British Columbia

Lack of opposition to Trans Mountain liquor licence application raising concerns about consultation process

No one has voiced opposition to a Trans Mountain liquor licence application near Valemount, B.C., and that has one civic leader worried.

District director concerned consultation process didn’t give people enough opportunity to respond

Work has begun on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in B.C. (Terry Reith/CBC)

The lack of opposition from the community to a liquor licence application for a Trans Mountain work camp has a local politician concerned. 

The application is for a work camp just outside Valemount, B.C., about 290 kilometres southeast of Prince George. Trans Mountain wants to have a licensed 130-person lounge on site, so workers can enjoy a beer or glass of wine at the camp after work. 

In Clearwater, district council didn't receive any letters of support and encountered significant opposition for a similar application

Dannielle Alan, a director with the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, said the lack of opposition from the community raises questions about the public consultation process. 

"It sort of sent warning signals to me that we're obviously not engaging the public in a way that I consider to be robust," she told Daybreak North guest host Wil Fundal.

Because of COVID-19, the district has been unable to host an in-person meeting for residents. She worries that without an in-person public hearing, some residents won't have the opportunity to feel heard or be part of the decision-making process.

Alan said that if there had been an in-person consultation, Valemount residents would have shown up to ask questions and share their opinions. 

"In Valemount, their citizenship is highly engaged in the goings on around the community and they always like to be informed and involved in decision making," she said.

"People in a room discussing things tends to be a more robust form of communication than simply putting out an advertisement and soliciting written conversations.  Not everybody is literate."

In June, B.C.'s ombudsperson found that an order made by B.C.'s public safety minister during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed local government meetings to be held without the public or local reporters in attendance, giving municipalities the power to adopt bylaws more quickly than usual, was unlawful.

Regional staff are looking for a facility that can accommodate a public hearing, while offering enough space for attendees to observe physical distancing. They're also looking into technology that would allow people to participate remotely, but because many residents live in areas with poor internet access, it has been challenging. 

"These public meetings don't just serve a regulatory process," Alan said. 

"They are an opportunity to open a dialogue between the proponents and the citizens and the community members who may be affected by this development."

With files from Daybreak North

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