Not quite putting my feet up yet

I wanted to be a spectator as LNG Canada proceeds with its massive project

By Allan Hewitson

A weekly column with no precise limitations on content – that will be so much fun, I thought, several years ago – I’m embarrassed to say I don’t exactly know when it was that then-Northern Sentinel publisher, Sandra Dugdale, and editor, Malcolm Baxter, accepted my two-paragraph proposal for Under Miscellaneous.

I just know I was retiring, would have ‘some’ time on my hands and wanted to keep writing.

I never realized just how difficult it would frequently be to select an appropriate locally-connected (or otherwise) subject for a column that’s mostly news-oriented but gets written a week before it appears, while still being relevant and not appear dated.

Often, it’s even more difficult when, as last week, it gets picked up for wider exposure on the internet as “of local interest” on Google News regional coverage.

I’ve sort of cheated a few times, by using my column “title” to present a shortened miscellany of odd facts or more peculiar story items, on the simple basis that they piqued my curiosity and might be enjoyed or of interest to others who may have missed them. That’s easier than coming up with 500-600 words to explain a specific abbreviated point of view.

For a 79th birthday present to myself a few weeks ago I negotiated with editor Gerry Leibel to cut to twice a month and get relief from local writer, Doug Thomson, in the other weeks.

I wanted to stay in the picture over the next couple of years to be a spectator as LNG Canada proceeds with its massive project, which many agree will broaden the industrial scope of the Port of Kitimat, add to its service capacity and its attraction for entrepreneurs and smaller businesses to serve the town’s growing needs.

I feel very positive about this because I have watched with some dismay the closing of too many larger and smaller local businesses and the inevitable accompanying population shrinkage.

I believe in community growth – I think it’s a necessity for any municipality intent on improving its facilities and services for a capable working or retired populace. Kitimat has numerous advantages as a northern port – they are well known, an extensive and safe deep-water ice-free harbour, 94 km from the open Pacific Ocean trade routes with numerous existing services and developable land for more.

It can’t happen without new jobs – and with anticipated 900 plus full-time jobs associated with LNG Canada – I share the enthusiasm that accompanied the FID by the partners just a few weeks ago – and welcomed the support of the federal and provincial governments for Kitimat again hosting the largest single project in Canadian history – for the second time.

I know there is an element of local, provincial and other opposition to development of any kind, whether it’s on the B.C. coast or anywhere else, and I expect there will be numerous hurdles along the way.

But I also feel the sense of anticipation and excitement that always accompanies any step forward in a community’s growth and I always prefer to take the positive view, with the full knowledge that NIMBY-type complainers will ensure their voices are heard.

The announcement of the March 2019 dates for the NEB hearings to consider a jurisdictional challenge of the approval of a pipeline needed to supply natural gas to the recently sanctioned $40-billion LNG project is welcome news to me as is the accompanying statement that planning for construction to begin early next year will continue based on the $6.2-billion Coastal GasLink Pipeline’s provincial approvals and permits.

I’m likely less satisfied with the rejection of applications for intervenor status by the community, while permission was granted to the applicant and the environmental group Ecojustice.

That does not make a great deal of sense to me. I take some comfort that the Board did give standing to Alberta and the federal government and that the jurisdictional question will be the focus of the hearings.

It’s all ahead and will be of critical interest to Kitimat, Terrace and the northwest. We’ll all be watching carefully.

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