Home / Canada / A change in government has done little to alter B.C.'s environmental path
A change in government has done little to alter B.C.'s environmental path
Prior to the 2017 election that would make him Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan stood with opponents of the proposed Site C dam, a hydroelectric project described as a multibillion-dollar boondoggle. To acknowledge his support, protest organizers inscribed Mr. Horgan's name on a yellow stake, which was planted within the footprint of the megaproject that was the liberal government of the day.
But on Site C and other major environmental issues, Mr. Horgan has not diverged substantially from the path laid down by the BC Liberals.
The environment was never a big part of the BC NDP's election platform in 201
7. The party promised to work on climate action, but made no mention of Site C , or an environmental disaster at the Mount Polley mine. A seismic shift on ecological policies was not part of the New Democrats' promise to voters.
Yet, expectations were high, based on the NDP's record during 16 years on the opposition benches. The New Democrats had opposed Site C, and condemned a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) project because of the greenhouse gas emissions they would create. They criticized the Liberals for failing to charge the mining company responsible for the Mount Polley disaster. And they committed to extend the model of the Great Bear Rainforest – which permanently protects 85 per cent of old-growth forest in a large swath of BC's central coast.
Now, almost two years after the election, a minority NDP Government that is formally supported by the Green Party has approved construction of the Site C dam. The legislature passed a law on Thursday to secure a massive LNG investment. The mining industry is welcoming new resources from the province. And some of Canada's oldest trees are heading for auction.
Counting the environmental policies of the NDP and the Liberals is not easy, Green Party MLA Adam Olsen says. "A lot of these decisions are similarly similar."
On Friday, the premier addressed the convention of the Council of Forest Industries, outlining his government's work to chart a new course for a strong, sustainable future for BC The forest sector.
That includes logging in the old-growth rain forests on Vancouver Island that are still intact, including some of the biggest Douglas firs in Canada, said Jens Wieting, the Sierra Club of BC's senior forest
harvest areas, 2019
The majority of the 1,300 hectares are listed
forests with an age of 140–250 years.
Club BC data show that industrial old-growth
logging continues at a rate of more than three
square meters per second, or about 34 soccer
fields per day.
PROPOSED AUTHORIZED HARVEST AREAS
Old-growth (1,312 hectares )
Second-growth ( 1,022 hectares
(> 5 hectares)
Note: Sierra Club defines old growth as more
than 140 years old, Second-growth as 60-140
CARRIE COCKBURN / THE G L OB EA N D MAI L, SOURCES:
JENS WIETING, DAVID LEVERSEE, SIERRA CLUB BC
BC government's proposed authorized
harvest areas, 2019
The majority of the 1,300 hectares listed are forests
with an age of 140–250 years. Sierra Club BC data show
that industrial old-growth logging continues at a rate
of more than three square meters per second,
or about 34 soccer fields per day.
Remaining old-growth  Second-growth
(> 5 hectares)
Note: Sierra Club defines old growth as more than
140 years old, Second-growth as 60- 140 years old
CARRIE COCKBURN / THE G L OB EA N D MAY L, SOURCES:
JENS BIRTH , David LEVERSEE, SIERRA CLUB BC
BC Government's proposed authorized harvest areas, 2019
The majority of the 1,300 hectares are forests with an age of 140–250 years.
Sierra Club BC data show that industrial old-growth logging continues at a rate of more than
three square meters per second, or about 34 soccer fields per day. PROPOSED AUTHORIZED
Second-growth  Non-forest
(> 5 hectares)
Note: Sierra Club is growing more than 140 years old,
Second-growth than 60-140 years old
CARRIE COCKBURN / THE G L OB EA N D MAY L, SOURCES: JENS WIETING, DAVID LEVERSEE , SIERRA CLUB BC
"We have this consistent pattern of business as usual," he said in an interview. The province's timber-sales agency is the auction of this year more than 1,300 hectares of old growth on Vancouver Island – mostly forests that predate Confederation. On the Sunshine Coast, estimated to be more than 1,000 years old will be on the block by next year.
"To be honest, I am in an utter disbelief about their forestry path," Mr. Wieting said. "In the context of forests, ecosystems and climate change, we are crossing dangerous limits." Story continues below advertisement
In the 2013 election campaign, the NDP promised it would "protect significantly ecological areas like wetlands" , estuaries and valuable old-growth forests. ”But that commitment morphed into a promise to use the Great Bear Rainforest model to“ sustainably manage. ”
That plan is still under discussion. in the legislature that he's still "drilling down" in talks with environmentalists determine the importance of saving old-growth forests.
In February, BC's Mines Minister, Michelle Mungall, announced plans to hire 65 safety and changes to speed up mine permit approvals.
The changes fall short of Auditor-General Carol Bellringer's recommendations to eliminate he conflict inherent in having compliance and enforcement rest with the ministry that promotes mining development.
The Auditor-General's recommendations followed the 2014 environmental disaster at the Mount Polley mine, when a tailings pound breach spilled about 25 million cubic meters or waste Water and tailings in water systems and lakes in central British Columbia.
Wildsight, an environmental organization in the Kootenays, has been working for years on the issue of selenium pollution from five mountaintop-removal coal mines in the Elk Valley owned by Teck Resources Ltd.
Lars Sander-Green, an activist with Wildsight, said the expanded enforcement regime in the Ministry of Mines simply reinforced the fox-guarding-the-henhouse situation, paired when it is with more efficient permitting to encourage investment. "They are doubling down on the conflict of interest."
This week, the federal Environment Commissioner said Canada is not doing enough to reduce emissions or greenhouse gases despite mounting evidence the country is vulnerable to rapid warming. Julie Gelfand's remarks came in one day after a major federal study warned that Canada's climate is warming at twice the global rate.
On Thursday, legislators – with the exception of BC's three Green MLAs – voted to approve a tax credit for major LNG projects that are tailored to the $ 40 billion LNG Canada development – a project that will generate, in Phase One, 3.4 megatonnes or greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Environment Minister George Heyman said his government will be on the right side of history because it has ensured that the project fits within a new plan called Clean BC that sets out targets to reduce the province's total GHG output.
“There are many people in the North, including many Indigenous nations, who are going to be lifted out of poverty with this project, ”he said.“ I would never say that's a reason for unlimited development, but if we can develop within our plan, that was the mandate I was given. ”
The yellow stakes honoring people who supported the fight against the megaproject are lined up on Arlene and Ken Boon's homestead. Their home has been expropriated because it is expected to fall into the reservoir created by the site C dam, but they are living on the property until the bulldozers arrive.
Mr. Boon recalls Mr. Horgan spoke passionately against the project as leader of the opposition. "Obviously, we had higher expectations for the NDP," he said. Horgan announced that the project was too late to cancel, the surveyor's stake with his name was returned.
“The NDP is a complicated party. They got people on both sides of the spectrum on resource extraction and the environment, "Mr. Boon noted." The so-called brown side of the NDP won the battle of the day. "
Mr. Olsen, the Green Party MLA, echoed that sentiment. From delays to species at risk to forestry and the construction of this dam, he said, the New Democrats have established a track record. "With the NDP, on labor and environmental battles, generally the environment is released."
GOVERNING IS DIFFERENT
The BC business community has expressed some interest in growing regulatory burden – a combination of a new environmental assessment regime and changes proposed by the federal government. the NDP government The Business Council of BC and the province have signed an agreement to advance a competitive, low-carbon industrial strategy. applauded the government for proceeding with Site C and securing LNG Canada
Greg D'Avignon, president and chief executive of the business council, said most of the concerns from his members involve what may yet come: "There are a number of environmental files in flux within the regulatory and legislative processes, "he said." We are at risk of losing sight of the economy and jobs within these discussions. "
Mr. Heyman, who once led the Sierra Club of BC, said his government has made progress on the environment, including the renewed climate-action plan, new protections for fresh water and a revamped environmental assessment process that comes into effect in the fall and will give communities and First Nations a greater voice in projects approved
"There is a lot to praise," he said. , health and housing, to name a few – and can only make so many changes at once.
And, while the NDP was free to criticize environmental policy in opposition, governing requires a different, more balanced approach. I've never experienced any interest in being completely satisfied with the actions of any government. ”