Ackerman says she invited them to visit to get a better idea of the industrial development going on in the Peace Region and around Fort St. John.
"I've just realized with a lot of the conversations that have been happening around the province, very few people are aware of where their energy comes from… but they have a lot of opinions about it," she says. "We are B.C.'s energy capital, and that's more than just a title, it is a responsibility."
Mayor Mussallem says the trip was particularly relevant for Prince Rupert and Port Edward, as oil and gas companies are now pursuing developments in their region. Spectra Energy and BG Group are proposing a pipeline with an LNG terminal in Prince Rupert. Over the past few days the mayors had the opportunity to see how a rig works, to take a tour of a gas plant as well as worker camps, and speak with company and Oil and Gas Commission representatives.
"That allows us to get a good overview of how the industry works, get some understanding," says Mussallem. "Also as importantly for us, to get an understanding of how these various companies interact with the communities that they work around."
He says that the people they've met have been approachable, as well as informative, and they're leaving with a better understanding of an industry that will soon be at their doorsteps.
"I think the most valuable thing we learned is that there's opportunity for communities, there's opportunity for our residents, that these companies operate at a very high standard, that safety comes first, and they take their work and their behaviour very, very seriously."
That's exactly what Ackerman was hoping for. She says she hopes they leave Fort St. John with more knowledge about a commodity B.C. has a big supply of, and needs an increased demand for.
"If we can increase the demand, we can get those LNG plants out in the west," she explains. "There are some people that have issues with pipelines, and they're not understood well, so what I'm hoping is that they've understood a little bit about how the industry works, the safety of pipeline transportation of this commodity, and the ability to help their constituents make good decisions to ensure that the province and the nation as a whole have a good economy moving forward."
Mayor MacDonald, who says he was "astounded" to learn about the process of fracking and impressed by the camps, believes he'll be able to do just that.
"We're a very small town, and I'm sure there are going to be lots of questions, so hopefully I can answer some of them now."
Ackerman hopes to bring more mayors up to our region, especially as part of the B.C. Energy Conference held in Fort St. John next year.