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Nuclear industry behind Pinehouse election problems?

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Is the nuclear industry behind voter intimidation and voting irregularities in the September 19 Pinehouse municipal election?

BEAUVAL, SK -- Many allegations have been made, and at least one affidavit has been sworn, with regard to the highly irregular Pinehouse municipal election in northern Saskatchewan on Wednesday, September 19. Yet even before the ballots were cast, the provincial ministry of government affairs and the local RCMP detachment refused to step in and provide the monitoring and supervision requested by several seriously concerned voters. Local residents wonder what the reason is for this neglect, and some have theories to offer. They believe the nuclear industry is behind it all. And the result is an extremely divided small community of just 1,000 people.

The tension in the community arises from a concerted campaign by the industry-driven Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to co-opt the Pinehouse village council into hosting a deep geological repository for radioactive wastes from Eastern Canada. Those in the community who oppose these negotiations wished to express their dissatisfaction at the polls when voting for village councilors. But they were met with thinly veiled threats and intimidation.

Debbie Mihalicz of Beauval said, “Canada and the United Nations have poured billions of dollars into ensuring a fair democratic process in oppressed countries around the world like Syria and Afghanistan. Recent events in the Northern Village of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan point to the sad truth, that when people within our own borders require this same protection, they are denied.”

Ms. Mihalicz went on to describe specific irregularities that were willfully overlooked:

  • the ballot box remained unsealed for the duration of election day;

  • one voter was denied the right to cast a ballot;

  • several instances of voter intimidation; and

  • a report of an illegal presence inside the polling booth area, apparently photographed by the RCMP.

Some of these suspicious practices were already evident in the advance poll on September 12. Concerns were raised then, but they were ignored by provincial government officials. Sandra Cuffe, a journalist with The Dominion magazine, filed a report on September 18 describing several of the abuses and laying out the background to this highly charged situation. (See attached.)

Related: Media Co-op coverage

Letter to Minister of Government Relations, Jim Reiter

Dear Minister Reiter:

Our HUES3 Campaign Committee is deeply troubled about reports of voter intimidation and voting irregularities coming out of the northern Village of Pinehouse on September 19. As you can see from the attached HUES3 media release and from Sandra Cuffe’s news report posted to The Dominion magazine, serious breaches of election procedures appear to have occurred. These irregularities are egregious enough to call into question the legitimacy of the whole municipal election process at Pinehouse this month.

The stakes in this year’s election in Pinehouse could not be much higher. Local citizens are caught up in a contentious, even acrimonious debate over their village council’s clandestine negotiations with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to establish a nuclear waste dump in the community. NWMO appears to have offered inducements to the council without the ordinary voters being aware of what was going on. It is clear that several local officials, if not NWMO itself, have an acutely vested interest in the results of this particular election. Those Pinehouse citizens who attempted to raise their concerns in the context of this election campaign were intimidated and, they believe, received thinly veiled threats if they questioned the local council’s agenda in this regard. Reports of obvious breaches in election protocol were raised with officials in your department immediately after the advance poll on September 12, but they were met with a tepid, indifferent response.

Despite the provincial government’s known affinity to the nuclear industry, it nevertheless does have the solemn responsibility to ensure free and fair elections throughout the province. Several witnesses in Pinehouse have come forward to give evidence about the voting irregularities there, despite a very real fear of retribution from local officials for having done so. In order to protect them, and to ensure the integrity of the municipal vote, we strongly urge you to launch a thorough investigation into the Pinehouse election, if necessary to overturn its results, and then to call a new, closely supervised election at the earliest opportunity.

On behalf of the HUES3 Campaign:

Dr. Warren Bell (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment),

Dr. Dale Dewar (Physicians for Global Survival),

D’Arcy Hande,

Candyce Paul (Committee for Future Generations), and

Karen Weingeist (Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan)

c.c. Hon. Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan

Mr. John Nilson, Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Victor Lau, Leader, Saskatchewan Green Party

(b.c.c.’d widely to media and others)