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.”