Kitimat councillors settle on wording for Enbridge plebiscite; choice not unanimous

More questions may be added before the whole ballot is finalized ahead of the April vote.

Councillors settled on at least one question for an upcoming plebiscite in the community, but the decision was not unanimous.

Namely some councillors felt the decided-upon question was too wordy and could be confusing to a voter.

The question decided upon is: Do you support the final report recommendation of the Joint Review Panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Authority and National Energy Board, that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project be approved, subject to 209 conditions set out in Volume 2 of the JRP’s final report?

“I know that maybe it’s a little long, but by having the plebiscite question worded in such a fashion not only are we asking if you’re in favour of Enbridge Northern Gateway or not, we’re saying ‘are you in favour of the conclusions of the joint review panel?’” said Mario Feldhoff, who moved the wording.

“I think it’s too confusing,” was Phil Germuth’s response to the wording, adding that no everybody will read the JRP report.

But in councillor Mary Murphy’s opinion, it’s in the best interest of a voter to read the report before casting their vote.

“People should be reading that report, agreeing with it or not agreeing with it is one thing, but at least they’re putting some meat into whatever decision that they’re making, so I’m in support of it,” she said.

But Rob Goffinet was adamantly opposed to such a lengthy question.

“We would be accused of ‘you must be kidding.’ This is like the referendum debate in Quebec on steroids. It must be a clear, easily understood question, that has no nuances,” he said.

Edwin Empinado also reiterated what he has said in past meetings that he’d like to see more involvement from all sides of the debate in establishing the questions.

The motion on the wording of the question passed, with Feldhoff, Mayor Joanne Monaghan, Empinado and Murphy in favour.

The question regarding the question wasn’t the only debate to be had on the matter though.

Further to that motion, councillors also moved to add “Undecided” to the list of possible responses on the ballot.

“I think yes and no are a very difficult thing because I think many of us are against for one part of it and no for the other,” said Monaghan. “It would not give the exact answer that we want.”

Murphy also said she’d want to see ‘undecided’ added to the plebscite.

From here council will be waiting for suggested further questions to ask residents.

“If we’re going to have a plebiscite I feel we should try to get as much information out of that plebiscite as we can, within reason,” said councillor Scott. “I think having additional questions would be a good idea.”

However the discussion partially centred on alternative questions such as if any opinion on Northern Gateway changes if it is linked to a refinery which had Goffinet concerned.

“So in effect you’re going to say ‘are you in favour of the Northern Gateway project, with various concerns,’ and ‘if the Northern Gateway project was not the Northern Gateway project…would you support it then?’” he said. “What you’re doing is confusing things even more, introducing a hypothetical ‘if’, it has nothing to do with your main question.”

But Murphy said that the refinery issue could bring up more discussion and provide more insight into opinions.

Scott agreed with Murphy, saying pipeline opposition could soften if linked with refined products.

Council moved to table discussion while waiting for staff to come back with additional questions, regarding the refinery issue, and others centered around whether people’s concerns are more pipeline-based, marine-based or both.

Advanced voting days for the plebiscite are set for April 2, April 9, and a general voting day on April 12. Voting at Riverlodge will take place on April 2 and April 9, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mount Elizabeth Secondary School cafeteria and the Riverlodge will be the voting locations on April 12. Special voting will also be allowed at Kiwanis Village, Kitimat General Hospital, Multi-Level Care and Delta King Place.

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