MP wins the right to cross-examine federal fisheries officials at hearings in Prince Rupert

MP Nathan Cullen welcomed a ruling today from the Joint Review Panel approving his request to cross-examine federal officials.

Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen welcomed a ruling today from the National Energy Board’s Enbridge Joint Review Panel approving his request to cross-examine federal officials at technical hearings for the proposed pipeline.

Cullen will question Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials on key issues related to application of the Fisheries Act, net loss, habitat protection, and water crossings.

“My questioning will be specific to the role of the federal government. The response of DFO to the Panel’s requests for comment and risk assessment has been disappointing and in need of clarification. I expect to get such clarification through my questions,” he said.

But yesterday’s ruling denied Cullen’s request to also cross-examine officials from the departments of the environment, natural resources and transport, a decision that frustrates Cullen.

“These departments hold key aspects to the public’s understanding of the project and the government’s role in the process. Their responses to the questions I seek to ask are important to my constituents and to all Canadians,” said Cullen.

“The full impact of the proposed project will be difficult to know if the hard questions cannot be asked.”

Cullen said he and his Official Opposition colleagues will continue to press the Conservative government on the Enbridge project in Parliament and the media.

“The government should still answer these questions, unless they know that Canadians won’t like the answers.”

The technical phase of the Enbridge JRP hearings began in Edmonton two weeks ago and focused on economic issues. The more contentious issues will be addressed at hearings in Prince George, where questions will center on the design and safety of the pipeline, and in Prince Rupert, which will examine tanker transport and marine safety.

Cullen is scheduled to question government witnesses by telephone in Prince George mid-October and in person in Prince Rupert during the November 22-30 sitting days.

Technical hearings are scheduled to end in Prince Rupert on Dec. 18.  Final arguments will take place in March and April 2013.