03/16/2017 12:09 EDT | Updated 03/16/2017 12:09 EDT

Social Acceptability, According To Economist Youri Chassin

InLe Soleil on March 9, Mr. Youri Chassin chastises groups which oppose certain projects, evoking the "nightmare of the investor" about a situation that "illustrates the very real risk that the concept of social acceptability can drift into a court of public opinion, disinformation and arbitrariness."

He adds: "In this rational framework, social acceptability remains a business strategy and permits a constructive discussion." Finally, he argues in favour of "the primacy of law" and of "confidence in institutions" in order to "guarantee a transparent and fair process with all projects."

One might applaud these fine words if the arguments of Mr. Chassin were not so biased against the citizens of Quebec. The investors surreptitiously grabbed the gas claims under our feet for 10 cents /hectare with the inexcusable complicity of the minister of Natural Resources. In this instance, the report of the BAPE (Environmental Hearing Agency) tells us that the loss to the Quebec treasury was $5 billion (this sale could have been made at $500/hectare as in Alberta). (BAPE report #273, p.201)

Another case where citizens are right to beware of the fine words of Mr. Chassin, is where the Auditor General tells us in his report that the unfortunate taxpayers must pay out $1,210,000,000 to decontaminate and restore orphan mining sites. And these are only two examples among so many others in which the exploitation of natural resources is not a win-win exercise for citizens and investors. In such circumstances, is it possible to have a "constructive discussion" while naively trusting such promoters?

A doctoral thesis would be required to shed light on all the examples where the "credibility of institutions" was damaged in circumstances which seemed bizarre. To better illustrate his assertion that "confidence in institutions" is needed, can Mr. Chassin tell us why Mr. Dan Gagnier (ex-assistant to Premier Jean Charest) had to be fired from his post of electoral campaign co-president of the Liberal Party of Canada in October 2015?

In a climate of genuine transparency, how should one explain the lack of protection of the interests of citizens? The governments of Charest, Marois and Couillard have, each in their turn, presented regulation for the protection of drinking water (RPEP) which did not insure an adequate separation between gas wells and a source of drinking water. To mitigate this insufficiency of the RPEP, which seems to have been tailor-made for the extraction industry, presently, more than 100 municipalities have decided that a minimum of two kilometers is necessary to really protect the quality of the water for their citizens; there are also more than 120 other town councils which have given a "notice of motion" in this regard. Even the City of Montreal has unanimously adopted resolution CM17 0107 supporting this measure. Can Mr. Chassin convince us that Mayor Denis Coderre, well-known for his outspokenness, has been intimidated by "the disinformation" of a ">people's court?"

Speaking of disinformation, a communiqué from Mr. Chassin on May 27, 2015, deplored the loss of thousands of dollars to farmers in the lower St. Lawrence Valley due to the "moratorium." There was indeed a moratorium in the bed of the St. Lawrence river, west of Anticosti Island (Bill 18 in June 2011), but the farmers do not plow the bed of the river under the fish!

I formally challenge Mr. Chassin to publish the number of the law about that supposed moratorium along with its date of publication in the official gazette! Lie, lie, there is always something left in public opinion! Says 18th century writer Voltaire. Thus it is true that the "myth of the moratorium", so dear to Mr. Chassin, was picked up by many politicians and some journalists. Even last week, a citizen challenged that "alternative truth" to seasoned journalists who published a correction in the name of the truth.(also see text below)

In his capacity as an economist at the Economic Institute of Montreal (IÉDM), could Mr. Chassin be a tool of "disinformation" including this wholly fabricated "moratorium"? Yes, we must "ensure the good functioning and credibility of existing institutions". But after so many questionable maneuvers behind closed doors to load the dice in favour of investors, can we blame the citizenry for wanting to make sure that projects must be used for the well-being of 99 per cent of the population and not only the one per cent?

The social consensus is not a vague concept to be invented by a handful of lobbyists who make their sales pitch behind closed doors... like Mr. Charest who met with some commissioners of the National Energy Board (NEB)! Hello, social acceptability! The honeyed words of Mr. Chassin cannot mask the fact that this kind of behaviour is contrary to ethics and to the "primacy of law!"