Pamela Goldsmith-Jones knows some people are upset with her over the federal granting of an environmental assessment certificate to the Woodfibre LNG Project on March 18.
After all, the newly elected Member of Parliament for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country was recently in Squamish for a town hall Feb. 27, when about 300 people, mostly anti-LNG, packed the Eagle Eye Theatre to share their views.
“It is a very, very tough situation for me to be in,” she acknowledged Thursday from her Ottawa office, almost a week after Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced she had granted the certificate.
“I have done my best to represent the interests of the community with regard to the environment, and it is terrible to be stuck with a system that nobody has any faith in from before,” she said, referring to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s process.
Goldsmith-Jones said she talks to McKenna daily about constituents’ concerns, and quickly after the decision was announced, she went to Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo, “talking to him about the standards for fish and fish habitat, that we have to have in place, talking about the threat of the cooling system, talking about the abundance of herring,” she said.
She said she also met with Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to discuss coastal protection.
“I am not giving up,” Goldsmith-Jones said. “People are obviously being very critical of me, but to me, I know where that comes from and I am hanging in there.”
“With the decision that has been made by the minister, it runs with 122 conditions and another 25 conditions of the Squamish Nation,” she said. “And there’s a lot of steps to go through. Principally, these are Fisheries and Transport Canada permits that need to be issued, and so I am vigilant because I think it is still going to be quite a challenge. I feel our government means it when it says it is going to stand up for the environment.”
Brenda Broughton, a former mayor of Lions Bay, is one who is disappointed by the decision. She reached out to Goldsmith-Jones in emails forwarded to The Squamish Chief.
“This decision is not only wrong, it is egregious, that no elected officials seemed to have briefed themselves on such an important file,” she wrote in an email to MP Goldsmith-Jones on March 23.
“How are you planning to proceed as our member of Parliament, and with 9,800 responses, and 99.1 per cent in opposition?” Broughton asked the MP.
“We will focus on the opposition to LNG supertanker shipping and the lack of regulations,” Broughton said.
Goldsmith-Jones said she used her office’s own budget to host the Squamish town hall and those in other communities during the public comment period for the federal assessment.
“In our case, it was only a three-week window, and I think it is challenging to be the MP who is both in charge of the process, but also responsible for representing the community, so I did what I thought was the right thing to do, which was at least hosting these meetings.”
She had the meetings video-recorded and took the videos personally to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, she said.
“I know that they went through it all, but in the end the minister had a very narrow decision to make with regard to signing off on the assessment. That is not to say we are anywhere close to having the right legislation in place for fish habitat protection and for transportation safety.”
Goldsmith-Jones said she will be hosting a series of drop-in meetings in the riding in the coming weeks.
“I know people have a lot of things to say, and I am responsible for that,” she said.