Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is once again garnering national attention, this time for not being allowed to cross-examine federal government officials who provided evidence to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel.
Cullen had requested to question federal participants from Environment Canada on the new assessment thresholds versus the old ones; question the DFO officials on the application of the Fisheries Act, net loss, habitat protection and water crossings; question Transport Canada officials on the independence of the review and the regulations on diluted bitumen compared to conventional oil; and question Natural Resources Canada officials on project promotion abroad and carbon pricing implications. The proposal was to question each party for two hours each in Prince Rupert, totaling 10 hours of cross examination.
“As the only intervenor who is a Member of Parliament, and as the Member from the federal riding most affected by this project, it is essential that I am granted leave to ask these questions of the applicant and these federal government departments on behalf of my constituents,” wrote Cullen on August 3.
However, the Justice Department noted that all of those questions were either too broad, were outside the mandate of the joint review panel, not related to evidence given by government participants or were unrelated to the mandates of the government departments.
“To allow such questions would undermine fairness to the witnesses, delay the proceedings and would not assist the Panel in its assessment of the application,” read a letter signed by Prairie Region General Counsel Kirk Lambrecht and dated August 22.
In a response dated August 28, Cullen says the topics he wanted to discuss “are central to the mandate of the panel” and that “limiting the questioners and responders to only what has been already submitted would render the questioning phase of the proceedings moot”. He also said the denial of his request only further calls into question the unbias intentions of the Conservatives.
“It is difficult in the context in which we are conducting these public forums to separate the current government’s objections to my questions and the government’s publicly stated support for the project prior to assessment. Further, the Panel’s authority has been seriously undermined by a retroactive rewriting of the rules of engagement creating a potential for loss of faith on behalf of the public…Some have described the various tactics employed by the government as an attempt to silence critics and minimize the scrutiny of proposed pipeline and supertanker traffic,” he wrote.
“Testing the credibility of the evidence can, at times, be done best by examining whether critical information is missing from the evidence, what alternatives exist, and the context within which the existing project has emerged. The purpose of the questioning is to test the credibility of the evidence and nothing prohibits the Panel from hearing questions to that end.”