Common Sense: February 27, 2017 by Rafe Mair
Former BC Minister and longtime journalist Rafe Mair (photo: Youtube/CMHABC)
Dear Prime Minister,
I’ve reached a point where I can say what I please without concern for personal consequences. My age of ambition is long gone and social disapproval simply doesn’t matter anymore.
That is where I am and intend to speak my piece.
I’m a native British Columbia born in Vancouver a long time ago. I have a lifetime love of my province from one end to the other and I inherited a sense of deep anger when I see unfairness.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna with BC Premier Christy Clark (right) announcing her government’s approval of Petronas’ LNG project near Prince Rupert (Province of BC/Flickr)
For as long as I can remember, I’ve resented that my province has been unfairly treated, a resentment that has increased steadily over the years. We have been badly cheated politically and economically, accompanied by an attitude of arrogance from central Canada, which runs everything, an attitude that I find irritating beyond toleration.
Start with the humiliating fact that BC has but 6 senators while New Brunswick has 10 and PEI 4. This, along with the federal government appointing our senators, who are supposed to hold that very government’s feet to the fire, is outrageous. This and the “First Past The Post” system ensures that all political power rests, unchallengeable, in Central Canada. To see how this is resented in BC, you need only look at the 1992 Charlottetown Accord, designed to make one province juridically superior, opposed, thank God, by your father, and rejected by 67.9% of British Columbians!
Because of the Senate and the First Past The Post system in the House of Commons, Central Canada invariably has the Prime Minister who, given a majority, controls all federal legislation and policy. Please don’t pretend that our lot of Liberal toadies have any power except to say “yes sir”.
Most British Columbians care little about the Governor-General since, under central Canadian arrogant navel gazing, none have ever come from this, the third largest province. The G-G is appointed either to mollify Quebec, Bay Street, or the Central Canada artsy fartsy crowd. The present Governor-General, David Johnston, a Tory Grandee, was, by an amazing coincidence, appointed shortly after he, in the pay of Tory PM Stephen Harper, gave former Tory PM Brian Mulroney a “get out of jail free card”. Lyin’ Brian was pleased, Harper was pleased, Johnston was pleased. You have to say this about Central Canada: they look after each other.
A Norwegian-owned BC salmon farm (Damien Gillis)
Under the constitution, provinces control their natural resources – except when it comes to fish. The Pacific salmon has been so mismanaged by Ottawa that one is tempted to suggest it’s deliberate. Going too far? How else can one explain the foreign fish farms, not just permitted in BC, but actively promoted by a DFO prepared to destroy the Pacific salmon by disease, sea lice, and, when they escape, crowding them off their spawning redds?
As a BC minister, I examined the history of federal involvement back to 1871 and the record is appalling. Ask First Nations, who are the past, present, and future victims of this gross mismanagement, how they see your stewardship!
With respect, prime minister, British Columbia and Canada no longer have the same set of values. A nation can survive and prosper with great diversity. It can have many languages, a plethora of different originating cultures, all races, colours, and creeds – yet so long as there is a common set of basic values, it can form a strong nation. That is the critical point. Once that is gone the nation no longer exists in fact, no matter what the Constitution says.
The basic values of British Columbians and Canada diverge on this central question: Which is more important – our way of life, surroundings, and the environment or the growth of industry, resource extraction, and moneymaking?
It’s not all or nothing – each side will always concede a little bit of the other – but the trouble is that our side is compelled to concede virtually all while yours pays lip service only with pallid environmental rules, never enforced if they ever really get in the way. Our side accepts the need for a robust economy, but not at the cost of destroying a way of life that preserves the enormous natural benefits God gave us.
Vancouver rally against Kinder Morgan (Photo: David Suzuki Foundation/Facebook)
We in British Columbia have learned some hard lessons, most important of which is there isn’t always another valley full of trees to chop down. The forestry industry in British Columbia, thanks to the courage of many mostly young men and women over the last 60 years, now is in sight of self perpetuation. That has morphed into an overall attitude which takes into consideration those values in British Columbia we have always coveted but are under serious attack by the industry-at-all-costs movement in Canada, of which, by the Kinder Morgan approval, you are now leader. You, the Prime Minister, are our enemy!
It has perhaps come as a surprise to you as it has come as a very unpleasant surprise to much industry, especially the fossil fuel industry, that we so highly regard our environment, especially, though not exclusively, our mountains, lakes, rivers, trees, farmland, coastline and ocean. You don’t seem to realize that Burrard inlet, Howe Sound, the Salish Sea, the Gulf Islands, the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the west coast are sacred to Btitish Columbians. Other regions have their own sacred values and we support them in their fight to protect them, with particular regard at this moment for the Site C Dam proposal in the Peace River.
I don’t believe I draw too long a bow when I say that we understand that the French language and culture means means so much to Quebec yet you scoff at us in British Columbia because our natural blessings mean just as much to us. I cannot understand why you and other Canadians are unable to understand just how vehemently we are opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and how far we are prepared to go to defend against it. We wouldn’t for a milli-second tolerate this desecration of what we hold dear by a BC Tar Sands, BC financiers and BC tanker companies – why the devil do you think we feel less resolved because it’s the Alberta Tar Sands, Bay Street and other foreign bankers or offshore tanker companies?
Mr. Trudeau, sir, you have this to answer for. Virtually all the world of science agrees that we must wean ourselves off of the use of fossil fuels. You made an instant international reputation for yourself at the Paris conference in 2015 by taking that very stand. We, in this province, took you seriously. We did not believe that the Tar Sands of Alberta, for example, would ever pose a threat to British Columbia under the clear mandate you delivered.
Now, we find that you didn’t mean what you said. Not only have you approved an LNG plant in Squamish, against the wishes of most British Columbians, now you propose grave consequences on an infinitely grander scale, to revive the Tar Sands and place the entire risk for transporting bitumen to market upon British Columbia. Permit me, sir, to correct myself. It is not risk that we’re dealing with but mathematical certainty.
Rendering of Woodfibre LNG project near Squamish, BC
The only question is how bad the damage will be. We are not being told the truth when industry and governments make it appear as if there is almost no chance of tanker collisions, either with each other or something else. One only has to chart the world statistics, which I happen to do, to know that that is absolutely untrue. Industry and your government make it appear that even if there are spills of bitumen that the cleanup facilities are such that there is nothing to worry about. That’s bullshit, sir, and you know it!
Booms intended to corral a fuel spill near Bella Bella are blown apart by stormy weather (Photo: Tavish Campbell)
We can read, we can watch television, we can hear what witnesses have to say. We know about the Enbridge/Kalamazoo spill in 2010 and we know that accident has not been cleaned up to this day and it’s unlikely that it ever will be. We know that in a very short time, bitumen sinks and no longer can be effectively cleaned up. We have also seen examples of the Christy Clark’s speedy “world-class cleanup” procedures at work and can only thank God that the spills were moderate considering the pathetic efforts at cleanup.
I don’t wish to carry on any further with that, Mr. Prime Minister, but I do want you to know, as I’m sure you do, that I scarcely speak for the people of British Columbia. Having said that, I believe that we’ve had enough. More than enough! We believe the right to our environment outweighs any so-called right to move dangerous goods over and through our province.
We say that our right to our environment outweighs any so-called right to move dangerous goods over and through our province. That, sir, is the essential difference in values that we possess and that you possess.
I believe that this is simply a fair assessment and a warning – not in any way a threat – but I can say that if you force the Kinder Morgan pipeline upon us, as you can with your money and your soldiers, you will create a rift between my province and Canada that will never, ever heal. Of course, I could be wrong on that but, sir, I’m not wrong to observe that would be a dreadful legacy to leave when, as with all of us, you must go. You no doubt believe you understand Canada – take my word for it, sir, I understand my province that I have served at the highest level and love every square millimetre of it. I have lived in several places and taken my fly rod with me to most others.
Mr. Trudeau, we love this province with all our hearts and souls and we’re not about to let you take it away from us.