Nature Canada fighting for the Best Interest of the Bay of Fundy
[caption id="attachment_28942" align="alignleft" width="150"] Adam Bond, Articling Student[/caption]
At the Trade and Convention Centre on the Saint John Harbour, a crowd of about sixty pipeline supporters gathered around a pipeline segment on a trailer behind a black Ford F-150. Across the large pipe was written “We support #EnergyEast”. Inside, people (mostly in suits) chatted politely while the NEB team provided directions, answered questions, and worked very hard to be as helpful as possible. The Panel entered, the room rose to their feet. The Panel sat, the room followed. The Proponents presented their project and Nature Canada was invited as the first intervenor to make their submissions to the NEB Panel reviewing the Energy East application.
I arrived in Saint John several days before the Panel Sessions to do some media and organize with other intervenors that Nature Canada is working with on Energy East. A local expert on birds, Jim Wilson, offered to take me on a morning tour of the Bay of Fundy coast just south of Saint John. A thick fog had settled on the region the morning Jim picked me up for our drive down the coast. Though visibility was reduced, Jim managed to point out a number of different birds as we stopped at various fishing communities and he spoke passionately about their characteristics, migration patterns, and special facts of each bird. You can see a video of Jim here.
Jim, it turns out, is more than an expert on birds. He is also an expert on New Brunswick. As a retired businessman and accountant, he has an advanced understanding of the economic difficulties facing the province and the real impact those difficulties have on individuals and families. Jim is clearly concerned about the potential consequences Energy East may have on the beautiful natural environments and wildlife in the Bay of Fundy, but he is also concerned about the impact of a struggling economy on New Brunswickers. To understand the reception of Energy East in this province, it is important to understand the dynamic between the province’s love for nature and the desperation for jobs.
Saint John is a city with markings of better times. Large, once beautiful homes left uncared for and dilapidated. City parks overgrown with weeds and rusted structures. A considerable city centre of historic and commercial buildings, many empty due to the lack of business. There remain many beautiful places, such as the Irving Nature Park, Rockwood Park and its Cherry Brook Zoo, golf course and beach at Lily Lake. But while the small city is littered with hidden treasures, those assets are showing their age.
According to Jim, New Brunswick is a province filled with opportunity, and entrepreneurial people can make a good living for themselves. There is something, however, holding the province back. For many, it seems, Energy East may be part of the answer to their problems. Starting Monday (August 8th), and continuing throughout the NEB Energy East review process over the next year, Nature Canada will do everything it can to help determine whether the proposed project is part of the answer or part of the problem for the people and nature of New Brunswick. While the Proponents make grand claims about the economic benefits, there are real risks that this project could reinforce the old adage to be careful what you wish for.
At the Convention Centre in Saint John on Monday morning, Lisa Mitchell, a staff lawyer with East Coast Environmental Law and counsel representing Nature Canada and Nature NB at the NEB Energy East review process, delivered our submissions. We are neither in support of, or in opposition to, the project. We do have concerns, we do have questions, and we will work to ensure the most rigorous and reliable processes possible will lead to nature being at the forefront of deliberations.