Council Defers Vote on Woodfibre LNG Referendum

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Aug. 20, 2014

Squamish councilors voted to defer the referendum question on Woodfibre LNG, and agreed by a unanimous vote to move the discussion about a possible town hall on the project to a next Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting.

Council will debate next week on what exactly a town hall meeting on this topic will entail, how to narrown the focus and possibly communicate information from the district’s LNG committee’s interim report.


The results of the town hall meeting may decide the referendum question, assuming the council decides to have a vote on the referendum issue after the town hall meeting.

Coun. Patricia Heintzman didn’t put forward any motion to call for referendum yesterday, but said plebiscites are a reasonable way all over the world to gauge public opinion. She also brought forward a motion asking the council to hold a town hall meeting on LNG and Fortis pipeline expansion on Sept. 17 or 18.

“Issues of misinformation can be clarified in an open and clear environment which we are trying to achieve,” she said.

But Mayor Kirkham feared that this may be too soon.

“I am really not in favour of rushing an interim report from the committee to become a town hall meeting when the proponents haven’t filed an EAO response,” he said.

What they said

Squamish Council is split on Woodfibre LNG, with at least four in support of the project. Coun. Heintzman is the only one who has raised concerns publicly about the project, while Couns. Ted Prior and Bryan Raiser seem undecided. The other four have indicated their support for LNG.

Here is what councilors said yesterday.

Coun: Doug Race

“The value for me to ask the community is very limited. I am happy to have open houses, forums and one on one with the proponents and I disagree that there has been no public input. Public has had a chance for input, and the proponent has put on a number of open houses.”

Coun. Ron Sander

“There is a time and place for a referendum, there are specific things you can ask your community, questions that revolve around spending. I think this the way this has been proposed, there is a little bit of an interesting tone in that there is an expectation that this referendum question will accomplish than it ever possibly could.

We don’t have the resource, the budget to dig down and provide information on fracking, on global warming, that is well beyond the scope of the LNG. Our duty is to make sure the EAO process is done properly, and that is where influence should be, because that will provide all the answers. I don’t support a question on this because I don’t think it will be a meaning full question. I completely support having all the information available.”

Coun. Ted Prior

“We don’t have the information, and I wouldn’t know how to vote on this myself. There is an appetite in the community to come in and listen to our committee, our staff that are involved in it and answer the questions and I think that is what is missing. We need to open the dialogue sooner than later.”

Coun. Patricia Heintzman

“Many countries in the world use plebiscites, and these are not unheard ways of engaging the community. I wouldn’t agree to a question that wasn’t rational at the time. But I would like to put forward a motion that we hold a town hall meeting on LNG/Fortis expansion project for Sept 17 or 18.  Issues of misinformation can be clarified in a process in an open and clear environment which we are trying to achieve.”

Coun. Susan Chapelle

You can’t change people’s belief systems, and having a forum on it is basically opening it to up to a same group of people. It’s like debating the OCP, it’s zoned for industry and now we are not going to have industry on this industrial site. I don’t know what the value is in opening myself any more to the public discourse.”




  1. Wolfgang W says:

    I closed my debate with Brad following his article under “Your view” with the remark that the crux of a referendum is to let people make choices on the basis of the best information available. How could one therefore critize anyone on council for wanting to gather more such information? – Only if it should ultimately turn out to be an attempt at preventing the public have its say on grounds ‘of not having enough information.’

    Do the Scots have enough information about the intricacies involved in and the consequences of potentially splitting from the UK, did Quebecers on their similar referendum? Did the Swiss some 20 years ago, when they, despite fierce lobbying by government and politians of all stripes plus an array of business leaders, unions and academe wisely decided to stay at arm’s length with the European Union? These are just a few examples and way beyond the scope of a yes or no decision on one energy project. Really, one should expect our municipal leaders to give a bit more credit to its electorate!

    There are rarely situations extant where ‘all’ information is known before making a decision, a fact that our councilors surely must be all too familiar with, ‘the best available’ will usually have to do. So please: Be reminded that information gathering has its limits beyond which it simply becomes a pretexte for inaction, or in this case stalling.

  2. Observer says:

    OK, so more than 50% of Council want the LNG and some “cannot decide”. Apparently, we will have this LNG plant and have no referendum.
    So Council, NOW go after Fortis and make sure that the pumping stations are where we want them, or rather NOT where we don’t want them! Dream about the tax money and hope that our Sound is not f@%&ed up!
    And give Christy a big kiss!

  3. Jon S. says:

    A voice of reason from the majority of our aldermen!

    This is a real breath of fresh air.

  4. Ecce veritatem says:

    What do you think of a Sound which has large amounts of hot chlorinated fresh water dumped into it every day, disrupting the herring and the local food chains close to our estuary?…. Or numerous large freighters creating at least one meter high waves….ever experienced these propagated waves on a large body of calm water? No wake …dream on!….. And a constant possibility of gas leakage creating extra green house gases with a danger of a large local explosion…… Or an uncertain, undisclosed benefit to the local economy or the provincial economy?….. Perhaps a new eyesore for our tourists to contemplate?…. Maybe an uncertainty of local jobs being available in any significant numbers?…. A pumping station close to residential areas with a danger of gas leakage?….. Do you want to feel that you are part of the addition of greenhouse methane and others to our global atmosphere, increasing global warming? Do you really want to encourage “fracking” with all its consequences?

    Then wait for it, it will soon be here and you can rejoice!

    • Jon S. says:

      You are wrong on so many levels:

      Hot chlorinated water?

      Water that is within a few degrees of our frigid ocean temperatures is anything but hot. The truth is there is a mere fraction of the chlorine that will go into Howe Sound in comparison to our municipal sewage system. The municipal sewage system deposits even warmer water. Woodfibre is not even close to the estuary, and even if it was, it will have a lesser impact than our sewage system. The amount of water returned from Woodfibre LNG would amount to a drop in a bucket when considering the sheer volume of water in the sound (not including that Howe Sound is a part of this large body of water called the Ocean, which you may have heard of?) If you really want to feel like your are making a difference build an outhouse in your back yard and stop using treated municipal water.

      Numerous large freighters?

      Please. One ship a week on average traveling at 20 km/hr nearly 10 kilometres away from town will have a lesser impact than Squamish Terminals. One metre wake? This claim is baseless. Did you come to that conclusion after “extensive” research on Wikipedia? Calm body of water? Are you for real? Squamish has waves created by what the local aboriginals the legendary mother wind that our town is named after.

      Constant possibilty of gas leakage?

      Do you use natural gas in your home? If you are like 80% of the residents of Squamish, you do. The chance of a leak at your home is higher because of older infrastructure.

      Uncertain economic benefits?

      Well maybe we don’t know the exact details of things like jobs and taxes but we do know they will be significant. $2 million plus in property taxes, this may not be exact but it is money the municipality needs. Around 100 jobs would immediately catapult Woodfibre LNG into the 5 largest employers of Squamish.


      Have you seen the site in its current state? It looks like a giant parking lot in a war zone. The company will improve the site from the current state. If well-kept industrial buildings are so devastating to tourism then we should tear down the old Britannia Mine mill as it must be killing our tourism industry.

      Pumping stations close to residential neighborhoods?

      I don’t recall the several pumping stations in Squamish ever exploding in the several decades they have been around. Maybe it is because the company has a vested interest in ensuring that they do not cause mass destruction as that may hurt their bottom line.

      Feeling like I am part of global warming?

      No sister, I want to be part of the solution of climate change (global warming is far too simplistic). LNG provides a cleaner alternative than coal for the third world. It would be impossible for the world to completely rely on renewable energy. Not to mention is it really fair to ask developing countries to sacrifice economic growth for the environment when rich countries like Canada, the US and Britain became rich by exploiting natural resources?

      Do I really want to encourage fracking?

      Do you mean hydraulic fracturing? If it is what you mean then, yes I do want to encourage it. Hydraulic fracturing has been safely practiced since the 50’s and the process keeps getting cleaner and cleaner. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel around, and studies have shown that this remains the case even if it is produced through hydraulic fracturing.

      My views aside, the more important case in point are that this project has nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing. Woodfibre doesn’t produce natural gas…they use the same stuff that we use in our homes. If gas that comes from hydraulic fracturing is such a big deal quit being self-righteous and stop using it at home.

      • Gord G says:

        Love what you say Jon. Couldn’t agree with you more. I would also ad that there is another bigger eye sore over there at Woodfibre and it is the logging that is currently on going there. Yes I am for logging as I am in construction industry and work with wood everyday, however that clear cutting that I see from the highway and my boat sucks.

    • Geri says:

      Exactly Jon. Ecce’s describing it as “hot chlorinated fresh water” is an example of the misinformation that is spread by the anti-LNG people for the purposes of fear mongering. This is an example of why a plebiscite should not be held at this time when so many are so ignorant of the entire process.

  5. Ecce veritatem says:

    Jon: My guess is that you might be for LNG? :-) Good definitive reply which is just what we need.
    By the way all of what I have referred to has appeared in the public press and not on Wikipedia…correct or not….and yes there is some exaggeration. Your and my view, (whether I believe mine in total or not) are part of the wide spectrum on this issue) so all need to be considered.

    • Wolfgang W says:

      Good answer Ecce veritatem. There are indeed ‘exaggeration and misinformation’ out there, but that is true for both sides. Conversely, both sides also defend their cause with very good and valid arguments. This is why I believe the prospect of a referendum question to Squamish voters would be so valuable: It would help separate the wheat from the chaff in the debate and distill the arguments to the core elements.

      For those who insist believing that ‘misinformation’ cannot also come from proponents of a project, watching the episode ‘The Greasy Pole’ from the popular 1980s BBC series ‘Yes, Minister’, the link to which I post below, should quickly disabuse them of this notion. A comedy alright, but who can deny a large kernel of truth in it after what our TV screens and papers inform us about with disturbing regularity? Enjoy and chuckle!

  6. Rob says:

    It appears that what the Council do not want is a clear mandate from the community they represent on how to act on the LNG issue? Either that or avoiding making any tough decisions. The LNG issue comes down to risk vs benefit. The LNG risks outweighs the possible benefits by such a significant margin it is a no-brainer for me.

  7. Jean says:

    Looking forward to some question that are suggested that GAN should ask Fortis this next week… looking forward to that Post..Here are some that should be asked for sure…

    — Will the domestic gas price increase with LNG export
    — Will domestic gas be vigorously promoted equally to the LNG market is, with everybody receiving Gas at the lowest possible cost and with an open bidding process on expansion into new residential or business requiring it, so that the capitalistic non Monopolized way will be used with the lowest bidder keeping New Gas consumer cost low, not priced out of the market
    — What are the safety regulations and if new pipelines are to be build, will they be improved from the old regulation and adhered to.
    — Will the 10 inch present pipelines also be up graded afterwards .
    — Are at present automatic shutdown valves installed and at what pressure drop will the automatically engage and shut down in an emergency with automatic notification to fire and other emergency agency as well as public notification apply.
    — Would the new gas lines be installed with the elsewhere mandatory and suggested safe distance from populated areas, with secondary casing and flaring like under highways and Railroads then also near populated areas .
    — Will Fortis books be open, to see that the expansion of pipeline to feed the LNG Plant in fact had been paid for by W-LNG and not by Fortis, as it is mandatory for the public to do so, if one want to receive GAS where no gas is available before
    — Will there be a regulatory safety reporting done, say to have the shut-off valves checked periodical, with reports being openly filed for the public to see
    — Are all pipes and welding,s been x-rayed and documented
    –What precaution are taken in case of earth quake
    — Will the compressor station use gas or electricity.D
    — Will they be vibration free and extremely low noise or no hum and way from any possible population, as not to be day and night, be disturbing by annoying hum or other noise pollution
    — Is the right of way of the pipe system, accessible and open to public for recreation
    — Are the original proposed pressures absolute and not to be increase afterwards, as in the existing pipe line
    — Does Forties or W-LNG have deposited in escrow a sufficient amount or have signed insurance policies to indemnify the public for loss and life
    — Will the pipe be from Russian steel from Saskatchewan or elsewhere and will the specification on steel and welding quality be openly available to the public
    — In case of failure of the LNG feasibility partway into the life expectancy of the project, who will pick up any additional cost, Public, W-LNG, or Fortis
    — Will CNG availability be restricted to W-LNG only at Woodfiber, or other Chemical plant proposals encouraged, or already applying for access to Gas at a later day, as they might be anticipating to set up shop besides W-LNG and would also need CNG to be supplied by Fortis.
    — The fracking in the north, will Fortis demand that what is put into the fracking process eg. 3rd and or other components, other then clean water and sand, be made public
    — Are provisions made to stop leakage of fracked gas escaping and what is the remedy or penalty if so
    — How many northern communities will be supplied with fresh water if there water supply is damaged not drinkable anymore do to Fracking and for how long
    — Will Fortis, or have they, paid anything to any Native Groups or Individuals, to receive there support.
    — Who owns Fortis and what is the Canadian shareholder percentage, does the proponent or subsidiaries of W-LNG own shares in Fortis