In the December 10 edition of the Calgary Herald, an article exuberantly proclaims "Questerre Energy shares soar after Quebec passes bill to open oil and gas reserves." Mr. Michael Binnion, Questerre's CEO and president of Quebec Oil and Gas Association (QOGA), should think twice before he (or any shareholder) breaks open the champagne!
Before applauding this news, shareholders must be aware that here in Quebec, Bill 106 has numerous shortcomings. According to the website of Quebec's National Assembly, Bill 106 is a mammoth bill which modifies 20 different laws as well as the Civil Code.
The Chamber of Notaries diplomatically expressed the opinion that the "legal and financial security" of Quebecers is possibly in jeopardy. The Federation of Municipalities of Quebec as well as the Union of Municipalities both expressed serious reservations because it reduces their ability to protect the drinking water sources of its citizens if fracking is used on its territory.
Bill 106 not only acknowledges this legalized burglary, but gives those companies legal priority over the owners of the land.
The municipalities' concerns are exacerbated because a gas company can now override their own urban management plan. In other words, with a month's notice and despite a city councils' objections, the Couillard government has given any company the power to establish a drilling rig where it chooses. For instance, in Saint-Louis-de-Richelieu, 25 kilometres from my home, Lone Pine Resources has drilled -- and fracked -- a gas well in the middle of the village. With Bill 106, such despicable behaviour becomes normal and legal.
In 2010, we were outraged when we became aware that companies had quietly claimed the subsoil under our feet. The incompetence of our ministry of natural resources allowed companies to pay a ludicrous 10 cents a hectare; in B.C., they sell the same kind of claim for $1,000 per hectare. On page 201 of the report of the BAPE (Quebec's environmental hearing agency), it says that we lost $5 billion, based on a half-way price of $500/ha., a price often used in Alberta.
Now, Bill 106 not only acknowledges this legalized burglary, but gives those companies legal priority over the owners of the land. The general feeling is that, though Bill 106 is now legal because the Couillard government used closure as a legislative bulldozer, it is immoral and illegitimate.
Finally, one must not forget that the ethical reputation of the governing Liberal Party of Quebec (LPQ) is already damaged. As a symptom of its questionable behaviour, former Premier Jean Charest had meetings behind closed doors with commissioners of the NEB (National Energy Board); when the National Observerpublished these facts, this unacceptable behaviour forced two commissioners to withdraw from the Energy East hearings, thereby causing long delays. And Dan Gagnier, a former aide of Premier Charest, had to resign as co-chairman of the Liberal Party of Canada a few days before the federal elections of 2015 because he had sent compromising emails to managers of TransCanada Pipelines.
We are working overtime to get rid of the stink of corrupted officials with tools such as the public affairs program "Enquête" of the SRC network, the Charbonneau commission, UPAC (permanent police unit against corruption) and the court system. Presently, former mayor Vaillancourt of Laval is serving a long jail sentence, and former Deputy Premier of Quebec Nathalie Normandeau is facing criminal charges... As an effort to clean the Aegean Stables, this is a good beginning!
Exploiting Quebec's natural resources must be a win-win situation. Unfortunately, Bill 106 makes it a win for the petroleum industry and a losing proposition for its citizens. Mr. Couillard's government is acting like a 19th century puppet who is kowtowing to its colonial overlord. Mr. Binnion and the QOGA should remember that since the 1960s, we are Maîtres chez nous: Masters in our own house! In other words, treat us right and we will treat you right; but step on our toes and there will be hell to pay.
Shareholders and Mr. Binnion should be forewarned not to count their chickens before they are hatched. He may have the law and the Liberal government of Charest and Couillard on his side. However, this is our land; not his. Besides, hydrocarbons are an obsolete 20th century resource. Think! Why does the feeble rhetoric of Mr. Couillard pay lip service to renewable energies? Because that is where Quebecers really want to go!
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