About 170 protested outside the Enbridge hearings in Kelowna Monday. By the afternoon the number had dwindled to about 50.
The public was shut out of the meetings on Friday afternoon. The move has infuriated protesters and the NDP.
The last-minute decision to keep the public out of the Enbridge hearings in Kelowna shows once again that the BC Liberal government failed British Columbians when they handed over jurisdiction to Ottawa for a process that will affect the future of our province, says New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming.
“Since the BC Liberals handed over decision-making power to Ottawa in the 2010 Equivalency Agreement, its been clear that the Enbridge pipeline project has been a federal process without a government to stand up for BC’s interests,” said Fleming.
“It speaks volumes that the Liberals can’t even step in to ensure the public are allowed to observe the proceedings first-hand. This is just one of the reasons a New Democrat government would opt out of the federal process and create a made-in-B.C. environmental review."
Observers were not permitted inside the community hearings in Victoria and Vancouver and were asked to view and listen to the proceedings at a location several kilometres away.
While the hearings in Kelowna were originally intended to be open for public observation, the National Energy Board decided Friday to close them to all but scheduled presenters and their guests.
“I came to Kelowna intent on joining members of this city and surrounding communities in observing the open hearings. Unfortunately, people are being shut out once again,” said Fleming.
“At the previous community hearings, presenters have spoken articulately and passionately on the risks the Enbridge pipeline poses to our environment, jobs and economy,” said Fleming. “People are standing up for BC because their government is not, and they know it’s time for change for the better.”
One of the protesters was also angry with the last minute change.
"The people of Kelowna must also refuse to attend the Holiday Inn. I would suggest that we converge at the Sandman Hotel, the site of the hearing, to protest not only tar sands, pipelines and tankers, but also the unfair Joint Review Panel proceedings," says Dianne Varga.
At the Holiday Inn there was only about 12 people watching the live feed.
Fleming noted that New Democrats have taken a principled stand against the Enbridge pipeline, and have actively sought to participate in the process every step of the way. The environment critic presented to the panel in Vancouver.
“The Liberals, by contrast, have not only avoided taking a position, but are prepared to sell out our pristine land and coastline for the right price.”
Adrian Dix has said that, if elected, BC New Democrats would take practical steps to protect our province, including exercising the right to opt out of the federal government’s review process and setting up a rigorous “made in BC” environmental assessment that ensures the voices of all British Columbians are heard.