OUR VIEW: Bring debate to LNG project

These days, public consultation is part of an organization’s strategic plan and is carefully controlled.

Councillors with the District of North Saanich may have the best of intentions when it comes to a desire to hold a public information meeting about the proposed liquefied nautral gas (LNG) project across the Saanich Inlet.

They may find, however, that those intentions will do little to assuage people’s fears about LNG, tanker traffic and pipelines.

North Saanich plans on reaching out to its municipal and First Nations neighbours on this subject. Coun. Jack Thornburgh hopes to have all sides of the issue there — proponents Steelhead LNG, as well as project opponents. He wants to know more about the status of the proposal, how far along it is in the regulatory process and many, many more details. He also wants to allow this meeting to be open to opponents.

It’s safe to say that no matter how much security they bring in, or how often they ask people to be respectful, people who don’t want the LNG plant to happen will not listen to project managers list off dates, times, facts and figures.

Nor will the proponent want to sit and listen to opposing lists of facts, figures and fears — even if said meeting is as polite as a typical tea time.

There was a time when public discourse saw many such meetings — and more often than not, they quickly degenerated into shouting matches between people who were not going to be convinced, either way, that their positions had more room for grey areas than all of the black and white on the table.

These days, public consultation is part of an organization’s strategic plan and is carefully controlled. Opposition voices are too often sanitized, lumped into single categories and all too often disregarded for one reason or another — such as being cast off as NIMBYism. And in the end, neither side ends up feeling like they’ve been heard, as resentment and distrust seems to take over.

The solution? Either have a proper debate among experts and let the public decide — or allow such meetings to degenerate into name-calling and shouting.

We hope North Saanich seriously opts for the former.

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