Viewpoint: Public meeting lacks adequate notice

By Donald Gordon We are writing to express our outrage regarding the manner in which Lafarge Canada Ltd. scheduled an important public meeting about its application for an expansion of its coal storage capacity, as part of its expansion in coal handling capacity at its Texada Island site. This is clearly a continuation of Lafarge’s strategy to limit public knowledge and comment.

Firstly, this crucial public meeting, of great impact to Texada and surrounding areas, was called with just two weeks notification.

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Secondly, it was scheduled for August 19, at a time when many people have scheduled their holidays or have long-planned family engagements and are therefore unable to attend.

Thirdly, the meeting was scheduled to run until 9 pm, forcing many of us who wished to attend from off-island to be unable to return home until the following day. This made attendance impossible for many with childcare, family or work obligations.

Fourthly, Lafarge did not make any effort to publicize this meeting. In fact, it seems clear that a deliberate effort was made to minimize public awareness of this meeting.   We were first informed of this meeting when a well-informed Gillies Bay resident spotted a small notice among the many local advertisements on the Gillies Bay store bulletin board. He noted that the notice did not mention the word coal, but only referred to a “permit amendment” amid legal language. Apparently there was one two-inch ad in the Powell River Peak and a story, but we have not found anyone who have seen them.

This clearly is a continuation of Lafarge’s strategy to limit public comment. Lafarge would not make its permit application available on-line. Instead, it was available for public viewing at the Texada Island Public Library. This was absurd. Now, it is equally absurd that Lafarge feels that a small notice on a community bulletin board is sufficient public notice for a meeting of this importance.

Luckily, Ed Taje of the ministry of energy and mines included the date of this meeting in his responses to some of those individuals who expressed concern about the proposal.

These continuing efforts to limit public knowledge and comment are entirely unacceptable. These are not the actions of a respectable corporate citizen.

Public meetings, with adequate public notice, must be held in all communities to be impacted by this proposed coal terminal, and along the proposed open-topped barge route. These include: Lasqueti Island, Powell River, Sunshine Coast, Delta and Surrey. If Lafarge does not have the budget to hold these meetings to address public concerns, then it certainly does not have the budget to operate a safe, dust-free and environmentally benign coal terminal.

We join with the mayor of Surrey, who is calling for a full public review of the health, environmental and economic impacts of this proposal. An unpublicized meeting, strategically held during an evening in August to limit public involvement, is an insult to the thousands of people with well-informed concerns about this proposal.

Donald Gordon is a house builder whose family has been connected to Lasqueti Island since the late 1960s and whose father worked on the construction of the Texada Iron Mine. A version of this letter, sent to the ministry of energy and mines, was signed by 39 people.

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