BAXYARD BANTER: Kitimat council needs to be courageous in dealing with Gateway question

Northern Sentinel columnist Malcolm Baxter reacts to the ongoing issue of Kitimat's plebiscite for Northern Gateway Pipelines.

You have doubtless heard the expression, “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

That’s pretty much the way I have felt watching city council’s contortions over Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project.

When, back in the summer of 2010, council decided to adopt a position of neutrality pending the verdict of the Joint Review Panel, I did not think that an unreasonable stance.

After all Northern Gateway was a complex project and the JRP process would shed a lot of light on those complexities.

So rather than the knee jerk reaction of other councils up here, Kitimat had sensibly decided to keep its powder dry until it was better informed on the project and its implications.

I anticipated a scenario in which, once the JRP report had been released, councillors would be given, say, a month to pore over the document and then they would vote on whether they supported the project or not.

But while the JRP hearings were still going on council decided that whatever the report said, the city would survey the people of Kitimat for their views before any such vote.

On the one side you could characterise that as a cop out given council, elected to make decisions in the best interests of the community, intended to abdicate that responsibility.

On the other you could applaud the decision as essentially democratic – as in let the people decide.

Except the people are not really going to decide since the results of any such survey – since upgraded to a $15,000 full blown plebiscite – would not be binding.

So what the heck is the point of it?

And now it has descended to the level of farce with hours of debate over the wording of the question to be put to the people.

Let’s get realistic here.

Most councillors describe the project as divisive and in doing so appear to accept that the plebiscite result will be a close one. So let’s say the result is 40 per cent in favour, 40 per cent against and 20 percent undecided.

Now what do they do?

And even if it was a clear 60:40 result one way or the other, do you seriously think, for example, councillors Phil Germuth or Mario Feldhoff are going to toss their principles aside?

So here’s a suggestion: rescind all the motions that have been made to date and go straight to a council vote.

But that would be a courageous decision and courage is a commodity that is in short supply in an election year.


Changing tack, readers will recall my January 1 column on Canada Post.

Space constraints did not allow me to mention a dark threat contained in the corporation’s grand action plan.

In the section that outlined its intention to establish more sub-post offices in retail locations, it said the following: “Many corporate-run post offices do not generate enough revenue to support their own costs, let alone cover the cost to sort, transport and deliver the mail to and from that low-traffic location.”

So not only will we lose our door step delivery, it looks like we are eventually going to lose our post office as well.

All in the name of giving us better service. Not.