BC’s Wild Rivers: Is Anyone Listening?

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BC’s Rivers: Is Anyone Listening?
by Arthur Topham
The Royal Canadian Legion in downtown Quesnel was likely the most popular spot in town on Thursday evening, April 30th and considering that the Canucks were playing at the same time it was little short of a miracle that so many local citizens would have taken the time to leave their homes.

What could possible draw a near full house of hockey enthusiasts away from the tube on a week day evening other than a national emergency? Well, as Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee so aptly put it, there’s another emergency happening right here in B.C. that may be as critical and important to all British Columbians as any other crisis that the nation as a whole has ever faced.

And what on earth could be so important? As Foy went on to explain to a rapt audience of concerned listeners, that biggest scam being pulled off on the people of the province; one engineered by the very people elected to represents the interests of electors of British Columbia, was what the Save Our Rivers Society was here to explain to people.
 
 
 
[For complete article reference links and photos, please see original here.]
 
 
That “scam”, as former Social Credit Environment Minister, author and renowned Vancouver radio broadcaster Rafe Mair told the audience (in no uncertain terms), is the total selling off by the Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell of BC’s public ownership of the streams and rivers that are the lifeblood and, as Rafe summed up in his provocative talk, the “soul” of this province’s geographic and ecological treasures; ones which make British Columbia the most beautiful and prized piece of real estate on the face of the planet and upon which all our other economic and social assets, as well as the free flowing vitality of the natural ecosystems, depend for their existence.

Rafe Mair, now retired from politics and broadcasting and into the 78th year of his earthly sojourn, sporting a light beard, a jolly belly and a trusty cane, has been leading a a series of public awareness meetings throughout the province to try and drum up public awareness and interest in what he feels is an upcoming provincial election whose outcome could have a devastatingly negative impact on all future generations in the province should the Liberal Campbell government be returned to power and be given free reign to fulfill their self-chosen, hidden mandate to sell off BC’s rivers to foreign corporate interests.

Over a decade ago Mair published a book called Canada: Is Anyone Listening? in which he presented his views on the state of the country. Today, he could just as easily write another one, were there enough time, titled “BC: Is Anyone Listening?” On this night in Quesnel there were people listening and to put it mildly they weren’t impressed with what they were hearing.

Representing a non-profit, publicly funded organization called the Save Our Rivers Society, see http://www.SaveOurRivers.org , the former politician and broadcaster and now elder environmentalist and contributing writer to the online news site http://www.thetyee.ca , has been traveling around the province with an entourage of other public figures in a somewhat desperate attempt to alert voters to the real situation that exists regarding the state of our publicly owned utility known as BC Hydro and how it’s being hijacked by corporate interests and aided and abetted by the Campbell Liberal government in Victoria.

Accompanying Rafe with his traveling salvation show in favour of the salmon, the streams and the environment was Joe Foy, spokesperson for the BC based Western Canada Wilderness Committee, BC’s longstanding, dedicated and trusted environmental organization noted for numerous accomplishments in the way of protecting British Columbia’s eco systems and wildlife habitat from the devastating effects of overly zealous industrial logging and mining interests who tend, at times, to put the dollar and the interests of the corporate boardroom above the natural environment.

Also included in the list of speakers was Melissa Davis from BC Citizens for Public Power see http://www.citizensforpublicpower.ca who began the evening’s discussion with an introduction to her organization’s efforts over the past few years to draw public attention to the urgency of what has been taking place behind closed doors in Victoria with respect to the Liberal agenda for privatizing BC’s publicly owned natural resources.

Of particular note were Melissa’s comments regarding the broken Liberal promise in 2001 to “not sell or privatize BC Hydro’s dams, transmission lines, water resources, or other core assets” followed by a grim reminder that Bill 30 was brought in by the Liberals to usurp any democratic rights of local regional governments to enact rules for safeguarding their resources thus allowing foreign, corporate interests to prevail over indigenous decisions of local governments in their bid to gain control of all provincial rivers and streams.

Melissa Davis’s third point, one which the audience appeared to understand almost intuitively, was that the Liberal’s willing compromises to BC’s environment and its citizens by the relinquishment of the rights of public ownership of BC Hydro and introducing a private sector model of corporate control of public assets for stockholder’s profits over and above anything else, would automatically ensure that the price people are paying for their electrical needs would dramatically increase in the years ahead. Predictions went as high as a 25% increase in one’s power bill over the next 3 years, this on top of already substantial increases. Rather shocking to say the least! Melissa recommended going to the following website to view a map showing the rivers and proposed projects: http://www.ippwatch.com .

Rafe took to the podium after Melissa’s enlightening talk and opened his remarks with a rather choice anecdote. He had served as a cabinet minister in the Bill Bennett government of the 1970s, along with the Cariboo’s own Socred MLA of the time, the well respected Alex Fraser who had been Minister of Highways for many years and after whom the Alex Fraser bridge in the lower mainland is now named in fond remembrance.

Rafe told a little story about how when in cabinet meetings theywould try to guage public approval of their policies by media comments but that when Bill Bennett really wanted to know how the public were taking to their policies he’d always turn to Alex Fraser and say, “Alex, now what are the folks in “Queznelly” saying about all of this?” Alex would then inform them that they thought if was just a “bunch of bs” and that would settle the question then and there.

In some respects that is how Rafe proceeded in describing the selling out of the province’s rivers and streams and the people’s collective ownership of public utilities such as BC Hydro. He dispensed with all the bs that CanWest media, the Liberal government and the pseudo-”green” organizations are telling the people of the province and got down to the nuts and bolts of what is really taking place. It wasn’t a pretty picture.


“The massive destruction of our environment and the slow but sure death of BC Hydro have been planned and are being implemented without any opportunity for the public to be heard.”

“Why the lack of real consultation?”

“Where’s the proof that we need more power and, if we do, are there alternatives?”

“Experts tell us — so does BC Hydro, for that matter — that with conservation, upgrading present facilities and adding generators on existing dams plus taking back the power we’re entitled to under the Columbia River Treaty, we have no need for many years for more power. So why are going down the privatization route?”

“Why is BC Hydro not permitted to create any new power?”

“Why are we giving away to large corporations the hundreds of millions of dollars BC Hydro puts into the public purse every year to help with schools, hospitals and the like?”

“Why is BC Hydro forced by the government to enter contracts for energy with private producers which cost Hydro more than they can sell it for — buy high, sell low is a strange policy especially for a capitalist government!”

“Why are we approving intermittent power, which only can be produced during the spring run-off?”

“What will be the effect of NAFTA? Will it mean that any American company with rights on a river has all rights, including the right to export it?”

“Will it mean that as long as the American company uses the river, it can ignore the time limit in the lease? The answer to each is probably “yes.””

“Why are we disabling BC Hydro so that it must go broke under the proposed policy?”

 
All these explosive questions and more were given to the crowd of listeners who sat attentive throughout the whole presentation.


The final speaker was Joe Foy of WCWC and he proceeded to pull the plug on privatization plans of the Liberal government. Speaking clearly and forcefully and with extreme knowledge and awareness of the various projects already on the go throughout the province, Joe assured the audience that these so-called “little mom and pop” power projects as the government likes to label them are anything but little and anything but benign when it comes to the extreme destruction of the natural environment and the fish and wildlife that will result from their construction. Using examples such as the Pitt River Project in the lower mainland Foy went on to explain how this environmentally friendly little private power venture would entail constructing close to 40 kilometers of pipelines and river and stream diversions which would reduce the levels of the free flowing waterways by up to 90% and that coupled with power lines and roadways criss-crossing throughout what is now virtually pristine wilderness areas.

In graphic detail and in cogent, convincing arguments Joe went on to expose the absolute insanity and irresponsibility of the Liberal government in determining in secret, private discussions with corporate interests this monumental scheme to steal from under the nose of an otherwise ill- and mis-informed public, the fundamental sources of the province’s wealth and future. When he was finished speaking the audience acknowledged his efforts with a rousing round of sustained applause.

Following the speakers’ presentations there was ample time given over to questions from the audience. One of the first persons to speak was a Chief from the Chilcotin who used the occasion of the meeting to further enlighten listeners as to the problems the First Nations people of the Nemaiah Valley were facing with a similar project by Taseko Mines which was threatening to destroy Fish Lake one of the water bodies the water in their indigenous territories. While it was slightly off topic in terms of the purpose of the meeting the speakers listened attentively to what the Chief had to say and were in full support of his position. To the credit of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee Joe Foy publicly stated, “We’d love to join you at Fish Lake.” He told the Chief that all they had to do was invite WCWC to lend their support and the environmental group would be there within days fully committed to helping the Chilcotin people in any way possible.

Another inquisitive listen asked Rafe Mair why it was that so many of the public were unaware of the issue and how come the mainstream media wasn’t drawing more attention to the subject. That brought a rather grimaced grin to the face of the elder Mair and he proceeded to give the Asper-controlled CanWest corporation a well-deserved tongue lashing pointing out that they have done nothing in terms of bringing this issue to the public’s attention and in fact everything to keep it hush hush or else misinformed by only presenting the government and corporate propaganda and those so-called “green” environmental lobbyists who have sold out and are now capitalizing on the issue by giving their tacit consent to the Liberal’s scheme. With the Province, the Vancouver Sun and the Victoria Times-Colonist all mum on the subject of selling off BCs public resources there’s little way for the public to know what is truly being implemented. That said, Rafe went on to tell the audience that they should visit the websites of those non-profit groups who were giving the rest of the story on this issue and also that they should write letters to their editors and to their MLAs and send information out to whatever lists and groups that people might be connected to on the internet. If the mainstream wasn’t going to cover the whole story then the alternative media and the people themselves could spread the word via the net.

The meeting ended at 9 pm as scheduled and the audience gave the presenters a long and hearty round of applause for having empowered them with new and vital information with which to deal with the problem. The final bonus of course for all of those who had sacrificed their time and left their televisions to attend the meeting was the announcement that the Canucks had been victorious!

Such is life in the Cariboo!
 


Arthur Topham is the publisher and editor of http://www.radicalpress.com an alternative, online news site located in central BC and in operation since 1998. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
 
 
 

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