The municipality is looking to hold its first public meeting on the proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Howe Sound in mid-October. But before officials go to residents, District of Squamish council needs to understand the goals and objectives of the gathering, Mayor Rob Kirkham said.
Last June, municipal officials announced the creation of a community committee to help district staff wade through information surrounding the proposed Woodfibre Natural Gas development. The group has met regularly, with experts from various fields – from shipping to Clean Energy Canada – speaking at the meetings. It’s time to share that information but the big question is how, Kirkham said.
Originally, council eyed holding a town hall meeting in September. However the LNG committee is scheduled to present its findings to council on Sept. 16, leaving little time to organize a forum, Kirkham noted.
When planning an LNG meeting officials should think about the wanted outcome, said Catherine Rockandel, the facilitator for the LNG committee. Bringing people together without a clear understanding of goals will likely just annoy residents, she warned, adding they could leave with a sense that nothing was achieved.
“Traditional town halls are not a good model,” she said, noting they tend to polarize the public.
Coun. Ron Sander said he doesn’t want to see a public forum turn into a “witch burning” meeting. Whatever form officials go with, it must solve issues rather than create them, he added. Sander recommended that the initial LNG meeting focuses on the district’s jurisdiction; explaining where the municipality can step in with regard to the proposed plant.
Sander questioned the logic of pouring money into a task that the Woodfibre proponent will have to undertake.
“It kind of starts at $150 an hour for these experts,” he said. “We don’t have that money, especially when it is indirectly parallel with what is going on in the [provincial] environmental assessment process.”
Coun. Patricia Heintzman said she sees this meeting as the first of many. Coun Ted Prior agreed, adding he wants to hear the community’s concerns and questions. Coun. Susan Chapelle said the meetings should stick to facts and scientific data.
District staff are slated to come back to council with meeting options. In the meantime, residents can follow the
LNG committee’s conversations
online, Rockandel said. All the committee’s minutes, presentations to the group and questions can be found at www.squamish.ca.
“The questions and the minutes are very detailed,” she said.