For the past several months, the TransCanada pipeline, which will carry crude oil (if the project gets the go-ahead), from Alberta to eastern refineries, has been making headlines. It has also been creating headaches for many residents of Edmundston, myself included.
Ever since we first met company representatives, I have strongly stated that we would never accept a pipeline that would endanger our water supplies or future development. I asked, from the start, since seeing a first preliminary route for the pipeline, that the company go back to the drawing board. I was told that they would do so.
TransCanada made good on this promise. But the second route, shown publicly last month during the company’s open house event, does not meet our expectations at all. In fact, in certain respects, it’s even more of a problem than the first one.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had indications from people I trust concerning certain actions by TransCanada agents on the field in Edmundston and the area that, if they are true (and I have reasons to believe that they are), don’t impress me in regards to the company’s promise of listening to citizens, answering their concerns and working in good faith.
I hear talk of unilingual agents, threats, harassment, and even intimidation towards property owners, invasive prospecting techniques without explanation, and actions that are quite worrisome for myself and City Council. Last week, I contacted company officials to voice my concerns. I received a brief reply stating that, should these actions be indeed happening, they were « against the company’s values ». Ok. Fine. But my concerns remain.
If we are to believe Edmundston residents and people who live in the Saint-Joseph and Saint-Basile LSDs who were visited by company agents, we see that the pipeline route they are working on, the one we have always said was unacceptable, is still in the plans. The company told me we would be receiving alternatives soon. I’m still waiting.
Due to the complexity of this cross-country project, we wanted to show good faith and give the company the chance to re-evaluate. Because of this, a number of citizens on street corners and on social media are criticizing us. It’s par for the course when you’re elected. I can live with this.
However, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. Don’t doubt for a second that the Edmundston City Council will allow the construction of pipeline where it could endanger our water supplies and / or our citizens peace of mind. Even moreso that the economic impacts of the pipeline remain unclear. In my mind, sustainable development is the art of bringing together economic, environmental and social aspects in any development project.
Where it gets complicated is that the City can only make decisions within its limits. If we say “no”, we are pushing the problem on our neighbours. “Not-in-my-backyard” becomes “in-my-neighbours’-yard”. This is not what we want.
Rather, we are encouraging cooperation, collaboration and dialogue for the good of all involved. It’s not by pitting Council against citizens, or the City against LSDs, that we will make a strong case and help each other out. Before long the National Energy Board will be holding real public consultations. The Board has the very last word on this project. Let’s speak with one voice and make sure that our message is heard clear and strong.