After months of lobbying, local representatives were able to raise their voice about a controversial federal bill.
Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski and Bonnyville and District Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director, Serina Parsons both spoke to the Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment in Fort McMurray about the challenges Bill C-69 would give to municipalities and the economy.
“According to the senators, we hit a home run,” said Sobolewski.
Co-leads, Gene Sobolewski, and Mayor of the Regional Municipality Wood Buffalo, Don Scott, were the two representatives from the Coalition of Canadian Municipalities for Energy Action, the lobby group the town formed for the purpose of changing the legislation.
Sobolewski said their presentations gave the decision-makers a fresh perspective.
“They were very interested in the fact of the municipal perspective and the impact, not only that energy will have on the region on the resource industry, but also how the bill could be triggered and impact municipalities. And then, of course, secondary issues such as the veto on the bill, the public process that they’ve got and things like that,” said Sobolewski.
Between Scott and Sobolewski, they were able to give a “dynamic” example of how the bill could affect counties with large oil assessments and towns that employee people on the service side, said Sobolewski.
Serina Parsons drilled down more specifically on the economic side, representing the Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve been on a downward spiral since 2015 and it’s not going to get better if we see Bill C-69 passed as is. The statistics that we’ve seen recently is that housing prices in Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and in the M.D. are down 28 per cent. The amount of foreclosures since 2015 is up 675 per cent in our area, and that will not get better, it will only get worse. Thus impacting the people of our area,” said Parsons.
“Those are just numbers, but those numbers are attached to faces and people that matter to us.”
Parsons added that they want the bill to be passed, but not without so much regulation.
“We believe in regulation, but we don’t believe in regulation that ties our hands so extremely, that it will restrict any project from moving forward. Now remember, we talked about projects here that are more specific to oil and gas. However, this bill will affect any kind of infrastructure across our province. It’s not just about building pipelines,” said Parsons.
The Senate committee has taken the subject of Bill C-69 across the country in eight different locations to determine if the bill needs an overhaul.
Indigenous leaders were part of a group that spoke in favour of the bill.