Monday, February 15, 2016

The Death of Democracy: Anatomy of a Mega-Project's Local "Approval" Process

CVRD Chair Lefebure and CAO Brian Carruthers Scrambling To Discredit Boards Unanimous Motion Opposing LNG Facilities At Bamberton

by Don Maroc - Cowichan Conversations

February 15th, 2016

Near the end of the February 10, meeting of the Cowichan Regional District Board (CVRD), Cowichan Bay Director Lori Iannidinardo put forth a motion that the Board advise Steelhead LNG that the CVRD is opposed to any LNG facility being located at Bamberton or anywhere else in the regional district.
She added simply, “this is not where it belongs.”

Don Maroc

Veteran Duncan Councillor Sharon Jackson said a majority of the Duncan City Council agrees with Iannidinardo’s opposition to building the LNG on Saanich Inlet or elsewhere in the Cowichan area. 
Sharon Jackson

Rob Douglas, representing the Municipality of North Cowichan, feels we would be setting up a very dangerous conflict with ferries plying the restricted Gulf Islands channels. He suggested exporting LNG is against the spirit of the recent Paris agreement on climate change, and added fossil fuel use “should be wound down, not ramped up.”

Shawnigan Lake’s Director Sonia Furstenau pointed to the CVRD strategic plan which requires a reduction in green house gases (GHG) in response to climate change, which means an LNG facility is not in the future of this area.

Rob Douglas

Aaron Stone, Mayor of Ladysmith, said while his community was quite a distance from the proposed site at Bamberton they are part of the regional district and the entire area should work together.

The mayor also felt that pipelines are a big part of the resistance to the LNG facility.

Sonia Furstenau 

Long time CVRD Director from North Oyster Mary Marcotte joined her collegue from Cowichan Bay, saying simply, “It’s not right place.”

Board Chair Jon Lefebure, Mayor of North Cowichan, after making sure there were no others wishing to speak to the issue called for a vote.

Aaron Stone

It went quickly and quietly, as the Chair noted there were no opposition votes, 15-0, a unanimous declaration that the government of the CVRD is not interested in an LNG processing and exporting facility. 

That was it for two days, but on Friday the CVRD Board members met with Provincial Environment Minister Mary Polak to discuss dumping polluted soil in a Shawnigan Lake watershed. The meeting was held behind closed doors, even though it did not fit the regulations for in-camera meetings.

After the Minister finished her discussion and left the meeting, Mayor Lefebure said he apologized for having allowed Director Iannidinardo’s LNG motion to come to a vote.

Lori Iannidinardo

He had been advised by staff that they had spoken to Steelhead LNG representatives about a possible application to change the zoning, and that the Board passing a resolution opposing an LNG facility could be illegal.

Director Iannidinardo claims as she was leaving the meeting room Planning Manager Ross Blackwell told her that her motion has put them all on shaky legal grounds, and that the CVRD would have to seek legal advice in case Steelhead LNG tried to take them to court.

Perhaps Blackwell, and his boss CAO Brian Carruthers, are being too sensitive to international agreements like NAFTA (North American Trade Agreement) and its possible successor the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Jon Lefebure

These investment agreements permit corporations to sue Canada before an international tribunal if any level of Canadian government creates laws or regulations that inhibit the corporation in carrying out their permitted activities.
We don’t know what contact or conversations the CVRD staff have had with Steelhead LNG representatives. Neither do the elected CVRD directors.

Steelhead LNG has not made oral or written applications to the CVRD concerning any kind of land use. If Blackwell or Carruthers has knowledge of any formal proposals or applications from Steelhead LNG, as CVRD employees they have a duty to fully inform the elected members of the Board.

Mary Marcotte

Blackwell and Carruthers should also clarify this issue for the voters/taxpayers of the CVRD. On a previous occasion Blackwell informed a public meeting that a CVRD director could not express a position on a proposal that is imminent. Right or wrong he appears to be sticking to his opinion.

The fifteen elected officials who supported Director Iannidinardo’s resolution made clear that at that moment in time in their opinion was that no LNG processing facility should be located in the CVRD territory.

That action does not imply that they are not open to any new information about LNG operations, nor that new facts could cause them to change their votes.

Iannidinardo notes that since he voted in favour of her motion, Youbou Director Klaus Kuhn told her he made a mistake, he did not understand the resoution.

Planning Manager Blackwell has said there are numerous legal precedents supporting his cautions. Asked to provide examples, he did so promptly, but they all occurred after the proponent had made formal application and the councils/boards had taken some action.

Brian Carruthers

For instance, it is well understood that after a required public hearing has been held for any land use change the elected directors are prohibited from seeking additional information.

Regional or municipal staff should not be criticized for giving advice to elected officials, that’s an important part of their job.

In this case those giving the well-meaning advice could clear the air if they would explain, for both the directors and the public who they represent, the basis for their concerns.

Facebook and other social media are probably not the best place to create mutual understanding.

Artists rendering of 1 kilometer long LNG loading facility


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