And somebody kindly gave me earphones so I was able to hear everything.
They started off with the news that we were going to have a couple of days of the hearing at the Strathroy Arena. The chair thought it was across the road from the Gemini Centre but it is actually across town. This is probably even worse than the Gemini Centre for noise, lack of facilities like microphones etc.
We lost another witness right away – we’ve lost so many now I have trouble keeping track – Lansink and the other appraiser went yesterday – I think this morning it was ms Rogers, a nurse, denied as she wasn’t put forward early enough as a witness.
Then we get onto Dr. Pierpont, a pediatric physician who wrote the book on Wind Turbine Syndrome. The MOE and Nextera whine about her witness statement – not complete – not in the format they want, leaves too many unanswered questions – too vague – “We just don’t know how to respond to this.” (paraphrase). She sent them the book and said to read it, and wrote that she would attempt to educate them so that they could understand about the inner ear and some other things they’d need to know to appreciate what the turbines do to people. She also sent them a list of links to 75? documents.
The lawyers had complained that they wanted to know her sources and what documents she would be referencing where. She resent her original ‘witness statement’ with inserts saying things like – ‘ref docs 1 to14’.
Lawyers aren’t satisfied. They said any expert witness could just submit a book and say read it. Bear in mind that these are the same lawyers who will give you a 500 page binder as a witness statement and when you question the witness you have to tell him the page number and then he will read the answer. He didn’t write the material and usually doesn’t really know it all that well either.
The MOE lawyer went on at great length about how a witness statement is the equivalent of (I forget the term) some other statement in a regular trial.
Esther told them that ‘This is a full statement in my opinion,’ and went on to say that if they want the other kind of statement they should call it that, but they called it a witness statement so she gave them a witness statement.
I love these bits. Esther does it over and over. All the lawyers, but especially the MOE guy like to rattle on about section 34.2, subparagraph 13 and then they throw in lawyerly words and repeat themselves 3 or 4 times in case you weren’t sufficiently impressed or baffled the first time. Those of us not suffering from the disgrace of being a lawyer miss most of it, as intended.
Then Esther refutes them, point by point, in plain English.
John Terry, Mahoney’s sidekick, goes into a long spiel about how we have to safeguard and preserve the procedures and rules of the inquiry to prevent any unfairness. He’s big on this. He seems to feel that because the tribunal occasionally gives Esther a bit of slack that she has a huge advantage and if an example is set, other’s will use it at future hearings and the whole shaky edifice will come tumbling down. (It’s just NOT FAIR!) Never mind that after giving her an extension on a deadline, they then throw out all her witnesses – reasons to be given later!
And once again, in simple language, Esther demolishes their complex BS. “The book is there,” she said. “Read it. There are 16 pages of footnotes.
They made the mistake of giving her the three page summary of witness rules for lay people which she had never seen before, and after a 10 minute break she came back in and went through it point by point, reading it out and then – did that, two, reads text, did that, three, check. 4 makes no sense at all. 5 – check.
Then the chair and his partner retire to their little room for 20 minutes and come back out to announce that Pierpont has been removed from the witness list. Reasons to follow (apparently when he made the call, his overlords didn’t tell him what the reasons were. Esther (or was it Harvey?) asked if we would have the reasons before the hearing was over. No promises.
Some wasted time through the day when Nextera’s Mahoney or the Chair or both didn’t seem to have all their notes, weren’t aware of certain emails, etc. Seems somebody hasn’t been doing their homework.
Some confusion about the constitutional challenge – lawyers had talked to Gillespie but nobody had told Esther. She declined to accept the outcome. They pointed out that she had said she would follow Eric’s lead. Esther replied – “Doesn’t mean I don’t want to know about it.”
When they complained of the ‘prejudice’ – giving Esther breaks – she responded – “You have unlimited resources. I have nothing. The government and Nextera can put teams of lawyers on it to read through everything, to nitpick at all my witnesses. Instead of trying to get rid of all evidence, the tribunal could just listen to the evidence and give it weight according to it’s validity.”
That really got to the MOE guy. He was offended by the charge of nitpicking. These were ‘essential’ points. If they let this go by, every witness could just submit a book. right.
So – no Pierpont. I’m wondering if they are going to throw us a bone. We’re on to the site visit and Mahoney is rattling on about it but with an almost conciliatory tone. He concedes that the tribunal might want to make up it’s own mind (we’ve seen no example of this from the chair) but he lectures the tribunal and Esther about how it is to be carried out, all the logistical problems, like how many are going, how many vehicles or do we rent a bus – where will we stop – will we just look out the windows or will we get out – if someone starts describing the landscape there might be a tendency to make points which would be evidence and we aren’t allowed evidence at a site visit – and this guy seems to think these really are insurmountable problems. Then there’s the problem of setting precedents and if we do go, then the approval holder wants to add some sites of his own – just to be fair, you know – although he has just said that there’s nothing out there to see. (city guy, eh. There’s no turbines – just flat farmland – nothing to see – we could look at photos.)
Then they got off onto the ‘procedural fairness and natural justice’ crap that they kept bringing up.
“What are we going to do – just look at a school and imagine turbines around it. We could do that with photos… And suddenly Esther just stood up and left the room. Moments later Harvey and Irene followed.
Mahoney – “For the record, ms Wrightman and Mr. Wrightman have just left the room.” He looks a little unsure and then says he’ll continue his statement. The chair, to his credit, decided a short break might be more appropriate. Nobody really knows exactly what is happening. Some on the dark side of the room wander off. The transcriber and I are all that’s left. She goes out and comes back and tells Mahoney 5 more minutes and tells the chair in his little room the same. The rest of the dark side wander off.
Esther comes back and asks me what happened while she was out and says that it just hit her so hard when they wrote off the school so offhandedly. She went to that school with all the kids who had various handicaps – where they all learned to just accept everyone as they were and these lawyers just dismiss it. For the rest of the afternoon, they would hardly look at her.
We got back underway, Mahoney still making his points but is more subdued – he doesn’t know what triggered her and doesn’t want to do it again. These people are lawyers doing a job. Feelings don’t come into it. They are used to dealing with other lawyers who are opposing them – but nobody has any feelings about it – it’s just a job. Nothing personal – we’re just going through the motions – fight the case you’re hired for, collect your fees and go home.
We have told them repeatedly that for us this isn’t just a game – for us it is our lives that are being dealt with. For us it IS PERSONAL. They aren’t used to having to deal with real live humans who actually care about the outcome, and whose kids are still going to that school. We have to live with the results for the next 20 to 50 years.
So they threw us a bone. We will have the site visit on the 18th, when we are meeting in a lousy venue in Strathroy, so it’s only a few more minutes to get out to the real boonies. (Will they all be wearing red wellies? Maybe we should invest in some – tell them it’s ‘de rigeur’ in the country.)
Esther’s witness Bill(?) Palmer will be on at 10 am tomorrow – Thursday. Muriel and I are tentatively booked to do our presentations back in London on Monday. They haven’t yet said anything about my request for extra time for mine.
[I would like to have a site visit to Chatham or some horrible location like that – show them what it’s really like. Then cause a breakdown and book rooms somewhere surrounded by turbines.
Like that’s going to happen.]