Common Voice Northwest out of turn on pipeline

By Tom Cook

First published in the Chronicle Journal January 13, 2017

I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the Jan. 2 article about Common Voice Northwest and their Energy East forums. Who is Common Voice Northwest?

They are a Thunder Bay-based non-profit group which was formed via a collaboration of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) and the regional chambers of commerce. NOMA is an ‘old boys’ network’ of representatives from Northwestern Ontario municipalities to share information and concerns, and to promote business in the area. Their president is Mayor Dave Canfield from Kenora and board member, Coun. Iain Angus from Thunder Bay is executive director of Common Voice Northwest.

Unfortunately, NOMA sometimes makes pronouncements such as support for the Energy East Pipeline proposal which has not been supported by either Thunder Bay city council or Kenora city council. Given this situation, I have some concerns about a possible bias in Common Voice Northwest research.

The fact that this group has accessed $40,000 of public money to, in effect, help complete TransCanada Pipelines’ application to build Energy East – to do the work which TransCanada should have done years ago – boggles the mind! But then, those of us who have followed TransCanada’s four-year quest for support for Energy East have noted other mind-boggling things such as the National Energy Board’s (NEB) criticisms of TransCanada’s application, and the Ontario Energy Board’s declaration of inadequate and incomplete research by TransCanada in that same application. The NEB in fact sent TransCanada back to do it again.

It is so critical that we speak out to protect our water since the Harper government removed all protections from 98 per cent of our lakes and rivers at the request of the mining and fossil fuel industries. The present Liberal government has not repealed those changes (they need to re-instate the Navigable Waters Protection Act). We must flood these CVNW forums with people demanding protection for all watersheds.

To remind us of the gem we have to protect, please check out the video, A Flight along the Energy East Corridor on YouTube, commissioned by the Ontario Rivers Alliance. It is a 5-minute video; the red vertical lines shown indicate lakes, rivers and streams which are crossed by the pipeline (1,852 of them). The while lines on either side show how far TransCanada Pipelines believes the pipeline could have a negative impact (Volume 15, Part C, 6.1.4 of the Energy East application). We know that in Kalamazoo, Mich., a bitumen spill travelled 60-plus kilometres downstream, so this would seem a conservative estimate.

Of particular interest around Thunder Bay might be Lake Nipigon and the Nipigon River leading to Lake Superior, the Black Sturgeon River to Black Bay, Dog Lake and the Kam River system and Lac des Milles Lacs, all places at risk.

This is serious business! The oil industry is spending millions on PR, phony science and misinformation. If we lose this fight we help lock the planet into a climate spiral that can’t be stopped. Greed will triumph and people, once again, will lose.

Tom Cook
Thunder Bay