Our City Councillor, MPP and MP all came and all stayed for the duration; talking about pipelines, spills and climate change for almost three hours with their voters.
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More than 40 people had RSVPed and almost all of them came. Once the party was warmed up I rang the dinner bell and made a few announcements before the politicians each spoke.
My main message was that there are two important reasons why people should be concerned about the pipeline. First, with the Canadian Petroleum Producers forecasting a 632% increase in bitumen production out of Alberta, any mode of transport—train or pipeline—will be riskier with those huge increases in volume.
Second, the product the pipeline will carry—call it oil sands oil or tar sands oil—when used as intended, will add to our climate change challenge. To allow the pipeline is to allow investment that will demand financial returns for decades; the returns being oil sales—that 632% increase—each barrel of which makes the climate crisis worse.
Katherine Hobbs spoke first, itemizing the things she’s done in her own life to be a responsible environmental citizen. She gave some assurances that measures were being taken to make the pipeline safe but was unable to tell us that the City of Ottawa would be acting to resist the use of a route for Alberta bitumen that crosses within city limits; though she admitted there was nothing in it at all for Ottawa, and that spill risk and climate change contributions were legitimate concerns.
There were many questions from attendees and a general feeling among many that there should be a push among citizens to ask the City to take a position resisting the pipeline.
Yasir Naqvi was next and spoke of the Ontario Energy Board’s Energy East pipeline consultation making the point that we had until March to get our input in to the inquiry. Lots of questions for Yasir too, one of which was to what degree the scientific community was going to be listened to in the consultations specifically with respect to the climate change implications—another attendee commenting that there wasn’t uncertainty when it came to the scientific advice on climate change. Yasir assured us scientists would be able to contribute, though I didn’t get the sense those scientific inputs would necessarily be foundational to the OEB output.
Paul Dewar was the last to talk and among other things he re-emphasized the points that came through Katherine and Yasir’s remarks that the real control over this process resides at the federal level with the current government who have hollowed out people’s ability to participate in the oversight of pipeline projects like this. Paul said he didn’t see, with all the negative sides to the development of this pipeline how it could be supported.
The evening continued with people chatting in groups about the issues.
One interesting point that came out during the discussions was that the conversion of the existing pipeline from natural gas to bitumen would cause a new problem in supplying natural gas. This has caused the irony that Enbridge is opposing TransCanada in converting the pipeline.
All in all it was a very satisfying evening where I think people felt they had a chance to be heard and our elected representatives were given a strong but friendly reminder that this is an important issue for us.