o far, only 28 out of 104 homes have sold - which should come as no surprise at all. Would you buy a home that could result in your child contracting leukemia? Would you take that chance, even if you got a deal on the place, even if the science wasn't 100%? Imagine someone saying, "Unless you can prove to me this will kill my child or give me ovarian cancer, well, I've got no problem with it." (It's a wonder, then, that even 28 homes have sold!) Apparently building on the popular Sleep Country "Mismatched Mattress Sale", the Campbell Government has come up with a cutting-edge real estate promo: The Cancer Sale! Donald Trump, take note.
2008: An Electric Summer
[In July 2008, citizens peacefully stood their ground as BCTC construction workers entered one Tsawwassen family's backyard to install a new power pole]
My experience with this issue dates back to two years ago, when I spent several months going back and forth on an almost weekly basis to sunny Tsawwassen (I say that with intended irony, in light of the pall that has been cast over this wonderful little town in recent years by Campbell & co.) In those visits I attended and documented various community meetings, rallies, and blockades - interviewing distressed residents, and ultimately producing a short documentary on the subject entitled "Crossing the Lines". My colleague Rafe Mair also spoke at several big rallies and public meetings, in solidarity with the community.
It was a summer of high drama and emotion - which saw mothers pitted against a government that did everything in its power to attack them: obtaining court injunctions, deploying police, and pursuing a vicious and deceitful PR campaign against the opponents of the power lines. The crown corporation tasked as bag man for Campbell's plan, the BC Transmission Corporation (BCTC), used tax dollars to spy on and intimidate these families, following their every move by helicopter and by vehicle (one memorable incident was captured in a frantic 911 call by one of these brave ladies, describing in real time how she was being aggressively tailed through town). They even hired a video production company to record and photograph the mothers and their children returning home from school and baseball games. All this was eloquently described to the public on the steps of the BC Supreme Court by several of the four mothers named in the BCTC injunction. The court action was sought to prevent the mothers from lawfully (they never once broke any law) barring access to their properties to erect the massive new power poles. Watch Clip
Why the backlash?
That summer, 2,500 citizens of all ages came together for a rally at South Delta Secondary - today overshadowed by the power poles that traverse the school grounds where children study and play. It was probably the biggest gathering of its kind in the community's history - these were not folks generally prone to political protest. There, the crowd heard from, among others, Dr. Jason Ford, Childhood Leukemia Specialist at Children's Hospital. Holding up a pile of research papers from the world's top medical journals and universities - each with differing opinions on the subject - Dr. Ford said:
"There's a lot of research into what causes childhood leukemia - and since this whole power line issue has come up in Tsawwassen, I've had a lot of questions from people here: 'Are my children going to be at risk?' And I have to tell you I don't know. And the sad fact is really nobody knows. This is an area of great controversy and intense research in the medical field... And the safe thing, when you don't know, is to bury the lines." [emphasis mine]
Dr. Ford was defining here the essence of the the Precautionary Principle. A principle which Canada is committed to, based on a United Nations convention we and many other countries have signed. But that's, of course, not how Gordon Campbell operates.
Why not bury the lines?