In our democracy, the people’s interest is supposed to be represented by our elected politicians. But it appears this has not happened for the proposed Bala project due to scheming by unelected government bureaucrats.
The provincial politicians we elect rely on full-time government employees, called bureaucrats, to summarize and present complicated and technical issues.
While the politicians we elect have the responsibility and authority to make most decisions, the politicians don’t have the time to make all the decisions, so they delegate the authority to make particular decisions to particular bureaucratic positions. Other decisions are made by politicians, but based reports from the bureaucratic staff, and possibly other input as well such as from the public.
While we can send all the letters and e-mails we’d like to our elected politicians, but the fact is the politicians don’t see most of our attempts at communicating. Instead the bureaucrats read and reply to almost all our letters and e-mails, and the politicians are shielded from all direct knowledge of what is happening.
This can be very efficient, but it can also enable bureaucrats to completely take control of a situation, as has apparently happened for the proposed project to build a hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls. It is almost impossible to directly meet an elected Minister, all of our requests have been ignored or denied.
One of the main ways for politicians, and their political staff, to learn about particular issues, campaigns, or problems is through the House Note. These are documents written by provincial government bureaucrats, and are updated every few weeks or months as developments occur. House Notes provide carefully-worded answers to expected questions, background, status, issues, and expected next steps.
The two main Ministries involved with the proposed Bala project are the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). An MNRF House Note is below (click on it to read the full document).
Of particular interest is page 4 where the Minister and other political staff are being informed by the bureaucrats about the “Opposition to the Project”, which is: “Save the Bala Falls (STBF) is a local group lobbying to prevent the construction of the hydroelectric generating station, mainly on the grounds that: … the project is in an unsafe location”.
This is very telling. All of our facts and analysis showing that people would drown, that the proponent has not shown how, or if they could operate the proposed project safely, that the visiting public could not be adequately warned of the extreme dangers the proposed project would create, and that it would be unprecedented to build such a dangerous industrial facility as close to docks and in-water recreation, are summarized to the politicians by the vague statement that: “the project is in an unsafe location”.
This vague statement would not convey to a busy politician what the bureaucrats are hiding from them. And this seems to be a major reason why the public interest is not being considered.