The key to public hearings is obviously public input.
With the Enbridge hearings in Victoria shutting out residents interested in attending the proceedings and Victoria MLA Murray Rankin being refused entry, the government is not leaving us with the impression that public interest is welcome.
The process of registering to speak is tried and true. However, relegating the great unwashed to a hotel kilometres away from where the hearings are taking place, allowing the public only to view the proceedings in a video feed from fixed cameras is not open, transparent information gathering.
We all want the sessions to run smoothly without interruptions from noisy protesters. Ugly disruptions create an oppressive atmosphere, rather than one of courtesy and respect, which enables everyone to voice their opinion without feeling threatened.
However, posting uniformed police outside the hearing room and forcing the public to view the hearings from a distance of more than two kilometres only alienates the people who it is trying to engage.
Talks held across the country have been uneventful. The most threatening event so far has been a large community gathering which formed a welcoming committee of sorts for the panel at the Bella Bella hearings. That situation delayed the process by one day.
The Enbridge pipeline proposal is controversial. For some, registering their name in advance, standing in front of a panel of strangers, explaining their concerns or expressing their approval is comfortable and acceptable. For others, voicing their concerns in an old-fashioned, free-spirited way with placards and songs is the way they want to express themselves. And for some of us, being able to see and hear the presentations for ourselves is how we become involved.
Separating the people from the process is not the way to earn trust and make sure the public interest is served.