The National Energy Board’s Montreal hearings on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal got off to a revealingly awful start on Monday. A small knot of protesters rushed in, politicians walked out and the process disintegrated. The NEB has now suspended the hearings indefinitely.
Is it really necessary to note that storming the podium, wrestling with police and haranguing witnesses are not the means by which mature democracies make important decisions? “Progressives” maintain that this sort of “direct action,” or whatever term is used to excuse it, reflects an advanced social conscience. What it really does is substitute disorder for reasoned argument.
NEB hearings are straightforward affairs. Commissioners sit at a table listening to people’s views. Their job is to ascertain the facts in an impartial manner. It’s about as basic an example of the democratic process as you can get.
Obstructing them through bellicose means, as happened Monday, simply robs those wishing to impart valuable information, or raise serious concerns, of their opportunity to do so. What are pipeline opponents afraid of hearing?
If the current process unfolds fairly, all sides will be heard, the evidence will be considered and a recommendation issued. It could go for or against the pipeline proposal. We believe that, with appropriate safeguards, Energy East should be built. But that’s how democracy works. “Social licence” should arise from informed debate, not by trashing the place to get your way.
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