More to come!