With a federal election just around the corner, Propeller Strategy — a non-profit organization that "strives to empower citizens and help magnify their voices when it comes to decisions about their freshwater, air, land, oceans and economy" — hopes to provide voters with some insight into one of the Sea to Sky's most debated projects — Woodfibre LNG.
Over the summer, Propeller sat down with each of the riding's four candidates to ask them straight up: Do you support the Woodfibre LNG project moving forward to approval, yes or no?
Green Party candidate Ken Melamed and NDP candidate Larry Koopman both said no. Conservative MP John Weston and Liberal candidate Pamela Goldsmith-Jones "avoided a yes or no answer," according to Propeller.
In follow-up interviews with Pique, the candidates elaborated on their positions.
"We don't need it. Our economy can grow and we can put Canadians to work without investing in this," Melamed said.
Melamed has proposed a four-point plan to stop Woodfibre LNG: Repeal the 30-per-cent federal subsidy to the industry, adopt international shipping standards, expand the marine protected area to include all of Howe Sound and introduce a national carbon pricing strategy.
"I really see LNG as being one of the defining issues of the campaign, because it comes to this important point of breaking the cycle of this situation that we find ourselves in, where governments are putting their political interests ahead of the people they're supposed to be serving," Melamed said.
"We've got this loud chorus of voices across the riding saying, 'Look, we're not buying this anymore. There's no social license.'"
Weston also employs the number four when examining the question of LNG.
"The four parts that govern my thinking about this are strong economic leadership, the importance of projects that add value, the critical need to avoid a 'stop' mentality and fourthly to subject these kinds of projects to independent processes that are science-based, objective, and not necessarily politicized," he said.
"(Squamish) is a community that needs new jobs and tax revenues and GDP, so while I'm not specifically endorsing Woodfibre LNG, you can't ignore a project that would add 430 indirect and direct jobs during its operating phase, and would spin off $86 million in revenues for government."
Projects such as Woodfibre LNG must be subject to independent reviews, Weston said.
"The NDP would say just no from the get go to a project like this. The Liberals would cloak their no in lots of impossible conditions," he said. "I say scientists and engineers should be evaluating this, and under our Conservative government there's a track record of following such independent objective processes."
But Koopman doesn't feel the government's process is credible.
"As we all know, Stephen Harper has gutted Canada's environmental assessment process, and it's leaving our coast vulnerable... we just can't continue simply rubber stamping projects without a credible environmental review process," he said.
"What an NDP government would do is overhaul that review process so that it is credible, and that it fully consults with the public and takes the environmental impact and the safety of the projects into full account, which isn't being done with Woodfibre."
During his canvassing, Koopman said he's heard arguments for and against the project, but the majority have been against. How would he balance the competing interests in the riding?
"I think that's where you have to take a consultative, collaborative approach, bringing all the players to the table, including First Nations, industry, municipalities, and then add a sound, environmental, credible review process in the midst of that." Koopman said.
Goldsmith-Jones agreed that the review process must be improved.
"Our faith in the review process has been shattered by this Conservative government, and so making the right decision is highly problematic," she said. "It's really a very, very tough situation Canada finds itself in when we can't rely on the independence and the integrity of the review process. That is fundamental."
A Liberal government would do a complete review of environmental regulations before it started to entertain new proposals, Goldsmith-Jones said.
"I do think that Canada can do so much better with regard to putting the environment front and centre in terms of the decisions we make as we build a 21st century economy.
"The fact that this government abandoned Kyoto and has kicked its targets for GHG emissions to the 22nd century shows their complete disregard for our role and reputation in the world, and with regard to building a contemporary economy based on renewables, innovation and technology."
The complete Propeller survey can be found at www.propellerstrategy.org/who_to_vote_for.
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