Environmental "Process" a Mythi in Stephen Harper's Canada
by Rafe Mair - The Canadian.org
It’s past time that we began to examine the word “process” as it relates to the environment. It has become, you see, a federal buzz word for sacrificing the environment while making it look all nice and legal.
Last fall, I, along with Ben West of the Wilderness Committee, spoke to a group at a North Vancouver church hall. Conservative MP John Weston was there and chose to deal with C-38, the infamous Budget Bill
which was also an omnibus bill. He chose to take the mic and defend the erasure of protection of fish habitat
. In fact, he defended this outrageous section by saying it provided “process”. Moreover he claimed that this was why he supported Bill C-38.
He was lying through his teeth – he supported Bill C-38 because it was the budget. Moreover, he couldn’t have even argued with the section slashing habitat protections from the Fisheries Act because that would have been tantamount to opposing the budget and he would have been unceremoniously tossed out of Caucus and denied the right to run again on the Conservative ticket.
“Process” is a weasel word to disguise the fact that there will be no meaningful process at all.
Let’s go back a step or two. Some things we have decided to protect by denying anyone the privilege of interfering with it. Our national and provincial parks are thus protected. You cannot take a piece of a park and say, "I want to cut this down or dig it up or whatever so please tell me what the 'process' is that I must follow."
I often put it to Lower Mainland readers that Stanley Park might be a good place to log, always reforesting as you go. It would provide jobs for several years and bring a lot of money into the city. So let’s set up a “process”.
“Bugger that!” would be the cry you would hear loud and clear. “Stanley Park is not for desecration, no matter what the reason.”
Would this change if a process was in place where the people could advise the logging company what environmental practices should be followed? Count that as a rhetorical question.
“Process” to Weston and his gang means holding hearings that do not involve the question of whether or not the public agrees with the plan but only deals with whatever safeguards should be adopted and at any rate, the government doesn’t need to pay any attention to whatever recommendations are put forward. In fact, the Harper government has made it clear that the proposed Enbridge pipeline will go ahead irrespective of what the Environmental hearings recommend.
Now, there is another thing we must ponder when considering trusting our environment to governments and their process.
For not only is it insulting to citizens’ intelligence to tell them that there is a “process” in place – doubly insulting if licenses are awarded, with limitations, when those limitations are not enforced.
Last week we learned – surprise! – that private river power operations (IPPs) in southwest BC racked up a staggering 749 environmental violations in 2010 alone
, with virtually no consequences for the companies responsible. Spawning salmon are being trapped in pools downstream from private power dams and dying! In response, the Executive Director of the private power lobby, Paul Kariya, said words that, in effect, equated to “shit happens”.
The Federal Department Of Environment expressed some concerns about environmental protection generally and told us how rather than enforcing the law they were working with the miscreants in a cooperative way.
The truth is that there is virtually no investigation or enforcement at all. In the case of Fish Farmers, one of the first things the incoming Campbell government did was return all the fines levied against them when the NDP were in power and enforced the laws.
Private river power operators are permitted to police themselves. Why aren’t they being watched and dealt with? Do we really believe that when the water subsides the IPPs, rather than risk the salmon, they will shut down or decrease the water (and revenues) flowing through their pipes?
We in the fight for the environment have, naturally, concentrated on the big pictures. We haven’t paid enough attention to the extent of the crimes being visited upon our environment by Fish Farmers, IPPs and pipelines now in existence.
In my view, the Opposition NDP, who have funds for research, ought to do just that on the matters I’ve raised. And do it now.
Rafe Mair was a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. Since 1981 he has been a radio talk show host, and is recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists.