A federal ministerial panel struck to hear Canadians’ views on proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion meets here next week, but rules of public engagement are unclear.
The massive Kinder Morgan energy project — representing a potential investment of $6.8 billion — received approval from the National Energy Board in May with 157 conditions attached. A final decision on whether the project should proceed is expected from federal cabinet in December.
In the meantime, a three-member panel was appointed in June, its stated purpose to fulfill a promise by the Trudeau government to review and restore confidence in environmental and regulatory processes.
The panel is visiting communities along the pipeline route at roundtables and public town hall meetings, but only the invitational side of it is scheduled in Kamloops.
Town hall meetings are being held in Langley, Vancouver and Victoria. As well, two are set for Burnaby, where the 1,150-km pipeline terminates. Opposition to the project has been strongest in the Lower Mainland over concerns of increased oil tanker traffic.
There are two days of roundtable meetings in TRU’s Irving K. Barber Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 19-20, intended for local government, First Nations, NGOs and business groups. Any groups that took part as intervenors in the NEB panel hearings — such as the Kamloops chapter of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association — are invited. Cheryl Kabloona, chapter president, intends to be at the table.
“It’s my understanding they’re doing consultations in areas that weren’t covered by the National Energy Board hearings,” Kabloona said.
The general public is allowed to attend but it remains unclear whether they will have a chance to comment or ask questions.
An online questionnaire available until Sept. 30 allows anyone unable to meet the panel in person to provide views on the proposed pipeline. Provide written comments directly to the panel via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura Benson, an organizing director with the B.C.-based Dogwood Initiative, a group opposed to the pipeline project, told supporters in an email she’s disappointed by the process.
“I thought when Prime Minister Trudeau promised to re-do the Kinder Morgan review that he sincerely wanted to hear from citizens in British Columbia,” she wrote. “Instead the government is racing through these summer meetings so they can make a final decision in December.”
Benson said it’s still important for people to attend and hear what the panel says to local representatives.
Panel members Kim Baird, Tony Penikett and Annette Trimbee are to report back to Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr in November.
Penikett is a former Yukon premier, while Baird is chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation and Trimbee is a former deputy finance minister from Alberta.