Gulf oil drilling information session disappoints

An information session in Charlottetown Wednesday about plans to drill for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was a disappointment for some looking for answers to their questions.

The session, hosted by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, is travelling around the Maritimes. The session presented information on maps and posters, but there were no representatives of the petroleum board itself, just for a consulting group hired by the board.

Andrew Lush, manager of the Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group, said the session was not what he was expecting.

"They're not really public consultations," said Lush.

"There was just basically maps and boards up and people to talk to and a sheet to fill in."

The meeting was advertised as a forum to gather information, concerns, and comments about the prospect of drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. People could do that by filling out a comment form.

"Does this look like public consultation?" asked Irene Novaczek, director of UPEI's Institute of Island Studies.

"No, this is a dog and pony show. This is a number of posters on walls. There's no opportunity for people to be at a mike, voicing concerns."

There has not yet been any drilling in the gulf, but a company called Corridor Resources is waiting for approval to drill an exploration well on the site known as Old Harry, 80 kilometres off the coast of Îles-de-la-Madeleine. In 2010 the company did seismic testing on the area.

Some tourism operators are worried a spill, like the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, could ruin the tourism industry in P.E.I.

"Even a considerably smaller spill is going to be something that's huge in the media and is something that is going to drive people away from Prince Edward Island," said Peter Baker, who runs a shop catering to tourists near Cavendish.

Input from Wednesday's meeting will go into a report to be filed for the board in the new year. The last of the public meetings will be Thursday night in Sydney, N.S.

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