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Merv Ritchie presents to the JRP in Kitimat on August 31, 2010
COMMENTARY · 15th November 2011
Merv Ritchie
As Nathan Cullen stated Friday at the Kiva Cafť during a stop here in Terrace on his NDP leadership tour, campaigns should be about an exchange of ideas and the vision for the future. Bad campaigns are beauty contests, just some sort of general popularity contest where the people donít really know what theyíre voting for or against.

And this is what is happening in Terrace. "Just say No to Enbridge Oil", is not an exchange of ideas and nor is, "At least I haven't messed anything up" or "vote for me because I'm a woman". None of these are ideas, and certainly none are original.

Today it appears as if everyone is on the same side stating they are against Enbridge and for the environment. Well great then, what are you doing, what have you done, and what do you plan to do about it? How about an idea, a vision, just one. Just silence?

This is where I separate myself from the pack. I have not only stated how bad I feel the concept of piping and shipping crude oil through our region, I have a plan and presented it over a year ago.

I attended the National Energy Boardís Joint Review Panel on August 31 last year and delivered a presentation detailing the problems with the proposal. None of the other candidates even addressed the JRP.

I have attended every meeting and presentation by the NEB, the proponents and all opponents in an effort to understand everyoneís positions, again which most of the others have not done.

I have even presented my own independent research bringing new, previously unknown, information to the discussion table on the construction of the tankers.

And more than all of this I have been keeping the entire Northwest fully and completely informed of every activity, pro and con, regarding Everything Enbridge.

And still it is not good enough to just stand up and say No. You must have more than that.

Imagine entering into a negotiation and those sitting opposite you present a proposal. You respond with, No. What happens next? Where is the too and fro? How can anyone debate and discuss an idea or a proposal without having a conversation.

This would be like dealing with an intransigent child saying "No!" at every suggestion when you are trying to get them into a car or to leave the toy store. What do you generally end up doing? Right, ignore the no's and just pick up the child. He or she will generally start screaming and struggling, crying about the audacity of you not just accepting the no and leaving.

The same thing goes with union-management relationships. You must have an exchange of ideas and engage in a debate. The one that comes to the table with the best, most well rounded package of knowledge, usually comes out ahead. The union canít just say, this is what we want and if you donít like it too bad.

And the same thing goes for Enbridge. It is not good enough to just say no. The company, with the support and might of the government will just pick you up and move you out of the way, while you scream like a child who has had his treat taken away.

As I already have, I plan to engage in the debate; to challenge the company and the government on their preconceived plans. To do this one must understand the foundation of the debate. Enbridge is just a pipeline company. They are not selling anything. They donít sell oil. It is the companies in northern Alberta that have a product to sell and the current Canadian government is on record as wanting to help them sell that product.

As I stated in my presentation the JRP, this is where the discussion needs to begin. Enbridge comes long after we get through the debate on refining. And even before we get to Enbridge we will need to debate tankers with the government and the concept of how oil is presently transported on the open seas. More than just crude oil tankers too, all vessels need to have their fuel tanks, the bunker fuel for their engines, contained in a different manner. Witness the environmental mess on the coast of New Zealand simply from a container vessel, that which travel through BC Coastal waters every day.

And after all the respectful and polite debate, fully engaged and participatory, the government still says they are moving ahead without regard for the concerns of the people, what is the plan to unite all the people to stand together?

Just like Cullen stated on Friday, "A good campaign, a good election is an exchange of ideas right, you put up one idea you versus another, you have a too and fro [...] thatís what good campaigns are about. Bad campaigns are beauty contests [...] where it's just some sort of general popularity contest where people donít know what theyíre for and what theyíre against. The best campaigns are ideas, sharing of ideas"

This is what is so terribly wrong with this Terrace election campaign for Mayor. No one but I has presented any ideas. It is difficult to have a debate of ideas when there is only one persons set of ideas on the table. When Nathan said, "Bad campaigns are beauty contests", he ended that sentence with, "which I hope to God this one isnít because Iím dead before I got started."

I understand that sentiment completely.
community dialogue
Comment by dawna on 15th November 2011
Merv, the Community All Candidates Dialogue held last Saturday was a step in the right direction. Those of us who attended didn't necessarily come to the table with well rounded packages, but better yet, we came with open minds.