Another view of the fracking meeting

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Dear Editor: I am responding to the letter, “Separating frack from fiction,” by Dennis Bruce published in your paper on Feb. 4. I am the chairperson of the Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group.

I, and several members of our group, were in attendance to hear Dr. James and Dr. Dusseault present on the evening of Jan. 30.

Firstly, I want to correct a factual error in Mr. Bruce’s letter to the editor. Mr. Bruce states that at the beginning of the question and answer session a member of our group was given a microphone and then “rambled on for seemingly 15 minutes walking around the room, flipping a document of some sort to Dr. Dusseault, and gave a “speech” covering many issues including: fracking and health, fracking and the economy, fracking and social impacts and fracking and the environment.”

I have checked the Harris Centre’s video of the event. The individual spoke for two minutes and 15 seconds, asking a question and referencing key aspects of the public debate on fracking. Mr. Bruce’s inaccurate comment leaves the impression the speaker deliberately used up an inordinate amount of time and prevented others from speaking. This is not the case.

Mr. Bruce also states: “The microphone was passed on to several people from seemingly the same row or section of the audience who proceeded to provide their own lengthy speeches on the topic but there were a few questions sprinkled in during their respective filibusters.”

Once again, I want to correct inaccuracy. The individuals who spoke next were not all in the same row. The individuals introduced themselves, asked specific questions and gave response to answers given. Characterizing this as “filibusters” is inaccurate and insulting.

Mr. Bruce then states, “I was hoping to get the chance to ask a question or two as well but that opportunity was not feasible due to the lengthy diatribes from many in the audience. I would guess that many others in the audience felt the same way.” I challenge this view from Mr. Bruce. Ample opportunity was given by the facilitator of the session for those in the audience to be identified if they wished to ask questions.

If Mr. Bruce did not ask questions, it was because he chose not to do so.

Mr. Bruce continues in his letter, “It should be noted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom’s gives us all the right of freedom of expression and the represent-ative(s) of the Fracking Awareness Group were well within their Charter rights to come and disrupt the meeting and make their speeches and continue to preach that all aspects of fracking are bad, very bad.”

I take great exception with this commentary. Our group did not attend the presentations to “disrupt” the session.

Members of our group attended to listen and ask questions, as did many other individuals. If we had intended to “disrupt” the meeting, our members would have interrupted the presenters and been disorderly. We did not do this.

We are respectful of others and have always presented our views in a moderate, thoughtful manner.

To verify this, all one needs to do is check with the hundreds of people who have attended our 27 public presentations across the province.

Near the end of his letter Mr. Bruce offers this advice to the Harris Centre:  “However, next time please don’t pass out the microphones to the masses, do not allow speeches from the floor and ensure the question and answer protocols are enforced.”

This is a very insulting comment. Who are “the masses”? I assume Mr. Bruce is referring to anyone having an opinion different from his. Mr. Bruce’s commentary seems to imply only those with his opinion should be heard.

This is a very dangerous perspective in an open, democratic society that is strengthened by free debate.

The Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group welcomes such public dialogue and will continue to engage in it.

Wayne Hounsell, Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group

Organizations: Dear Editor, Harris Centre, Canadian Charter

Geographic location: Port au Port

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Recent comments

  • Marion
    February 15, 2014 - 18:41

    Thank you Wayne for your calm, accurate, balanced and respectful corrections to Mr. Bruce's grossly exaggerated Feb. 4 essay regarding the January 30 presentations at Harris Center. I watched it livestream as well and did not hear or see what Mr. Bruce described. Good comments Joe and Kathy. Anyone can watch it again and see/hear the truth. Thank you Mr. Editor for printing this letter. Wonderful to have some balance.

  • Joannie
    February 14, 2014 - 23:53

    Wayne, A class-act response to a blithering, spoiled child who wanted something to happen at this meeting, but did not have the where-with-all to make it happen. When it didn't happen, it had to be the fault of someone else of course.

  • Joe Wiseman
    February 14, 2014 - 13:27

    Having watched and listened to the event described in Mr. Hounsell's letter, I can only comment that his version of events are true and Mr. Bruce's vesion is grossly distorted. Well written Mr. Hounsell.

  • Kathy
    February 14, 2014 - 10:52

    I watched this presentation live stream. Wayne, your response to Mr. Bruce's opinions is very much appreciated. Your honest and respectful views and rebuttals to his very strong comments needed to be pointed out and I, for one, am very glad you responded. Some of his comments were quite disturbing. To advise that microphones not be passed out to the "masses" very strongly sounded like stifling the right to speech. Mr. Bruce definitely implied that those with concerns about fracking should not have had the opportunity to ask their questions. He said himself the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allow us all the freedom of speech and expression. In Canada, we still live in a democracy. Those who were handed the microphones exercised their rights. Mr. Bruce had equal opportunity to do the same. The controversy over fracking is far from over. The public has every right to debate and question. Mr. Bruce should exercise his right to speech in a less dictatorial manner with a little more understanding that not everyone feels the same way he does.