Protesters, MP barred from pipeline hearing in Victoria
The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the risks of a hypothetical tanker spill off the B.C. coast in areas like Prince Rupert, shown here on Dec. 11, 2012. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A government panel reviewing the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project barred the public from entering a room where a hearing was to take place in Victoria on Friday.
Uniformed police officers stood guard in front of the Delta Ocean Point hotel in Victoria where the hearing was held, keeping protesters away from the proceedings.
Victoria’s member of Parliament, Murray Rankin, was one of the people kept out of the hearing.
“This is a public hearing that isn't really open to the public. They've found ways to get the public to go someplace else,” Rankin told CTV BC.
Anyone who was not pre-registered to speak was sent to another, nearby hotel where the proceedings could be watched on a screen.
Rankin, along with about half a dozen other people, were forced the watch the televised hearing.
The protesters and members of the public were kept out of the room to avoid disruptions during the hearing, said Annie Roy, spokeswoman for the joint review panel.
“Their main goal was to hear from those registered speakers, and they wanted to do so in a respectful and orderly environment,” Roy said.
Meanwhile, about 150 protesters stayed outside the hotel where the panel was meeting for the duration of the hearing.
“Luckily it's not raining, But yeah, we're just gathering as close as we can to the hearing,” said Eric Nordal, who was protesting outside the main venue.
Enbridge, however, said it has no say over how the hearings are organized,
“This was not our decision, we had no role in this reformat. Again, our role here is to listen,” said Ivan Giesbrecht, communications manager for Enbridge.
The proposed Northern Gateway project would deliver diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to a tanker port in Kitimat, B.C.
Overall, the project is expected to boost Canada's GDP by $270 billion over 30 years, with $2.6 billion in tax revenues for local, provincial and the federal governments. It’s also expected to generate $81 billion in direct and indirect revenues for the federal and provincial governments.
The government-mandated joint review panel is tasked with assessing the environmental impacts of the project.
The panel is set to arrive in Vancouver on Jan. 14. Members of the public will also have to watch the Vancouver hearing on a screen at a nearby hotel, or view the proceedings online.
- With files from The Canadian Press and CTV BC