Prince Rupert environmental advocate Jenn Rice has put the City of Prince Rupert on alert that during the North Central Local Government Association conference being held here from May 11 – 13, she will be leading a peaceful demonstration in opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.
Rice works for the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation and is involved with Friends of Wild Salmon, the Prince Rupert Environmental Society and on the City’s Green Advisory Task Force.
During question period from the public at Tuesday evening’s Council Meeting of the Whole, Rice told City Council she was appearing as a citizen, not necessarily representing anyone else.
She began her presentation saying concerned about democracy and is disheartened that Enbridge is one of four platinum sponsors for the NCGLA conference, along with Kevin Brown Communications, which is the communication company being used by Enbridge for promotion.
Enbridge will be hosting a breakfast coffee break and President’s Reception for the 240 delegates and partners attending the conference, Rice said.
“I know it’s normal that corporations like B.C. Ferries, Pacific Northern Gas and B.C. Hydro, that are doing business in the region, sponsor these events, but the one difference here is that Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines isn’t doing business in the north, they want to do business in the north,” Rice emphasized.
It’s disturbing to see that they are willing to spend money on the conference, but aren’t willing to meet the public in Prince Rupert, Rice added, saying the last time Enbridge met with the public in Prince Rupert was in 2008.
“It actually felt really deflated and that it was an erosion of democracy and basically whoever has money talks. It’s a controversial project and I haven’t come here to put you on the spot, but I’m a concerned citizen. The gallery on a riveting hockey night is filled with people that support me in what I have to say and there would be more if there wasn’t a riveting hockey game on,” Rice said.
Rice admitted two weeks ago she felt deflated, but today she has more hope.
“I have self-worth and there are lots of people who feel the same. We’re on alert and we’re paying attention and we’re letting our politicians know what we think. If I could pose a question to council it would be if you were me, or the people sitting in the gallery, what would you do?” Rice asked.
Mayor Jack Mussallem complimented Rice on her well-chosen words and sincerity.
“Enbridge wants to do business in the Port of Kitimat and across the north. This project is not here yet. This project may never come here. At the same time we’re all committed to keeping ourselves informed and watching what Enbridge is doing,” Mussallem said, adding that he is on record telling Enbridge there are concerns from the people council represents.
“I’ve told them if the project is ever approved, there’s no need to come this way. That there’s no need to come north once you come out of Douglas Channel, to drop the pilot at Triple Island,” he said.
The whole consideration is in a process, he told Rice, and from a government body point of view, whether you are for or against, it’s better to let the process go through and then weigh the pros and cons.
Councillor Nelson Kinney said when he asked Enbridge two weeks ago if they would have a forum in Prince Rupert and they answered yes.
Councillor Anna Ashley said if she were in Rice’s shoes she would encourage her to return to council and voice her concerns.
“Keep us informed on the entire perspective to make sure that voice is out there. If all the information is there then at the end I think the right decision will be made,” Ashley said.
Her words were echoed by Councillor Gina Garon who thanked Rice for her passion.
“I think it’s great that you’ve brought all these people together. We do live in a democracy and one of the nice things is that you can come to council and express your opinions and bring people along who share those concerns. Do whatever your heart tells you to do and I think you will find that people will support you and notice that you do have a voice and are worth listening to,” Councillor Garon said.
The demonstration will take place May 12 while the delegates are at the conference banquet at Chances Convention Centre.
“Reasonable people with reasonable concerns are so moved that they will walk along the waterfront and demonstrate in numbers that we’re paying attention and we care. I intend it to be very respectful and have no intention of embarrassing the city,” Rice said.