This is a report by Carol Mahtab on the Public Meeting concerning aquaculture held at the Sandy Cove Fire Hall, Digby Neck, on August 26, 2010. There is a lesson to be learned here. The people attending the meeting were able to change the agenda and conduct of the meeting to have it address issues of importance to them, not the prearranged plan. It is very interesting reading. Carol’s Report follows:
There was a Public Meeting in the Sandy Cove Fire Hall yesterday!!!!
The room had been set up with several tables with chairs around the floor, lots of handouts on the tables with a government official presiding at each table. (How often have we faced this a public “informational” meetings?)
There was a general gathering of the public in the parking lot outside until the Islands group arrived from the 5 pm ferry. We all entered at the same time and lined up along one of the sides of the room. Some chairs from the tables were quietly moved to accommodate some seniors and then more chairs were taken down from the stage area until the first line of the public was seated in front. I believe that the officials realized at this point that the afternoon’s agenda had been changed. This took about 10 minutes to complete, all very quiet and orderly.
The government officials looked on without protest except for the facilitator, Ken Donnelly, who agreed then to have this Q&A session for 30 minutes, then returning to the Government’s original plan. We left the meeting shortly after 8 pm and there had been no change in the programme of the afternoon! Everyone was still lined up or seated on one side of the room and the Government officials at various places on the other side. Some officials remained seated at their tables during the 3 hours. It was a question and answer meeting for the public until we left.
All was very orderly and Mr. Donnelly had to raise his voice only once or twice when he thought things would go off the rails. They didn’t. There were no rants, instead very intelligent and relevant questions which were answered clearly and with care by, mostly, Marshal Giles from NS and, particularly I (Carol) thought, Kevin LeBlanc from Transport Canada. Mr. LeBlanc took a great deal of time to explain the mysterious process of the CEAA and their Environmental Assessment. He also appears to have been overwhelmed by the responses he has received so far and said he is reviewing them very carefully and seriously.
Ashraf’s estimate from the public was about 125 and we heard NOT A SINGLE SOUL that was for the fish farm. Fishermen, tourism people well represented.
One interesting comment for me was from a Cook’s (aquaculture) representative just as we were leaving. (Towards the end of the time, several people wanted to ask questions of Cook’s.) She was explaining just how effectively Cook’s works with the local communities and specifically reported that Cook’s has an excellent relationship with the Friends of Port Mouton Bay! Did I miss something here????
Just thought that you will enjoy knowing that the Islands community succeeded in turning the meeting around and that it was most successful. Perhaps the severely controlled Governmental meetings will become a thing of the past. I certainly hope that the people of the Islands realize exactly what they have done to the concept of “transparency” and all that!