Stopping the flow

Jim Day
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Series of talks in P.E.I. highlight risks of oil drilling in St. Lawrence


Sylvain Archambault has encountered his share of indifference towards oil and gas exploration and drilling.

The general public, he notes, often view the practice in a "very neutral way.''

Offer them with some cold, hard, disturbing facts, though, and they can quickly snap to attention, says Archambault.


He believes information - good, solid information - is the key to winning converts in a growing campaign to rally support to convince government to place a moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.

Archambault, who has a Masters in Science, co-founded the St. Lawrence Coalition in 2010 in the Magdalen Islands because "new projects by Corridor Resources was really giving concerns to the people.''

His coalition has since grown to 85 organizations with 4,500 individuals from all walks of life. Scientists, NGOs, tourism operators and fishermen are among the coalition members.

Archambault and his coalition have their sights set squarely on raising awareness of what he considers serious threats posed by the prospect of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"Our main purpose is to document things, inform the people, influence policy and try to gain a Gulf-wide moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,'' he said at a media conference in Charlottetown Tuesday.

"There is no rush in going in with oil and gas (exploration and drilling) in the Gulf and we definitely need a comprehensive public review - five provinces plus the federal (government) - to have a global look at this body of water.''

Archambault says Corridor Resources, a junior company with no offshore experience, is proposing to drill in the middle of one of the most productive channels of the entire Gulf in the "Old Harry" prospect between Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands.

"They have experience on land in New Brunswick - conventional gas, shale gas - but they have no offshore experience,'' he says.

He adds the company continues to demonstrate an "arrogant attitude'' towards environmental concerns.

Archambault is also concerned with the Quebec government repeatedly voicing its determination to go ahead with oil and gas exploration and perhaps even development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

He notes people often say Newfoundland is drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, so why not drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?

"It's a very, very different picture,'' he counters.

"Often the Atlantic is 350 kilometres from the shore...whereas in the Gulf it is a close ecosystem.''

Archambault is in Prince Edward Island this week as the featured speaker in a series of public meetings designed to raise awareness of the serious threats posed by oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The P.E.I. chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores (SOSS P.E.I.) are hosting the series. They are also providing along with Archambault a diverse panel to offer information and to answer questions from the public.

One panelist, marine scientist Irené Novaczek, says the Gulf of St. Lawrence has already been heavily impacted by climate change contributing to the northern cod and the groundfish being "fished down'' to a precariously low level.

"Now you add to that more industrial pollution from oil and gas extraction and increased ultra violet light from a thinning ozone layer, you have set yourself up a scenario where the Gulf of St. Lawrence could flip from a precariously healthy ecosystem - damaged that it is now - to a dead zone,'' says Novaczek, who serves as an SOSS scientific advisor.

"Industrial activity could be enough to push it over the edge.''

Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, says there has been a lack of consultation with the fishing community in Atlantic Canada.

"I need to have some more answers before I even look at this thing,'' he says.

"We need a moratorium on this thing right now until we...find out what is going on.''

P.E.I. tourism operator Peter Baker fears a spill of any kind, with even the perception that oil would wash ashore in P.E.I., would be a dagger to the heart of the province's tourism industry.

Archambault notes that the Gulf's unique, biodiverse ecosystem supports a multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries.




Organizations: Lawrence Coalition, Corridor Resources, Farm Centre

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Magdalen Islands, Charlottetown Newfoundland New Brunswick Quebec Atlantic Ocean P.E.I. Fishermen Atlantic Canada Tyne Valley

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Recent comments

  • Colin Jeffrey
    October 16, 2013 - 08:28

    Are we all going to watch passively while the world around us is destroyed in the pursuit of fossil fuels? Instead of increasingly risky fossil fuel extraction from the offshore and shale rock, we need to get serious about transitioning our energy system to one that relys on renewable energy. If Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Spain can do it there is no reason why we can't. We definitely need to consider the impact that further fossil fuel use will have on climate change as well. We live on an island that is low lying and composed of soft sandstone... if we let climate change really take off, the impacts of rising sea levels and severe storms will make our current problems look like a party.

  • Tom Pine
    October 16, 2013 - 06:15

    how did Mr Archambault arrive in Prince Edward Island? Did he walk or bicycle, or come by horse? How did he get to the venue to make his speech? What powered his microphone? What went into making his computers, his pens, his paper? It's fine and dandy to say oil drilling is evil, but unless and until he's willing to give up all the benefits, it has to come from somewhere. Far better to make sure things are done as safe as possible than ban it outright. Or is it OK to have it come from such fine places as Russia, Libya, and Iran?

    • Stewart Smith
      October 17, 2013 - 13:03

      Oh for goodness sake! Do you wear clothes made in Bangladesh or Vietnam? Do you eat potatoes whose pesticides are killing your neighbours with cancer? These are serious issues, and people like you are just happy to stand by while the world is burned in the name of progress.

    • Sylvain Archambault
      October 18, 2013 - 15:46

      To Mr. Tom Pine. I thank you for your comment and can assure you that I came to PEI by plane and traveled to the various venues by carsharing provided by generous Islanders. The purpose of my talks is not to ban oil as you suggest; in fact, not once do I do so. The purpose is rather to point out that drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence may not be the best idea in the world. Even if we say "we will do it safely", the hard facts remain : Canada is not ready to face a major spill in the Gulf, as the Report of the Auditor General's Office showed this year... financial liability is limited at a mere $30 millions... we have capacity in the Gulf to recover only 15000 tons ( 3% of the GofM spill)... Corridor Resources has no offshore experience and is financially weak... etc. And above all, a simple question : Is it fair for ONE province to go ahead and drill and impose the risk on its neighbour provinces? We think it is a fair question to ask. Some places that depend on fisheries, tourism and aquaculture have reason to be worried.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    October 15, 2013 - 16:32

    A moratorium is needed. I thank Mr. Archambault for his commitment in this fight to protect our futures. I believe that to permit drilling in the Gulf would be the worst possible decision. Talk to the people, as people know how important clean water is to our area. Everyone I talk to is against drilling in the Gulf. People do not want it, so why would government allow it? They might go against the people's wishes as was seen in the past as government officials owe political favors. Lobbying must end.

  • Randy Campbell
    October 15, 2013 - 14:38

    I'm surprised the government isn't more interested in this - we've got fisheries and tourism to protect... and this seems like it could risk a lot. Concerns about the risks to these industries are completely legitimate and need to be addressed.