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Energy East: The right whale and the wrong company

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Image: North Atlantic Right Whale button produced by the Council of Canadians

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The North Atlantic right whale is a symbol of the biodiversity and fragility of the Bay of Fundy. It is a magnificent marine mammal and it is also the most endangered whale in the world. August and September are the months when these and other whales come into the Bay of Fundy in the largest numbers, attracted to the rich biodiversity of the Bay of Fundy that rivals the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon rainforest.

It is also a critical feeding stopover area along the eastern seaboard of North America for 34 species of fall migrating birds on their way to Central and South America, including hundreds of thousands of sandpipers and plovers, making it one of six Canadian sites in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. These birds come to the salt marshes, and vast stretches of mudflats of the Bay of Fundy exposed twice a day during low tide.

So what does TransCanada do at this critical time? They bring in a barge into the Bay of Fundy to do borehole drilling at this time. Why would TransCanada conduct this work just as whales and migratory birds are coming into the Bay of Fundy in increasing numbers in August and September? This type of borehole testing generates continuous noise which has the potential to adversely affect whale behaviour several dozens of kilometres from the source. 

And to create additional public uproar, TransCanada planned this work and towed the barge into the harbour without consulting the residents.

And did TransCanada give notice and meaningful consultation to Indigenous people? No. The Bay of Fundy and Saint John River Basin in New Brunswick is territory where Aboriginal land title and rights have never been ceded or surrendered by the Wolastoqey Nation. Instead, both New Brunswick and Indigenous people are bound by pre-Confederation treaties called the Peace and Friendship treaties. This Nation's territory is the present location of 6 Wolastoq (Maliseet) First Nations.

And what care did TransCanada give to homes near where the testing is being conducted just off the shore? Why has TransCanada not conducted independent, third-party testing of their foundation and water wells prior to any drilling? Without this baseline testing, residents who experience a problem would be put in a "prove-it-was-the-testing-that-caused-your-problem" situation.

TransCanada talk about their extensive review process and public outreach, yet the plans and date for this testing in the Bay of Fundy were kept secret. It was only after a six-page work plan was leaked to a resident, did the public learn of TransCanada's plans.

And how does this company react to their secret being let out?  They had their spokesperson Tim Duboyce state publicly that the residents near the planned testing were notified. But the company spin is wrong. No work plan was shared for this drilling. No timeline was shared. And at a July 15 meeting of an invitation-only "community liaison meeting," there was just a passing reference to testing in the future.

TransCanada is using their highly restrictive meetings -- with only a few selected residents -- as a public relations hammer against the community of Red Head. To test the genuineness of this "community liaison meeting," other Red Head residents who attempted to simply sit in and observe a previous meeting were stopped at the door by private security and escorted off the property.

No transparency. No consultation. No due diligence.  

This mess by TransCanada is a wake-up call for how this entire Energy East project might proceed.

TransCanada is the wrong company to have near the right whale. Please take your barge and leave the Bay of Fundy. Leave the right whale and the Bay of Fundy alone. #NoEnergyEast

Image credit: North Atlantic Right Whale button produced by the Council of Canadians - Fredericton Chapter

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