Good morning Mr. Shane Thompson minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, and Lands,

Not meaning to sound like a broken record but we need to put a pause on the Taltson hydroelectric expansion until more information is shared in a more detailed way with the public. In fact, the government needs to hold a public forum on the expansion when it is safe to do so where we are given all of the up-to-date information in real time from all sides — pros, cons and alternatives— so that we can make an informed decision about whether this project should proceed.

As you know, we are in the midst of a climate change crisis with extreme weather events happening with increasing frequency. Our existence is literally hanging in the balance and as you said in a recent press release, the situation is dire. To include the public in the discussion is being responsible and the democratic practice of good government.

These are dangerous times that demand immediate action and voters must be allowed to weigh in on a project that will so greatly impact them.

Nowhere else in Canada would an initiative such as this go ahead without voters being allowed to have their say. This has never happened with this project. We were Taltson told, not Taltson asked.

Remember the expansion was initiated under B0b McLeod,who said in consensus government that all you need is two or three other cabinet members to agree and you can do what you want. In fact, Mr. McLeod announced the study alongside former MLA Wally Schumann who was all about resource development and poo-poohed anything environmental.

We cannot afford to think like that now.

We know that the $1.2 million for the feasibility study only came from the federal government 2.5 years ago as a token gesture and sadly and uninformed, it added another $18 million to the study in its 2019 budget to appease politicians in the North. The public was never consulted. Our only information about the expansion’s progress comes from government briefings weighed in its favour and failing to mention shortcomings, alternatives and whether it is even practical.

A GNWT information sheet suggests that the expansion would provide more energy (mostly to the mines) while removing 240,000 tonnes of GHG emissions annually. It’s all pro-Taltson with little critical thinking behind it and forgetting that the bulk of the product will go to the mines, which should be paying their own way.

Just two weeks ago, Mr. Thompson, you sent out a press release suggesting that your department is very concerned about the growing threat of climate change. That was followed by a communique from the premiers office one week later saying that dealing with this crisis is now a priority. However, government actions are not matching it’s words. The GNWT is pushing ahead with a project catering to industry — not the people.

This is contradictory by its very nature. You are either focusing on tackling climate change or you’re not. You need to make up your mind.

One thing for sure, how you work to mitigate the climate crisis is how this assembly will be remembered.

The estimated cost of the expansion is $1.2 billion and we still have no idea about construction timelines except we do know that infrastructure developments of this magnitude and especially by the government take years, even decades, longer than anticipated. A 10-year building project, then, could easily take 15 to 20 years and we can only guess what that $1.2 billion expenditure could turn into. We have seen from the Stanton hospital and the Decho Bridge that these projects run millions over budget.

More than that, considering the increased frequency of extreme weather events, we are not even sure what this planet will look like in 10 years, let alone 20. The planet’s configuration changes daily. We need something now to tackle the climate change crisis.

Mr. Thompson, there are alternatives such as retrofitting and district heating that can go ahead within the next couple years and have the same or even better results with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and without the environmental impact of this expansion. Wind power, solar power, wood pellets: there are so many alternatives. By your own admission, we wont even have a market for the Taltson’s product until, possibly 2040 which I guess is okay since construction won’t be complete till then anyway.

What is the department thinking?

We need to be reminded that during the recent flooding in British Columbia power was lost for thousands of residents for several days at a time because of damaged and destroyed infrastructure which will cost billions to repair. That was followed one week later by the killer tornadoes in Kentucky which wiped out entire communities. The repair bill for that too, will be in the many billions of dollars.

We are in a game of catch up and reactivity with barely enough time to apply band aides between wounds. By its very nature, the Taltson hydroelectric expansion could be just another repair bill nightmare when extreme flooding and fires hit here.

Mr. Thompson, I invite you again to review the study from Alternatives North titled Climate Emergency: Getting the NWT off Diesel, which offers alternatives to the path you inherited. We must think outside the box.

Please open up this discussion. Let everyone weigh in, not just a few in cabinet and their supporters. That may be consensus government but it’s not democracy.

This style of government has never lent itself well to transparency and public consultation which is why it, with our lives hanging in the balance, it must change now.

Thank you.

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