In the News
Links to items on other sites of interest to Common Sense Canadian readers, writers, and editors.
Gary Mason of The Globe and Mail's take on BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix's surprise opposition to the Kinder Morgan's plans to turn Vancouver into a major Tar Sands shipping port. (April 26, 2013)
We may never know what inspired NDP Leader Adrian Dix to breathe life into a moribund B.C. Liberal election campaign by reversing his position on the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. But it is clear from the first leaders debate Friday that the issue has become a political millstone for the New Democrats.
It has dominated the campaign since Mr. Dix stunned many on Earth Day by declaring his opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plans. This, after saying as recently as two weeks earlier that as a “matter of principle” he wouldn’t prejudge the project before the company had a chance to submit its complete proposal to the National Energy Board later this year.
The NDP Leader has maintained that his thinking on the matter evolved over time. He has said the tipping point was when he learned that Kinder Morgan was planning to increase the amount of oil it was going to move through the new pipeline. At his Earth Day announcement, Mr. Dix said he did not believe that Vancouver should become a major oil-exporting port, something he says would happen if the pipeline expansion went ahead. The number of big oil tankers entering the port would increase several fold, he has maintained, increasing the likelihood of a spill.
Not surprisingly, the subject was highlighted in the first half hour of the leaders debate on the Bill Good radio show on CKNW. Liberal Leader Christy Clark used her opponent’s about-face to expose him as a flip-flopper. She criticized him for taking a position ahead of an environmental review process. After previously coming out against the Northern Gateway pipeline, Mr. Dix is being accused of being anti-business and anti-development, labels he has been fighting hard to shake off.
Ms. Clark is also now suggesting that Mr. Dix arrived at his position in January and “kept it concealed,” until the election campaign. “It makes you wonder what else Mr. Dix is concealing,” Ms. Clark said on the radio. Being in the desperate position that she is – 14 points behind in the polls with just two weeks left in the campaign – Ms. Clark is now trying to cast the NDP Leader’s announcement in a more sinister light.
On this point, the Liberal Leader is completely wrong.
Ms. Clark is basing her “secret agenda” line of attack on a recent story by Globe and Mail reporter Justine Hunter. Based on an interview with Mr. Dix, her piece said the NDP Leader made up his mind to oppose the project after Kinder Morgan “signalled its expanded ambitions for the project in January.” Ms. Clark is suggesting that implies January is when Mr. Dix made his decision when, in fact, it only suggests he made up his mind “some time after” the beginning of the year.
Despite Ms. Hunter’s best efforts during the interview, Mr. Dix steadfastly refused to say when, exactly, he did decide to change his position. That leaves us to guess as to his motive and one of the best deductions making the rounds is that the NDP saw recent polling numbers that suggested the party was vulnerable in a number of key ridings because of the Green Party – something the New Democrats felt they could undercut by taking a position against Kinder Morgan.
But while it may have helped fend off the Greens, the NDP’s new policy has almost certainly helped Ms. Clark and the Liberals.
Whether you agree with Mr. Dix’s stand or not, declaring a project dead ahead of an environmental review process is not very statesmanlike. It looks amateurish, especially against the backdrop of a previously held – and much-ballyhooed – matter of principle position.
It allows the Liberals to cast the New Democrats as anti-development. It allows the Liberals to ask in the heat of an election campaign: How does an NDP government intend to pay for all its campaign promises if it is going to oppose every development project that environmental groups do not like? Has Mr. Dix forgotten about the tens of thousands of jobs the resource sector creates in B.C.? Does he not believe in due process?
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/adrian-dixs-opposition-to-kinder-morgan-and-the-liberals-hopes/article11584071/
Read this story from the Kamloops Daily News on the upcoming screening of the new documentary film Salmon Confidential, which screens Tuesday evening in that community. (April 25, 2013)
When biologist Alexandra Morton discovered B.C.'s wild salmon were testing positive for dangerous European salmon viruses she set off a chain of events she alleges led to a government coverup.
The documentary that filmmaker Twyla Roscovich made about Morton's investigation is a detective story with an important environmental message, Morton said Wednesday.
"There's a lot of surprise that the government is treating wild salmon this way," she said. "Audiences are going to see a coverup and they are going to see a detective story."
Salmon Confidential screens Tuesday in the Alumni Theatre at Thompson Rivers University at 7 p.m. Roscovich will be in attendance.
Morton was a participant in the Cohen Commission, a three-year, $26-million inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye salmon run.
She said bureaucrats with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and key scientists withheld crucial documents from the commission. Outraged, she contacted Roscovich and asked her to make the film.
"I was concerned that all the testimony and all that we learned would be lost to the public," she said.
Salmon Confidential shows rare footage from the commission and follows Morton as she travels from the courtroom to some of the province's most remote rivers, the grocery store and even sushi restaurants.
She discovered farmed salmon in B.C. have fallen victim to three European viruses — Infectious Salmon Anemia, Piscine Reovirus and Salmon Alpha Virus. Morton even taught herself how to test for these viruses.
When the fisheries industry wouldn't let her test farmed fish, Morton went to the supermarket and tested the salmon on ice there. She said fish sold in the grocery store have all three European viruses.
"All three of these are causing lawsuits in the Norwegian salmon farming industry and nobody knows what they are going to do to wild Pacific salmon in British Columbia," she said.
The federal government suppressed a paper revealing Infectious Salmon Anemia was found in 100 per cent of the sockeye stocks in Cultus Lake, claimed Morton.
Morton has been to more than 25 showings of Salmon Confidential and people are consistently shocked. She said the documentary has its lighter moments, but it's serious stuff.
Read more: http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/20130425/KAMLOOPS0101/130429918/-1/kamloops01/documentary-explores-plight-of-farmed-salmon
Read this story from Jeff Nagel at the Surrey Leader on a possible re-routing of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the Lower Mainland that could satisfy the NDP's recently-stated concerns about turning Vancouver into a major oil port. (April 24, 2013 - updated April 26)
Imagine a twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline that sends oil sands crude not to its current Burnaby export terminal but to one in northwestern Washington instead.
It would still mean hundreds more tankers carrying much more crude oil through the Gulf Islands, past Victoria and up the west side of Vancouver Island.
But NDP leader Adrian Dix would have kept his Earth Day election promise not to transform Vancouver harbour into "a major oil port."
NDP energy critic John Horgan did not rule out that scenario in a Black Press interview Wednesday, going so far as to say he met Kinder Morgan officials the previous day and anticipates their proposal could evolve ahead of a formal application later this year to the National Energy Board.
"It wouldn't be a challenge in Burrard Inlet any longer," Horgan said, when asked if oil flowing to a different terminal would still be problematic for the NDP.
"There are a number of options they may pursue," Horgan said, adding he can't pre-judge them because the company has not yet made them public.
"I'll leave it to them to put forward the options they consider viable," he said. "The current proposal is a massive expansion of export capacity in Burrard Inlet. So I'm hopeful Kinder Morgan will review our leader's position and act accordingly."
Kinder Morgan officials didn't comment on the idea of a new terminal this week.
A statement posted online in February says the company has considered terminal alternatives but has yet to find an option compelling enough to deviate from the existing corridor.
Horgan was also asked if a less sensitive terminal might be Deltaport or even Fraser Surrey Docks, which could accept larger ships if the Massey Tunnel is replaced with a bridge.
"Deltaport would be a more likely scenario [than Fraser Surrey Docks for Kinder Morgan to propose]. But again those are options for the proponent."
He cautioned any twinning of the pipeline would be "transformative change" that would present "a challenge and a problem for us" but that it would be up to Kinder Morgan to bring back proposals that are defensible and in the public interest.
The Trans Mountain pipeline forks at Abbotsford, with a spur running south to Cherry Point refineries in northwest Washington, where tankers already bring oil from Alaska.
Running the new pipeline south at Sumas to a new export port in Washington would bypass the most heavily populated parts of the Lower Mainland that pose major construction challenges.
Asked if the risks of an oil spill on land along the pipeline route is a concern, Horgan said Trans Mountain has an existing right-of-way that's "been there for 50 years with more or less unblemlished activity."
As for more tankers passing Vancouver Island, the MLA for Juan de Fuca noted several hundred tankers a year already sail through U.S. waters bringing Alaskan crude to Washington refineries.
"Tankers are going past my constituency right now to Cherry Point," he said.
An NDP-approved Kinder Morgan twinning would avoid at least one oil pipeline confrontation with Ottawa and could see the province rake in more royalties.
B.C. Green Party Leader Jane Sterk accused the NDP of trying to "have their cake and eat it too" by appealing to urban environmentalists while leaving the door open to a twinned Trans Mountain pipeline with a different backdoor outlet.
"Our voters and the voters of the NDP who care about the environment and have an understanding of climate change would say that's a betrayal," Sterk said.
Anti-oil sands campaigner Ben West said a twinning with a new terminal would still endanger the coastal environment and the atmosphere.
"Tankers moving through the Salish Sea means risk for the Salish Sea, whether you put a terminal at Point A or Point B."
While the Greens oppose both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects, the NDP would subject Kinder Morgan to a made-in-B.C. environmental review, rather than delegating the decision to Ottawa.
Read more, listen to John Horgan interview: http://www.surreyleader.com/news/204581501.html
Read this story by veteran political commentator Mel Rothenburger on Rafe Mair's recent presentation in Kamloops and the various political and energy issues raised therein. (April 25, 2013)
It’s hard to know whether to be more afraid of what the politicians are telling us, or what Rafe Mair is telling us about the politicians. Rafe was in town the other night and he hasn’t lost a step since he was the Socred MLA for Kamloops and a cabinet minister back in the days of Bill Bennett.
He and documentary filmmaker Damien Gillis were here to ring mostly non-partisan alarm bells about the environment and the myths of political bookkeeping. Gillis gave a good talk but Rafe was the highlight, delivering an old-time tub thumper to the Council of Canadians crowd.
He railed against pipelines, fish farms, fracking and the “sham” of balanced budgets. “We’re not talking risky here,” he said of oil spills. “We’re talking certainties.” And “They’ll never give us enough to make up for what they take.” And, “People just simply won’t believe what’s going on.”
None of this cheered me up a week and a half into a campaign that has mostly featured Christy Clark and Adrian Dix in a bizarre standoff over money.
Clark, whose party has bloated B.C.’s debt by billions of dollars, warns us about the perils of debt and sings the praises of LNG while Dix makes more promises than a leopard has spots and suddenly becomes a Kinder Morgan skeptic.
It’s a campaign that has moved from the confusing to the picayune, the banal and the irrelevant. For instance, there’s the question of who can get more people to a rally. After 350 showed up for a clambake in Surrey featuring Dix and federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Terry Lake and Todd Stone tweeted a chorused pshaw. “Are you kidding me? 350 people for @adriandix and Tom Mulcair in Surry (sic)?” it read. “We had more for @christyclark in #kamloops.”
Well, no, actually, I estimated 250 to 300 for Clark’s appearance at the ISC but does anyone other than Lake and Stone really care?
Even more important, at least in the opinion of the Liberals and NDP, is whose signs include the name of the party leader and whose don’t. At this writing, the Conservatives have no signs at all, and the Greens have everybody beat — they don’t even have candidates here.
Read more: http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/20130425/KAMLOOPS0304/130429925/-1/kamloops0304/rothenburger-politics-of-the-picayune-take-over
Read this follow-up from the Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter to the news she broke on Monday of NDP leader Adrian Dix's surprise opposition to turning Vancouver into a major oil port. (April 23, 2013)
Adrian Dix says he made up his mind to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal after the company signalled its expanded ambitions for the project in January. But until the moment that he stepped up to the podium at a carefully staged policy announcement on the banks of the North Thompson River on Monday, the BC NDP Leader publicly maintained his party would take no position until the proponents submit their formal application to the national review panel.
“I thought Earth Day was a good day to say clearly what I thought – we have no intention of seeing Metro Vancouver become a major oil tanker centre,” Mr. Dix said in an interview Tuesday.
Mr. Dix said he wasn’t rushed into the decision: “It’s been an important question for some time, there wasn’t any particular pressure other than the importance of the issue,” he said. “I reflected on it for a long time.”
But while he publicly sat on the fence, pressure was growing both inside and outside the party.
It was the first notable recalculation on Mr. Dix’s part in this campaign. It reflects what his candidates have been hearing on the doorsteps, as well as a potential clash among those who are expected to be a part of the next NDP caucus.
The New Democrats still bear the scars of past internal battles when resource development collided with environmental values: Names such as Six Mile Ranch, Carmanah and Clayoquot Sound resonate for those who recall the caucus and party divided.
Party insiders say the evolution of the Earth Day announcement speaks to the strong opposition to the oil pipeline proposal in vote-rich Metro Vancouver. Environmentalists were cranking up the heat, which could end up pushing voters towards the B.C. Green Party at the polls. The non-position on the politically explosive Kinder Morgan pipeline was simply not sustainable in a party that has a strong environmental wing.
That’s the external pressure. Internally, not taking a position on Kinder Morgan was also increasingly difficult to sustain. If Mr. Dix emerges as the victor on May 14, the decision on how to handle the pipeline question could easily have become Mr. Dix’s first caucus challenge.
Pollster Mario Canseco of Angus Reid Public Opinion said the shift reflects a concern about the Green vote. “If it is born out of a political calculation, that was the one,” he said. “This is a way to reconnect with the environmentally friendly base, including those who are flirting with the Greens.”
It took little time for leading environmentalists to cheer the NDP move – it was a signal they had been waiting for, a key factor deciding whether they would help the party in this election or hinder it as they did in 2009 over the carbon tax.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/dix-defuses-kinder-morgan-pipeline-debate/article11515409/
Read this story from The Kamloops Daily News on Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis' recent presentation in the community, titled "WATER + POWER: The Future of BC's Energy, Environment and Democracy." The event drew a crowd of a hundred to the Desert Garden Seniors' Centre Tuesday night. (April 24, 2013)
B.C. isn't confronted with just two pipeline proposals but a matrix of energy-related developments crisscrossing the province and amounting to an unprecedented drain on finite water resources, Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis told a gathering on Tuesday night.
That means voters need to familiarize themselves with B.C.'s position in what they referred to as the "carbon corridor" vision for Western Canada.
"I think we're literally at a watershed point in our province," Mair said, adding that the course of events in recent years has changed his views. The former Kamloops lawyer, MLA, author and radio commentator has been collaborating with Gillis, a documentary filmmaker.
They maintain an online environmental journal called The Common Sense Canadian, based on their belief that mainstream media are not telling the full story of B.C.'s systematic environmental degradation.
And they've hit the campaign trail to spread their message to Interior residents in the run-up to May 14.
"I'm not here shilling for any political party," Mair said. "I'm campaigning because I'm an old man and I think we're literally at a watershed point in our province."
With this election, voters have a last chance to alter the course of the province's energy developments — including pipelines, the proposed Site C dam and independent power projects — to ensure that economics don't undermine the essential quality of life, he said.
Gillis said there has been little mention of the full costs of the vision for liquefied natural gas development in B.C.'s northeastern corner, touted as a long-term solution to provincial debt.
"We believe there are a lot of holes in this theory and also a lot of tradeoffs," said Gillis, whose family farmed in the Peace for a century before it was flooded in 1966. "It's going to be a boondoggle. It's going to be highly subsidized and it's not going to work."
Hydraulic fracturing used to extract the gas poses environmental risks, uses vast amounts of water and is energy-intensive on its own, he said. He showed clips from Fractured Land, a film he's producing on the issue, suggesting strong community resistance to the energy agenda.
Read more: http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/20130424/KAMLOOPS0101/130429938/-1/kamloops/power-projects-said-to-undermine-future
Read this story from the Terrace Standard on BC Conservative Party candidate Mike Brousseau's opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, running counter to his party's official position. Brousseau's riding encompasses much of the proposed pipeline route and the would-be tanker terminal in Kitimat. (April 24, 2013)
ENBRIDGE shouldn’t be allowed to build its Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Alberta to a planned marine export terminal at Kitimat, says Skeena BC Conservative candidate Mike Brousseau.
“Integrity for me with Gateway just doesn’t add up,” said Brousseau of the $5.5 billion project now in the final stages of a federal environmental review.
Brousseau, who was born in Michigan, still has relatives living in the Kalamazoo area where an Enbridge pipeline broke in 2010.
Company officials weren’t aware of the leak for hours, resulting in significant spillage into the Kalamazoo River.
“There’s been a cover-up,” said Brousseau of work done there to clean up the spill.
“Do you think I want that happening here? No way, Jose.”
Brousseau termed Enbridge a “globalist” company concerned only with profits and not communities or the environment.
“It doesn’t work top down. It needs to work bottom up,” said Brousseau of how decisions should be made and how companies should do business.
“From the top down, people are oppressed. People aren’t represented at a global level.”
And although Brousseau’s position is opposite to that of the BC Conservative party, which is in support of Northern Gateway, that’s fine by him.
“I can go against the party if I wish,” says Brousseau. “He supports me in doing that,” Brousseau added of party leader John Cummins.
“This is not a party like the NDP or the Liberals with a whip system,” Brousseau said of the term used in politics whereby party discipline is enforced.
“I get my advice from the people. I am the people’s candidate.”
Brousseau said his position might change, as long as people also approved, of a pipeline construction plan that included the highest level of environmental protection and monitoring.
Read more: http://www.terracestandard.com/news/203931411.html
Read this breaking story from Justine Hunter at The Globe and Mail on BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix's stand against the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to Vancouver. (April 22, 2013)
The B.C. NDP has taken a stand against the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion, saying an NDP government would throw up a roadblock to both of the plans to get Alberta oil to the coast for export.
“They are talking about an increase of five- or six-fold [in capacity] and I think that transforms Vancouver into a major oil export port,” Mr. Dix told reporters at a news conference held on the banks of the Thompson River in Kamloops – one of the junctions for the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline.
“I don’t think people in Vancouver see that as the right way to go, and I don’t think that’s the right way to go.”
Mr. Dix has already come out in opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline but until now, his party has been quiet on the Kinder Morgan proposal to twin an existing pipeline.
He has said an NDP government would pull out of a pact with Ottawa that cedes the environmental approval process to the federal government. Pipeline proponents would then be allowed to apply under a provincial review process.
But he told reporters the Kinder Morgan proposal has expanded in capacity and he would not support the increased oil tanker traffic that would be needed to carry that oil to Asian markets.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/dix-declares-opposition-to-kinder-morgan-pipeline-expansion/article11464371/
Read this story and watch video on questionable tactics undertaken by pipeline builder Enbidge to curry favour with landowners and communities along the route of its proposed Line 9 expansion to eastern Canada. (April 21, 2013)
MONTREAL — The town of Mirabel got $10,000, and put it toward the cost of a generator for its fire department. Belleville, Ont., got $25,000 to turn a city bus into a mobile emergency command centre. And just two weeks ago, Vaudreuil-Dorion got $20,000 for new hazardous material and communications equipment for its fire department.
What do these towns have in common?
They are all on or near the route of Enbridge’s 9B oil pipeline, and just as the company is seeking approval for its controversial project to reverse and substantially increase the flow of crude oil through the pipeline, it has given these and other towns sizable donations.
Made in the name of “safe communities,” the donations are legal, proponents and critics concede.
But as the April 19 deadline approached for towns to seek permission to speak before the National Energy Board reviewing the proposal, the question was whether Enbridge expects something in return.
Read story and watch video: http://www.canada.com/news/Enbridge%2Bdonations%2Bflow%2Bmunicipalities%2Balong%2Bpipeline/8274230/story.html
Read this story by Mark Hume in The Globe and Mail on Ottawa's refusal to make public several key reports on the health of wild salmon in BC, holding back the implementation of DFO's Wild Salmon Policy as a result. (April 14, 2013)
Key scientific documents needed before the department of Fisheries and Oceans can implement its plan to save British Columbia’s wild salmon have been held up in Ottawa for a year.
The documents, concerning sockeye conservation units on the Fraser River, were withheld from the Cohen Commission even though they were substantially ready for release at the time the federal inquiry was under way.
Fisheries managers planning catch limits for the 2013 season, which has yet to start, have had to do so to this point without knowing what the reports contain.
The reports, confidential draft copies of which have been obtained by The Globe and Mail, show that seven of the 24 conservation units in the watershed have been designated as “red zones” with another four rated red/amber. That classification means the salmon populations in those areas are considered at risk of extinction.
The reports show most of those red zones are located at the heads of distant tributaries, indicating the salmon that travel the farthest in the Fraser River system are having the hardest time surviving. That raises questions about the impact of climate change because the salmon that are in trouble are exposed to the warmer river temperatures longer.
Only five of the conservation units got “green zone” status, which means they are healthy, and six were amber or amber/green, at low risk, but of concern. Two populations weren’t rated because of a lack of data.
The stocks were rated when 34 top fisheries scientists and managers retreated for a three-day workshop in November, 2011. They analyzed a variety of ways to assess the status of conservation units and came up with a method that would allow DFO to evaluate all salmon conservation units in the province. The approach leads to long-term projections of stock health, not just immediate snapshots.
The documents are considered to be one of the final pieces that need to be in place before DFO can implement its wild salmon policy, a strategy that has been in development for nearly 10 years.
DFO has refused to release the documents, saying they are still in draft form – even though the reports were effectively completed in the spring of 2012.
“We only release final copies of reports. At this time, I have no indication of when they will be finalized,” Tom Robbins, a spokesman for DFO, stated in an e-mail last week, when asked for the documents.
A fisheries researcher, who didn’t want to be named, said scientists suspect the government is delaying the release because it doesn’t want to have to respond to the red-zone ratings.
“It’s clearly political,” he said of the delay. “I know they are not held up by scientific discussion. I can only guess that recognition several of these units are in the red zone – and therefore require recovery plans – is giving people angst.”
He said the government’s wild salmon policy can’t be implemented until the documents are finalized and the analytical method outlined in them is adopted by managers.
“It’s a real loss to have these documents delayed,” he said. “It means we’ve lost another year in responding to what these documents show [about red zone stocks].”
He added “it is debilitating … it is so frustrating” for scientists to see important research tied up in the bureaucracy.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/ottawa-withholding-reports-on-bc-wild-salmon/article11193115/?cmpid=rss1
Read this story from Jeff Nagel of the Surrey-North Delta Leader on Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts' concerns about a BC Liberal pledge for a referendum on transit spending in 2014. (April 15, 2013)
The BC Liberals' surprise pledge of a referendum in November 2014 on any new taxes or tolls for TransLink is getting mixed reaction from transportation watchers.
Canadian Taxpayers' Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman said the election promise unveiled Monday would give local voters the power to block any new revenue tool for transit expansion they decide is unjustified.
"That will really change the tenor of the discussion around TransLink," Bateman said.
"From my point of view, that's great. Direct democracy is always the best democracy."
Metro Vancouver mayors have asked the province for new funding sources – a vehicle levy, a share of carbon tax, a small regional sales tax or some form of road pricing – to give TransLink the money for a massive transit expansion that would include rapid transit through Surrey to Langley and west on Vancouver's Broadway corridor to UBC.
But some Metro Vancouver mayors are critical of the promised referendum, saying it threatens to dumb down the important debate over the future expansion of transit and put the long-term future of the region at risk.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts warned it could divide the region, with voters in cities that already have SkyTrain lines refusing to vote for the higher taxes needed to build new lines in the remaining underserved parts of the region.
"There are going to be people who don't want to have any expansion in the region whatsoever and that leaves the communities that are growing that have had no investment in rapid transit at a disadvantage," Watts said.
"Surrey has paid for significant amounts of infrastructure north of the Fraser," she said. "Now that we're looking to expand south of the Fraser, where 70 per cent of the region's growth is coming, we just really need to stop playing politics and get the job done."
Watts said the debate over funding for TransLink has dragged on for years and waiting until November 2014 would keep the region at a standstill until then.
"Not to be able to do anything for another two years for us in Surrey is simply unacceptable," said Watts, who questioned why there isn't a referendum on Liberal plans for changes to income tax levels or the sale of Crown land.
Watts also said the Liberal platform wrongly calls rapid transit for Surrey a "new" proposal, noting it was promised in the Provincial Transit Plan more than five years ago by then-premier Gordon Campbell.
Mayors' council chair Richard Walton doesn't reject the idea of a referendum but said he's concerned 2014 may be too soon to have an informed public debate on a complex issue like road pricing, which could see motorists charged to drive on major routes.
That public discussion would need to address not just what residents would pay in extra charges, but what they would get for the investment and the downside if it was rejected.
"Saying no is easy," Walton said. "But people don't necessarily understand the repercussions of saying no."
Both he and Watts said the referendum idea came without any warning despite months of meetings with Transportation Minister Mary Polak.
The timing of the vote for November 2014 is to coincide with the next civic elections, saving money.
SFU City Program director Gordon Price said a referendum could be a disaster for the region, blocking transit upgrades needed for the livability of the growing region.
"It's an excruciatingly bad idea," he said, pointing to transportation funding referenda in U.S. states, where he said good policy is often sacrificed to craft an initiative that might pass.
"It just invites everything to be framed as part of a cynical political exercise that's put through the grinder of ideology, partisanship and parochialism. It becomes what will sell. Not what's right or how do we make the tradeoffs that need to be made."
Read more: http://www.surreyleader.com/news/203121751.html
Read this story from Black Press on the NDP's recently released 5-point plan to strengthen the ailing forestry sector and protect jobs in rural communities dependent on the industry. (April 15, 2013)
PRINCE GEORGE – New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix pledged today in Prince George that an NDP government will invest new funding over five years to help grow the forest industry and improve the health of B.C. forests. The plan will invest in skills training, improve forest health, support industry-led efforts to expand global markets, reduce raw log exports and enhance value-added activity, and establish a Jobs Protection Commissioner.
Dix says the NDP will invest $30 million in 2013/14, $40 million in 2014/15 and $60 million in 2015/16, increasing to $80 million and $100 million annually by the fourth and fifth years of the plan. “Our top priority – one that’s shared with the industry – is to solve the shortage of skilled workers in the sector by making significant investments in training and apprenticeships,” stated Dix. He added that the NDP will make added commitments on skills training early in the election campaign. The plan also provides for a significant re-investment in forest health. Updating forest inventories – critical for sustainable forest management decisions – will be a key priority. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Dix. “To provide certainty, we need to have more precise knowledge of what timber is available to harvest sustainably and where it is.”
The BC Liberals have badly mismanaged B.C.’s trillion dollar forest asset for more than a decade. Much of the current inventory is 25 years out of date. In February 2012, Auditor General John Doyle issued a scathing rebuke of the government’s mismanagement of B.C.’s forests, saying that it is leading to lower timber supply and less species diversity.
Since 2001 the B.C. Forest Service has been cut by over 1,000 positions – one quarter of its workforce – meaning fewer eyes on the ground to manage B.C.’s greatest resource. The 2013 budget cut $35 million from forest health which supports critical activities like replanting and inventory management.
Other NDP forest health initiatives include:
- doubling seedlings planted by government on Crown land to 50 million annually over five years;
- enhancing Ministry of Forests research capacity; and
- a renewed emphasis on land-use planning engagement at regional and local levels.
The NDP plan offers support for industry-led efforts to identify new markets and increase exports. “Market development takes time and success is the product of forest companies and government working together,” said Dix. “We are committed to working with the industry to continue to grow global markets for our forest products.”
Dix says an NDP government will work with industry to reduce raw log exports – a record six million cubic metres were exported in 2012 – and get more value from harvested timber.
Finally, the plan creates a Jobs Protection Commissioner to support communities, workers and industries in transition due to timber supply shortages caused by the impacts of the pine beetle outbreak.
Read more: http://www.castlegarnews.com/news/election/203078831.html
Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on Environment Canada's call for the oil and gas industry to ratchet up the standards of its "voluntary disclosure" of the chemicals it uses in natural gas "fracking" operations. (April 12, 2013)
Environment Canada wants oil and gas companies to come clean about the unidentified fluids they inject deep underground to extract natural gas.
In newly released correspondence obtained by Postmedia News, the department's top official told the main Canadian oil and gas lobby group that the government needed more information about the industrial process commonly known as fracking: fracturing shale rock formations underground with fluids to extract the gas.
Paul Boothe, the former deputy minister, wrote that a new industry voluntary disclosure program was a "positive step" toward improving environmental performance, increasing transparency and the "use of fluids with the least environmental risk."
But his letter to Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, also suggested the environment department, which has authority to regulate toxic substances under existing environmental laws, wasn't satisfied.
"Environment Canada would like to work with your organization and others to ensure that the voluntary disclosure is structured so that we can determine the environmental impact of these substances," wrote Boothe in the March 13, 2012 letter, released using access to information legislation.
"To further inform this work, information such as all chemical additives used, their volumes, and their storage and disposal methods would be required."
Environment Canada and the industry association were not immediately able to respond to questions about whether they had made progress in sharing information about the fluids since last year.
In an email, an association spokesman said it had asked members to respond to a voluntary government questionnaire, but did not track results.
Environment Canada also sent an email to say it was still working with other governments and companies to get information, but declined to provide details of any results.
Shale gas is considered to be a "game changer" that dramatically improves energy supplies and reduces consumer costs, while at the same time prompting environmental reviews and protests over concerns about potential water contamination.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair last June accused the same industry lobby group of "pulling a con job" when it suggested fracking processes were regulated, while refusing to disclose the content of their fluids that, he said, have "known carcinogens and other very dangerous substances."
Boothe, an economist who left Environment Canada to direct a policy centre at the University of Western Ontario's business school last summer, warned Environment Minister Peter Kent that water consumption and contamination topped the list of environmental concerns related to fracking.
Read this column in the New Westminster's Record by political pundit Keith Baldrey, reflecting on the troubles faced by previous NDP governments on the environment file, and how the party could face similar challenges after it retakes Victoria on May 14. (April 10, 2013)
When the NDP formed government during the 1990s, it found itself constantly on the defensive when dealing with two major power blocs in B.C.: the environmental movement and doctors.
I suspect if the party wins the election in May, it may find itself reliving history with at least one of those groups.
The environmental movement was a major headache for the NDP government. The two fought pitched battles over forest practices and land-use decisions, and it's fair to say the environmentalists won a lot more than they lost.
The protests over logging in Clayoquot Sound, for example, gave B.C. an international black eye, and the NDP government was forced to back down and implement a complete overhaul of forest practices. The government was also pressured into not approving Alcan's Kemano II project, and it was forced to ban mining and other activities in the Tatshenshini watershed in the northwest corner of B.C.
Environmental protests on the legislature's front lawn were commonplace, and one even turned violent when the crowd broke through legislature security to smash a window in the chamber as the lieutenant-governor read the throne speech.
But with many of its forestry aims accomplished, the environmental movement has now shifted much of its focus to another natural resource industry: oil and gas.
The NDP is certainly onside with the enviros on the issue of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project. Both want the project halted.
The environmentalists have also targeted the Kinder Morgan pipeline and are starting a campaign against increased coal shipments out of Vancouver's port.
The NDP has yet to take a position on either project, but both are potentially problematic. Another potential headache is fracking, which uses immense amounts of water and chemicals to free up natural gas deposits deep below the earth's surface.
There is a growing movement by environmentalists to place a moratorium on fracking, but so far the party has only agreed to study the issue. This could very well be the biggest problem the environmental movement poses for an NDP government.
Party leader Adrian Dix has vowed to stick to policies that will allow the party to win re-election, and that means it can't simply be an anti-development or anti-industry government.
And this sets the stage for a potential replay of the fractious 1990s.
Read this story from NanaimoBulletin.com on the longstanding dispute over an urban farm in Lantzville, in which a compromise has been reached. The saga has put issues surrounding urban agriculture into focus on Vancouver Island these past several years. (April 8, 2013)
Lantzville’s mayor hopes a settlement reached recently in a longstanding dispute over the operation of a commercial farm on a residential property could help address the urban agriculture issue.
The District of Lantzville announced last week the dispute between the owners of Compassion Farm and adjoining property owners, which began in the fall of 2010 after a neighbour filed a complaint with the district over manure odours, has been resolved after a nine-month mediation process.
A letter signed by Compassion Farm owners Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw and adjoining property owners states that while the farm operation is not permitted by the residential zoning bylaw, the district does not intend to take any enforcement action against the contravention as long as Becker and Shaw comply with several conditions. Conditions include limits on the area under cultivation, on-site sales and the amount of materials that can be imported each year; a requirement that the materials be fully composted; providing access to the property for tests to ensure farming activities are not having an adverse effect on well water quality; and moving the rain barrel sale business indoors.
Mayor Jack de Jong said the heart of the issue was concerns from neighbours about importation of raw manure and water quality.
De Jong hopes the settlement, which cost the district about $25,000, can be used as a template for amending the home business bylaw.
“Using that as a foundation, I think we can work and make something that will be supported by the community,” said de Jong. “There seems to be some consensus that we should incorporate urban agriculture in the home business bylaw.”
Becker said he and Shaw signed the agreement because they needed closure.
“It’s been a two and a half year battle and Nicole and I are very, very tired of fighting,” he said, adding that the agreement does not address the issue of changing urban farming from being illegal to a supported, encouraged and protected activity.
Read more: http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/news/201540011.html
Read this story from the Ottawa Citizen on respected scientist David Schindler's retort to the Alberta and Harper Governments' attempts to downplay the environmental problems that plague the Tar Sands. (April 12, 2013)
OTTAWA — Claims that Alberta’s oilsands are environmentally harmless are “lies” and won’t convince anyone in Washington, one of this country’s most famous ecologists said Friday.
Political leaders in Alberta and Ottawa “seem to think that Americans believe in magic fairies — just shut your eyes and say the oilsands are clean four times and it happens,” said David Schindler of the University of Alberta.
He said this reflects the current federal ideology — not anti-science, but “anti-some kinds of science. Anything with ‘environmental’ in it seems to be anathema.”
Schindler, a freshwater scientist, was speaking at Carleton University. He has been a leading researcher on pollutants ranging from phosphates to acid rain to toxic waste, and in 2001 won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, a national award given to the country’s top scientist.
Showing his audience an aerial photo of a scarred landscape in oilsands country, he said environmental assessments commissioned by oil companies show there is no impact and those same companies claim the damage is later remediated.
“Why are people allowed to lie to the public like this? I just don’t understand this. We have to challenge them,” he said. “Obviously the people who used to challenge them, the civil servants, are no longer allowed to.
“If you got towns around the world to nominate the village idiot from every town and flew them over the oilsands, and asked them: ‘Yes or no, is this a significant impact?’ I think I know what the answer would be.
“It gives you an indication of how stupid this must seem to people in Washington. They must think we’ve all just fallen off a turnip truck ... We’ve had premiers and prime ministers and ministers of the environment spouting this stuff.”
He said tailings ponds in the region total 170 square kilometres, forming “a toxic Great Lake.”
A few years ago, Schindler decided it was time to test claims that the oilsands industry is benign. He joined toxicologist Peter Hodson of Queen’s University and Jeff Short, a pollution chemist with experience from the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill.
They took snow samples up and down the Athabasca River valley to see what airborne pollutants were falling, in an echo of old acid rain research. Melted down, the snow showed more toxins near the oilsands and downstream than in clean snow upstream. They published results in the journals Nature and PNAS.
“The (samples) near the oilsands actually had an oil scum floating on top of the melted snow,” said Schindler, showing a photo of oily droplets on water. Also, “when it starts to melt in the spring the snow turns black.”
Yet federal and Alberta politicians branded opposition the work of “radicals,” he said.
Schindler was incensed, and still is. “Suddenly if you want to protect the environment you’re an enemy of the state,” he said. He was educated as the Joe McCarthy era was ending and said today’s political climate is similar. “This just makes my spine crawl.”
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Believing+clean+oilsands+like+believing+magic+fairies/8234297/story.html
Read this update from CBC.ca, reporting that Suncor neglected to alert the City of Port Moody or local First Nations about a biodiesel spill at their facility for five days. (April 11, 2013)
Five days after a spill at its facility in Port Moody, B.C., Suncor is talking publicly about the leak which reached Metro Vancouver's Burrard Inlet.
Company spokesperson Sneh Seetal says about 225 barrels of a soybean-based biodegradable biodiesel blending agent leaked from a storage tank on Saturday.
The company immediately activated its response plan, blocking storm sewers, setting up booms and reporting the spill to the federal and provincial environment ministries.
Most the spill was captured in a trench, but about two litres spilled into the Burrard Inlet.
The public was not notified, and the incident only came to light after local media reported it.
Seetal says she understands the lack of public notification may have raised concerns.
"When the public is worried and concerned, we are as well, and that's why we'll do a thorough investigation, we'll look at the processes we have in place and we'll make any changes if appropriate."
Seetal said the company did everything required of it after the spill, including reporting to the federal and provincial governments.
"We're absolutely taking this situation seriously," she said.
The company is working with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation to complete the clean-up, Seetal said.
Seetal said the company is also conducting its own internal investigation to make sure such a spill doesn't happen again.
Inlet users concerned about process
News of the spill concerned the Burrard Inlet's Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, which used the accident to call for a moratorium on new pipelines.
"This incident reveals that the government's response plans are inadequate if they cannot, or will not, communicate with First Nations or local government's after the spill," said Carleen Thomas, the ambassador of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative.
The spill happened Saturday night, but the First Nation wasn't told of the spill until Tuesday, and the media wasn't alerted until Thursday.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/04/11/bc-suncor-spill-port-moody.html
Read this story from MacLean's on the Supreme Court of Canada's refusal to hear a case brought by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation to halt Shell's planned Jackpine Tar Sands project. (April 12, 2013)
OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s bid to block a ruling on Shell’s Jackpine oilsands mine expansion in northern Alberta.
Legal advisers for the band said Thursday its options to force the company to take its concerns into account aren’t over.
The First Nation wanted a regulatory board to rule on whether the band had been adequately consulted before the board decided if the Shell (NYSE:RDS) project could go ahead.
The board said governments should determine how much consultation is adequate. The Alberta Court of Appeal agreed and the high court has refused to hear an appeal of that decision.
“We are truly disappointed with this decision as we have diligently proceeded through legal avenues to have our rights upheld,” Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam said in a statement.
“We understand that this joint review panel was supposed to uphold everyone’s constitutional rights. Why has there been an exception with regards to First Nations’ consultation rights? Government must be held accountable to their treaty obligations.”
The First Nation also says the decision means the board will make a Jackpine decision without anyone considering whether the band’s right to adequate consultation has been fulfilled.
It hinted it may mount another bid to block the ruling.
“We do not know the reasons why the Supreme Court did not grant (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation) a hearing. It is clear that we will not find access to justice within Alberta,” Adam said.
“We will have to decide if we move ahead with different legal strategies to uphold our rights.”
Band lawyer Eamon Murphy said from Vancouver that the First Nation still has legal options.
Once the review panel issues its recommendation, permits for specific aspects of the project must still be issued by federal and provincial authorities. Murphy said the band is considering legal challenges at those levels.
“On those approvals, we would have to look at them and see if there’s any possibility of reviewing those in court,” he said. “It becomes more difficult, frankly.”
The issue of aboriginal consultation is heating up in Alberta.
Read more: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/04/11/supreme-court-refuses-to-hear-appeal-over-jackpine-oilsands-expansion-in-alberta/#.UWdZBtJh8i4.email
Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on the recent announcement by NDP leader Adrian Dix that his party will raise taxes, including expanding the carbon tax and removing its "revenue-neutral" status - opening up the ability to divert proceeds to green initiatives. (April 12, 2013)
VICTORIA — The New Democratic Party will fund its spending promises for the May 14 election with measures including higher taxes on businesses and the wealthy, reintroducing a tax on banks and credit unions, and expanding the province’s carbon tax.
The proposals will go toward generating an extra $2 billion over three years, said Bruce Ralston, the party’s long-standing finance critic and co-chair of its platform committee.
Most of the proposed tax increases announced Thursday come as no surprise, as they have long been telegraphed by party leader Adrian Dix.
Those include: increasing the corporate income tax rate to 12 per cent from 11 per cent; reinstating a corporation capital tax on financial institutions; and increasing personal income taxes to 19 per cent for those making more than $150,000 a year.
Under the plan, someone making $350,000 annually would pay an extra $4,400 in personal income taxes each year, the New Democrats said Thursday.
Banks would pay a three-per-cent tax each year on net paid-up capital under the plan, while credit unions would pay one per cent.
B.C.’s rates would be the lowest of the seven provinces with such financial-institution taxes, the NDP said. But Central 1 Credit Union chief economist Helmut Pastrick said the move would make B.C. the only province charging such a tax on credit unions.
Ralston said Thursday’s plan is achievable. “It’s realistic and it doesn’t set false expectations about expenditure reduction that couldn’t be achieved without dramatic cuts in public services.”
An NDP government would not expect to table a balanced budget until 2016, he said.
The party will begin unveiling its platform spending promises next week, once the campaign has officially begun.
Thursday’s announcement included a new promise to broaden the carbon tax, which would be expanded to cover so-called venting emissions in the oil and gas sector, or those coming from the controlled release of waste gas during the production process.
Those emissions — along with chemical-process emissions and agriculture emissions — were not captured by the original carbon tax, but instead were supposed to be covered by a cap-and-trade system that never came to fruition.
Ralston said the new NDP plan would be phased in starting April 1, 2014.
He also said an NDP government will abandon the B.C. Liberal commitment to make the carbon tax revenue-neutral.
“We are leaving open the possibility that in future negotiations with the regions or municipalities — but particularly regional governments — there might be an opportunity to use revenue for other initiatives such as transportation or other green initiatives that would reduce emissions,” he said.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/bc-election/announces+expansion+carbon+lays+fiscal+plan/8227487/story.html
Read this story from The New York Times on the latest mishap at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, which has remained in precarious condition, continuing to emit radioactive waste, ever since it was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami over 2 years ago. (April 10, 2013)
TOKYO — More than two years after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a series of recent mishaps — including a blackout set off by a dead rat and the discovery of leaks of thousands of gallons of radioactive water — have underscored just how vulnerable the plant remains.
Increasingly, experts are arguing that the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, cannot be trusted to lead what is expected to be decades of cleanup and the decommissioning of the plant’s reactors without putting the public, and the environment, at risk.
At the same time, the country’s new nuclear regulator remains woefully understaffed. It announced Wednesday that it would send a ninth official to the site — to monitor the work of about 3,000 laborers.
“The Fukushima Daiichi plant remains in an unstable condition, and there is concern that we cannot prevent another accident,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said at a news conference. “We have instructed Tepco to work on reducing some of the biggest risks, and we as regulators will step up monitoring.”
The biggest scare at the plant in recent days has been the discovery that at least three of seven underground storage pools are seeping thousands of gallons of radioactive water into the soil. On Wednesday, Tepco acknowledged that the lack of adequate storage space for contaminated water had become a “crisis,” and said it would begin emptying the pools. But the company said that the leaks will continue over the several weeks that it will likely take to transfer the water to other containers.
Plant workers dug these underground ponds about six months ago to store the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at the plant. There is about 400 tons daily from two sources: runoff from a makeshift cooling system rigged together after the site’s regular cooling equipment was knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, and a steady stream of groundwater seeping into damaged reactors.
Tepco stores more than a quarter-million tons of radioactive water at the site and says the amount could double within three years.
But as outside experts have discovered with horror, the company had lined the pits for the underground pools with only two layers of plastic each 1.5 millimeters thick, and a third, clay-based layer just 6.5 millimeters thick. And because the pools require many sheets hemmed together, leaks could be springing at the seams, Tepco has said.
“No wonder the water is leaking,” said Hideo Komine, a professor in civil engineering at Ibaraki University, just south of Fukushima. He said that the outer protective lining should have been hundreds of times thicker.
Tepco’s president, Naomi Hirose, traveled to Fukushima on Wednesday to apologize for the leaks, which he said had caused further distress to local residents. About 160,000 fled their homes in the wake of the disaster, and large areas around the plant remain off-limits.
Mr. Hirose said that Tepco would stop using the underground pits, and would pump the water out into more aboveground tanks. But Tepco says it is likely to take until at least the end of May to empty the pools. Mr. Hirose said that he did not think any water would reach the Pacific Ocean, because the pools lie at least half a mile inland.
“We’re going to get the water out of these underground pits and into tanks as soon as we can,” he said. “We’re aware that this is a crisis that we must attend to with urgency.”
But Muneo Morokuzu, a nuclear safety expert at the Tokyo University Graduate School of Public Policy, said that the plant required a more permanent solution that would reduce the flood of contaminated water into the plant in the first place, and that Tepco was simply unable to manage the situation. “It’s become obvious that Tepco is not at all capable of leading the cleanup,” he said. “It just doesn’t have the expertise, and because Fukushima Daiichi is never going to generate electricity again, every yen it spends on the decommissioning is thrown away.”
“That creates an incentive to cut corners, which is very dangerous,” he said. “The government needs to step in, take charge and assemble experts and technology from around the world to handle the decommissioning instead.”
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/11/world/asia/fukushima-nuclear-plant-is-still-unstable-japanese-official-says.html?pagewanted=all&_r=3&%20http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/17034&