The consortium behind the proposed jet fuel delivery plan has launched a telephone survey that has some locals questioning its tactics.
Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) has begun a public opinion survey about its plan to transport jet fuel along the Fraser River and then pipe it through Richmond to YVR.
But one vehement opponent to the VAFFC's plan said the survey seemed to be more of an education campaign.
Steveston's John Roston remembers his phone ringing last Saturday morning with his call display listing a Quebec number. "Hello? Hello?" said Roston, hearing silence on the other line. He had almost hung up when a survey company employee's voice finally came through.
Roston was invited to participate in an opinion survey about the VAFFC's proposal - a topic he was well informed about and had even publicly spoken against at city council, as an independent concerned citizen.
He said he asked the surveyor who was sponsoring it before agreeing to answer questions but was told, "We don't have that information."
"Of course, as the survey went on, it became quite clear that it couldn't be anyone else but the VAFFC, because of the way it was worded," said Roston.
"It was mostly word-for-word out of their publicity materials," he said, describing the conversation that took place during the next half-hour.
He remembers being read long passages from the survey's script, which placed questions into a particular context before asking his opinion.
"Each series of questions was preceded by what was essentially a sales pitch giving the VAFFC point of view," Roston said.
He recalls one such question asking, "Do you think the outcome of the current environment review would affect the views you expressed?" after commentary about the thoroughness of completed environmental reviews on similar proposals unrelated to VAFFC.
Another series of questions, according to Roston, was "along the lines of, 'Did I realize how important the airport is to the Vancouver region and its economy?'"
The script is not being made available to media or the public, so it is difficult to independently verify Roston's account of the survey. For him, though, it raises serious questions about the legitimacy of how the VAFFC is conducting business.
"It would be very easy for someone to give out the results of the survey and leave out the context," he said.
The VAFFC, however, is adamant that the public opinion survey is nothing more than a means to gauge locals' attitudes and education about the plan. "This survey is intended to provide us with additional information on what people know about the project and their views towards it, including those living in other communities served by YVR," emailed Adrian Pollard, VAFFC's project director.
"It has been planned for several weeks now, and is also unrelated to the current suspension of the Environmental Assessment."
VAFFC was slammed just last week by Coun. Harold Steves and Richmond's protest group VAPOR, which formed to oppose the fuel delivery plan, for suspending the environmental review for a second time.
At the time, VAFFC said the suspension was requested because more time was needed to explore the potential effects of an aviation fuel spill, information that is being required by Environment Canada.