The Joint Review Panel decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline was announced Dec. 19 in a fragmented, quite bizarre live-TV broadcast from the National Energy Board in Calgary.
Getting all tuned up for the final episode in the Joint Review Panel series (see previous posts), I got the right channel lined up on my news feed at the announced time and sat myself down. And waited, and waited. And waited, staring at the grey computer screen.
“Live stream starting shortly.”
And more later than sooner, the live stream began with the usual scene – reporters fuddling around wiring up and plugging in microphones and … waiting. After awhile the NEB spokesperson materialized behind the podium facing the cameras. After a fluster or two and some jittering around composing herself, the communication officer faced the cameras and intoned from the script.
“The Joint Review Panel for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project today recommended that the federal government approve the project subject to 209 conditions. Based on a scientific and precautionary approach to this complex review the panel found that the project if built and operated within the conditions set out in its report would be in the Canadian public interest.”
And that was it. The announcement took less than 30 seconds
A few stunted questions were lobbed forward and deflected as needed and the screen faded to grey.
“Thanks for watching. “
The whole thing took less than seven minutes.
As the character in American Splendor, portrayed by Paul Giamatti, moans while brooding upon the image of his own face in the bathroom mirror each morning, “Well, that was a reliable disappointment.”
After two years and how-many thousands of individual, group, government, scientific, corporate and communal presentations and discussion, this was the whimper at the end.
Oh, and a 400-page downloadable PDF and 209 “conditions” as consolation.
What I hear is that familiar big fat sucking sound of transparency and accountability disappearing, as our trust is yet once more vaccuumed up into the maw of the Harper government.
The Northern Gateway report is obviously about a lot of issues with enough legal, scientific and economic implications to challenge us all. But, in the name of just good ordinary common civility, for all those who came forward, prepared presentations and spoke to the three-member panel in the past two years, can somebody please give me a good reason why as citizens we should not be accorded the common courtesy of their thanks and presence when the outcome of their assessments of our interests is announced.
For many, at least where I live, these people where the faces, the presence and the process of governance in our midst. These three people came in their quasi-judicial and official capacities, if not as our advocates, at the very least as our intermediaries with our government. Sheila Leggett, Hans Matthews and Kenneth Bateman came to Haida Gwaii several times during the months of the Review. We met them with willingness, courtesy – and trust – to be heard.
And then, at the end of the day, they don’t have enough respect to show up… at all. Writing a tome does not make up for personal witness and visibility in the quest for believability, confidence and trust.
What’s left for me is a void, as if the presence of real people is of no matter at all… either here where we live, or there were decisions are made.
After dropping their load – these people drift off into some faceless void and behind follows a fog, and a noticeable whiff of betrayal.
What the heck was that all about?