Posted by: rosemary | October 3, 2009

MONTREAL, JUST A BEGINNING

Eby, running through downtown Montreal, flanked by a multi-wheeled support team

Eby Heller, running through downtown Montreal, flanked by a multi-wheeled support team

(Oct 2nd) Environmental history was made last Monday morning when athlete Eby Heller ran over a small bridge spanning the Rivière des Prairies and set foot on the island of Montreal. After fevered weeks of planning, and nineteen days in the field, the “Run for our Rivers” marathon had finally reached its halfway point, bearing a message of love and reverence for Quebec’s free-flowing rivers from the edge of Cree territory, in Matagami, all the way to the province’s largest metropolis, and to the doorstep of Hydro Quebec’s head office!

There were a few moments of high drama as Eby’s run unfolded. My favorite memories include passing flyers while sprinting beside a bike convoy following Eby down Côte-des-Neiges; watching Courtney from CKUT Community Radio dash out of the station with her shoes untied to lope alongside Eby for a “running” interview, and experiencing an epiphany as Eby whipped round the corner from Parc Avenue, onto René-Lévesque and ventured into a thicket of media cameras.

Despite forecasts of rotten weather, the sky actually cleared for our brief demo, replete with whistle toots, balloons and a megaphone, in front of Hydro Quebec, that attracted twenty-some odd people.

Conspicuously absent from the welcoming party, though present in everyone’s mind, was Premier Jean Charest, without whose wrong-headed insistence on following an outmoded, 1970s-style energy policy this marathon might not have been. In a policy statement unveiled last year, known as the Plan Nord, Charest announces his intention to produce 8000 new megawatts of electric capacity by building dams on the North Shore, but he has been cagey about listing on what rivers specifically these dams will be constructed. If both the Romaine, and (as Charest has suggested) the Little Mecatina are dammed, the resulting electric capacity would still total less than 3000 MW. So where would the extra 5000 MW come from? Quebecers deserve to hear of a transparent long-term energy strategy that is based on more than hints, so as to make an informed decision about whether to support this strategy of not.

Jean Charest also needs to answer questions about the public environmental review process, the BAPE (Bureau des audiences publiques en environnement), specifically about why his government has tolerated an arrangement by which it is the promoter, and not a neutral third party, that writes the impact assesment for large-scale projects such as dams. He also needs to come clean, and explain in scientific terms exactly what he means in when he says that large-scale hydro projects, like the four proposed dams on the Romaine River, are green energy.

Because everybody, even a recalcitrant premier, deserves a chance to defend themselves, Alliance Romaine has written to invite Jean Charest to a public, televised debate about the usefulness of the Romaine project, to be held Oct 4th when Alliance Romaine reaches Quebec City. By doing this we want to encourage a culture in which energy policy, and other important questions, are exposed to full public scrutiny, and vigorously analyzed so as to favour the best option.

Although Charest has yet to take us up on our challenge, we have an ally in the National Assembly in the person of Québec Solidaire’s MNA for Mercier Amir Khadir, who has been very supportive of Alliance Romaine’s efforts, and it is our hope that in the coming days Khadir will be able to use question period to encourage Charest to try to justify himself more publically.

As these line are being written, Alliance Romaine is carrying the marathon eastward, with the goal of reaching the Romaine River on October 18th. Through the marathon, we seek to promote eight demands, including:

  • a halt to the construction of four dams on the Romaine River
  • a moratorium on new large-scale hydroelectric dam projects in Quebec
  • an end to energy subsidies (selling electricity at below cost) to big businesses
  • a reform and democratization of the public environmental review process (the BAPE)

If you would like to help in our campiagn, or for more info, please write to us at info@allianceromaine.org

Warm wishes to all!

Chris, with the Alliance Romaine marathon team

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