The business community made their voices crystal clear during the city’s latest council session on Nov. 28: to approve, or even consider Coun. Joy Thorkelson’s motion to not support the Pacific NorthWest LNG project would be a grave mistake.
A group of 10 citizens, partly made up of business owners and operators, along with a couple politicians, came out in full force to express their displeasure and disappointment over what transpired during council’s discussions on Nov. 14 when the motion was introduced.
The line of community members making their way to the microphone before council was extensive as one by one, residents told council their thoughts on a number of points, mainly how the behaviour by audience members at the previous meeting was deplorable, with many clapping, jeering, holding anti-LNG signs and shouting at members of council, reminding the city of the scope of its mandate in relation to the project, reminding them of the extensive three-year process of the environmental work that has already been completed with monitoring power in the hands of area First Nations, and finally the economic benefits that the Pacific NorthWest LNG (PNW LNG) project would bring to the community.
Rupert resident Scott Farwell told mayor and council that he was disappointed in the ‘hijacking’ of the last council session by outspoken audience members, which lacked respect for the elected officials and city staff.
“The office of the council chambers is really one where people should be able to come in and speak their mind without fear of retribution from others or intimidation. Anything that doesn’t allow that is disrespectful and should not be allowed in our community,” he said.
Farwell added that the PNW LNG motion before council is out of its mandate.
“I urge council to defeat the motion – handily defeat the motion – and let that segment of bullies know that council is not going to be hijacked anymore,” he said. “It’s fortunate that [PNW LNG] is interested in negotiating or entering some benefit agreement with the City of Prince Rupert, because truthfully they probably don’t have to.”
Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce president Keith Lambourne had the same sentiments for council, saying that the Chamber chose to support the project after the Draft Environmental Assessment Report was released, saying there would be no significant adverse effects to salmon in the area with mitigation measures.
“The salmon are important to us as they are to everyone else. We’re satisfied that the process has been thorough and all the legal pieces are in place for the project to proceed,” said Lambourne.
Business owners John Farrell and Brian Musgrave also added their thoughts to motion, which were to encourage council to look out for all Rupert residents, not just those in a specific industry.
“Unlike the organizers of the protests we saw a week and a half ago, I have faith in my neighbouring communities of Kitkatla, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams. They have already said they will be monitoring this project, ensuring the salmon and Skeena estuary are safe,” Farrell said.
Musgrave added that while previous councils have cut expenses so clean there is nothing left to cut, it’s necessary to increase revenue for residents to thrive and eliminate the infrastructure deficit.
Candidate for the North Coast B.C. Liberal nomination Rodney Proskiw also ensured that mayor and council recognize the gravity of what’s at hand, saying the members of the community have worked too hard for the project to be halted at the 11th hour.
“I certainly hope that you would never ever consider [this motion]. There is too much at stake. The future of our entire region is at stake with either this project, or ones that are upcoming,” Proskiw said.
“There are some industries in this region that are not prospering right now and haven’t prospered for a long time. Is it fair to hold everyone hostage to these industries and not allow forward movement and forward growth? I don’t think so.”
Lax Kw’alaams Band council member Chris Sankey also provided an update on the Band’s work with the proponent, saying that Lax Kw’alaams mayor and council won’t be bullied by outside interests.
“We respect other people’s opinions and I think Lax Kw’alaams government and Mayor John Helin and council have been very respectful of those opinions,” said Sankey. “It is the Coast Tsimshian territory of Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla and we are not going to be dictated by other communities or individuals or groups who think otherwise. We would never do it to them and we respectfully ask they not do it to us. So we will follow through on the process that was set out and mandated by our membership that voted in favour of the process to continue on.”