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Lining Up Against Hydro Quebec and other Special Interests

Sherbrooke, Quebec
April 27, 1997

While I don't always agree with Don Healy's opinions, I certainly share his anguish about the proposed new hydro line. As someone who has endured more than three years of across-farm- land cycle trail and natural gas proposals from the various special-interest groupies, including governments, I can only wish him well. Ironically, if he wins the day, I might face another year of woes because the corridor might be shifted in fine "Québec-sait-faire" style, to the Memphremagog MRC.

As private citizens we increasingly face a major problem with our public bureaucracies. Our country and indeed our very traditions, ways of life and landscapes are being ruined. by lobbying forces and trial ballooners which act in collusion with the political process. I don't know of a government or government agency right now, at any level, that stands for anything but political expediency. Recent examples of the deceit and railroading which took place about the proposed pipeline could fill a book. While individuals can be mobilized to the barricades to defend the "national" interest over a trumped up language issue, we are mere gnats to be swatted away on most things. Does anybody up there like us?

Take the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for example, that pompous, enlightened group of public-monied watch dogs in Ottawa. Because the Quebec government, through its holding companies, failed to secure the right to pipeline Sable Island gas to New England, the CEAA lined up with the National Energy Board, based in (where else) Calgary, and the federal and provincial cabinets for the consolation prize: the right to ship gas across prime Eastern Townships farmland, largely in private ownership (although other more viable routes exist) to an American company in which a variety of Hydro Quebec holdings own a part of the action. As landowners, our final appeal before the CPTAQ is only alive by a mere technicality: the chairman has been conflicted out. This is the Canadian way it appears.

What the CEAA should be doing is asking why we need so many pipelines criss- crossing the country to the detriment of everything else when there is now an abundant supply of natural gas from Atlantic Canada. Since Hydro Quebec has done so much damage above ground, why should it be allowed to go underground in both form and practice when the whole energy issue should be debated.

If Mr. Healy soldiers on he will learn about the Web of misinformation that can be woven for the "national good"; how all the lackies and "not- in-my -back- yard" interests will surface; he will learn about regulatory systems and the hearing process which frequently pits Davids against Goliaths; how the system sets up an honourable and plucky dairy farmer, with no more than a high school education, against some of the highest paid lawyers in North America. In this instance it was under the stern eyes of about 80 special-interest pipeline trekkies who just couldn't understand our lack of understanding about the really important issues. Something stinks!

Even when a serious environmental or economic review takes place, it is not always listened to. The BAPE (the government's own environmental watchdog agency) was not favourable to the pipeline project and explained why in clear terms. Its chair was particularly condemning of the cavalier way the landowners had been treated. The report was largely ignored.

Quebec can be a very secretive society in which the traditional coalition of elitist forces backscratches for personal aggrandizement. This action will have serious affects on the Townships in the future. Our region will increasingly be scarred from above and below because our tribal governments and political parties at all levels haven't learned that economic prosperity and sane living patterns are the result of careful economic planning and not quick, me-first fixes. But since when have these neanderthal forces which have traditionally ruled Quebec and more recently Canada, ever cared for anything but themselves.

Gary Richards
South Stukely, QC

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