SpruceRoots Magazine - February, 2000

slow drip

Minister's "quiet consultation" up for Round 2

The slick drive to lift the federal and provincial moratorium on offshore drilling and exploration for oil and gas in Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound is moving along.

The BC Commissioner of Northern Development, John Backhouse, says he will begin a second round of consultation on the issue in late January with a report expected in April or May.

The first round, which focused on what Backhouse calls "quiet consultation" with over 140 people in northwestern BC by Conflict Managers Group, produced a five page $96,000 report released in September 1999.

"There was a great deal of interest in participating in a public process to consider the future of the offshore oil and gas industry," Backhouse says of the report.

The report echoes Backhouse in its conclusion that there is "a serious will and interest in the north to develop a process model to carefully examine the merits of this public policy issue." In other words, as far as the northwest is concerned, we're ready to begin looking at lifting the moratorium.

Although the report is confident it represents an accurate reflection of the mood of north-westerners as it pertains to oil and gas, it fails to mention the identities of the 140 individuals consulted with, the criteria for choosing them, or the actual content of their remarks on the grounds that anonymity would "ensure that the received conversations would be frank and candid."

Backhouse says he is again contracting the Conflict Managers Group to conduct this second round of consultation with residents of northern Vancouver Island, all levels of government, industry, and environmentalists. Like the first round, these consultations will be conducted anonymously, and Backhouse presciently predicts the "frank and candid conversations" are likely to produce the same conclusions as the first.

Accordingly, Backhouse has asked the Conflict Managers Group to develop a meaningful public process to examine the issue of lifting the moratorium. The consultants are also expected to research offshore exploration and drilling efforts in Hibernia and the North Sea and then provide the appropriate information gleaned from experience there which people here can use to make "intelligent" decisions on the future of offshore drilling in BC.

For those interested in participating in the seemingly inevitable public process to come, Backhouse recommends waiting until further notice. "I would suggest that they wait and we will provide some information on a contact person."

SpruceRoots Magazine - November, 1999