The Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) recently had to consider a package of land use referrals regarding preliminary field work in about a dozen different locations within the district.
Some board members were openly baffled by the referrals. They asked, and I’m paraphrasing here, what’s the point of a land use referral when the proponent is not bound by what you might have to say, and the proponent may already be doing the very things on which they’re asking for your comment?
Granted, the RDBN was being asked if the field work would affect their interests from the point of view of zoning and regional planning by-laws, and within that narrow scope it doesn’t. But these kinds of referrals will probably be dressed up as consultation.
Consultation, under Enbridge, feels like it has come to mean explaining what they plan to do, or might even already be doing, regardless of the opposition.
A strength of this RDBN board is that it’s made up of plain-talking people who don’t have patience for a song and dance routine. The rural committee members, in voting to simply acknowledge receiving the field work referrals, were refusing to join the dance.
The RDBN’s interests might not be affected by the field work from a land-use ordinance point of view, but the board members weren’t eager to give the veneer of approving the field work when so many area residents are very upset about it.
To be fair, Enbridge is not violating any constraints surrounding the recently concluded Joint Review Panel (JRP) proceedings. They’re also meeting the standard of the duty to consult with First Nations, which probably says more about the weakness of the standard than about Enbridge.
If it’s perplexing to understand how field work could be going on before the JRP has at least given the heavily nuanced approval it will probably give, and if it’s strange to understand how the duty to consult with First Nations is being met when so many First Nation bands and members of traditional clans in the Northwest are univocal in their ‘no to Enbridge’, you may be in luck.
Late last week it was announced that the federal government will be swooping into the Northwest soon to help sort us all out.
It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall during the rushed intelligence meetings of this super-force of federal ministers coming our way. What do they think they could possibly say that will sway anyone’s point of view up here? Is there something we didn’t notice?
It would be refreshing if someone would just show up and put the double-speak away. Why not just say, ‘We need to put this pipeline through because the country needs the cash’, if that is what is driving the federal government’s interests? Is the federal government convinced that, in this case, the interests of the many outweigh the interests of the few?
Duty to consult and social license are two terms that are thrown around often up here. One thing that isn’t clear is what exactly those two expressions are supposed to mean. Maybe the feds can clear this up for us on this visit.
Do the people of the Northwest, have the final say in this project? It is a simple question that allows for a yes or no answer.
Does the duty to consult or to obtain social license for your project mean that the people can, after all the facts are in, still say no? If so, how are we going to accurately gauge the public will? Or is this like a property annexation, where you’re given an offer you can’t refuse?
It feels like the latter. If it is, just say it.