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
UPDATE: We regret to inform our readers that events scheduled for Williams Lake on May 8 and Prince George on May 9 have been postponed.
In the lead-up to the BC election, Common Sense Canadian co-founders Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis are travelling to four BC communities - Kamloops, Merritt, Williams Lake and Prince George - to discuss key issues shaping the future of our province. The multi-media presentations, titled "WATER + POWER: The Future of BC's Energy, Environment and Democracy," will include video clips from filmmaker Gillis, a speech by Mair and an audience q & a session.
On the agenda is a web of proposed energy projects which represent the vision of both our provincial and federal governments for the economic future of BC - all with profound impacts on our vital freshwater and coastline. The discussion will cover everything from proposed oil and gas pipelines to fracking, Site C Dam, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and private river power projects - to an alternate vision for managing BC's resources and economy to the benefit of the public and environment.
The non-partisan events will scrutinize the BC Liberals' economic and environmental record over the past decade, while examining the NDP's policy positions on issues the like the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to Vancouver and the nexus of Site C Dam, natural gas "fracking" and the plan to build a massive LNG industry on BC's coast.
"Our goal is to provide the public with accurate information and connect the dots between interrelated projects of enormous environment, social, cultural, and economic significance," says Gillis. "We're furthering a much-needed dialogue about the future of our province at a key moment politically."
The details for the upcoming events are as follows:
- April 23, 7 pm: Kamloops, BC @ Desert Garden Seniors' Centre (540 Seymour St. - Mojave Room)
- April 24, 7 pm: Merritt, BC @ Merritt Civic Centre (1950 Mamette Ave.)
- May 8, 7 pm: Williams Lake, BC @ Williams Lake Secondary School (640 Carson Dr.)
- May 9, 7 pm: Prince George @ UNBC (stay tuned for room information)
The Kamloops and Williams Lake events are co-hosted by the local Council of Canadians chapters. All events are by donation.
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