Unlike most communities along the Highway 16 corridor, the Village of Telkwa council is without a position on the proposed Enbridge pipeline and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Opinions regarding the proposed pipeline were mixed, but Councillor Rimas Zitkauskas made his position clear at the outset of the discussion.
“We weren’t elected to decide on what’s best for Canada, what’s best for the province of British Columbia, or for the oil industry or for Enbridge and we’re definitely not here to decide what’s best for our foreign trading partners,” Zitkauskas said to begin the discussion.
“However we do sit here to decide what’s best for Telkwa.
“We need to consider there will be two pipelines built within 80 kilometres of our village that will cross the headwaters of the Morice which is where we draw our drinking water.
“In the best interests of Telkwa and solely in the best interests of Telkwa, I’m not in favour of the Enbridge project,” Zitkauskas said.
In response, Carmen Graf, mayor of the Village of Telkwa, said he felt council didn’t have a responsibility to become involved in the debate surrounding the proposed pipeline.
“Just because the rest of the communities west of us have come out in opposition, there’s no reason we should,” Graf said.
“I don’t make decisions on what if or what could happen, we have to make decisions on what’s best for today and for this community.”
Zitkauskas noted neither Enbridge, nor the provincial or federal governments have pledged to establish a fund to cover costs associated with the clean up of a spill from the pipelines.
Given the Village of Telkwa made significant investments to its water infrastructure and the 5-year budget plan includes additional, Zitkauskas argued supporting the pipeline would jeopardize those investments.
Although he is personally against the proposed Enbridge pipeline, Councillor Rick Fuerst said he could not decide because the community seemed divided on the issue.
“Personally I’m against the pipeline,” Fuerst said, adding, “but I’m not against development in the north or anti-growth.”
“I think we need big projects in the north, I think we need them to be sustainable.”
Councillor Brad Layton echoed Mayor Graf’s position, saying he would feel irresponsible making a decision regarding the proposed pipeline given he has little knowledge of the project.
“I think we need more time to learn more about the project, rather than making a gut decision as to whether the project is good or bad for us,” he said.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
After a brief discussion regarding the possibility of a referendum on the matter, council moved to send a letter to Enbridge as well as the provincial and federal governments highlighting their concerns and inviting them to meet with council to discuss those concerns, particularly with regards to the village’s water supply.
“If our community is taking the risk [to safe drinking water] then we should be paid for our gamble, but none of that has been spelled out, how that revenue stream will come to the communities,” Fuerst said.
Mayor Graf agreed, a letter was in the best interest of Telkwa and could eventually lead to future benefits.
“We do have an opportunity now to get in on that,” Mayor Graf said.
“We could come to an agreement
with the pipeline [Enbridge] and to get in on the revenue sharing, rather than have the money go to some black hole in Victoria, I want some of that money to stay here.”
“I’m not saying we should make money from the pipeline, but we should share the benefits.”