Harper playing fast and loose with fish species
The federal Fisheries Act was designed to protect aquatic species, including preventing the dumping of harmful materials into fish-bearing waters.
In 2012 Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act, began the gutting of the Fisheries Act by the Harper Conservatives in earnest. Four former federal fisheries ministers were compelled to speak out in opposition to the changes: Conservatives John Fraser and Tom Siddon, and Liberals David Anderson and Herb Dhaliwal.
Siddon, the minister of Fisheries and Oceans in the Mulroney government from 1985 to 1990, commented, “The real scary part of this is that the one minister in Canada who has the constitutionality to protect the fishery is the fisheries minister. These amendments essentially parcel out and water down his fiduciary responsibility, to the point that . . . he can delegate his responsibility to private-sector interests and individuals. It’s appalling that they should be attempting to do this under the radar.”
Now with Bill C-45, the 2013 budget bill, more changes are on the way. C-45 amends the Fisheries Act to remove most fish habitat protection, although some protections remain for fish of “economic, cultural or ecological value.”
This narrow view of habitat protection threatens to undermine the fragile ecosystems of lakes and rivers and the very sustainability of the fisheries.
Changes to the Fisheries Act provide for certain amounts to be paid into an Environmental Damages Fund.
While it is laudable that fines will be directed into reclamation or protection, massive cuts to Department of Fisheries and Oceans staff will limit the capacity to enforce these provisions.
Another amendment to the Act adds a definition of the “aboriginal fishery” as fish that are “harvested by an aboriginal organization or any of its members for the purpose of using the fish as food, (or) for social or ceremonial purposes.”
This definition does not include any mention of aboriginal commercial fisheries and the right of First Nations to fish for a living. Aboriginal fishing rights are already enshrined in Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.
There is concern that the new definition means that the Conservative government could be considering removing Section 35. If this is the case, indigenous Canadians could face further erosion of their democratic rights.
Section 36 of the Fisheries Act is the basis for the 2002 Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER), which oversee the deposit of waste material into natural fish-bearing rivers.
A loophole in the MMER allows for the deposit of liquid effluent from pulp and paper production, mining, petroleum production and other industries.
The loophole in the MMER is currently the subject of a court challenge.
Since 2006, mining companies have applied to use 13 natural bodies in Canada as dumping sites or tailing impoundment areas.
Five of these bodies have already been approved for this use. In the Chilcotin region, the proposed New Prosperity Mine project would lead to the eventual destruction of nearby Fish Lake if the mine is allowed to go ahead.
Critics point out that the planned tailings pond would destroy most of the lake’s feeder streams and 80 per cent of the lake’s fish spawning habitat.
With the latest changes to the Fisheries Act, the Harper Conservatives seem determined to authorize industrial water pollution, threaten aboriginal rights and play fast and loose with fish species that do not meet their definition of “value.”
These amendments are short-sighted and do little to protect or enhance Canadian fisheries.
A Green Energy Company
Earlier on in April, I had the pleasure of visiting Princeton Co-Generation along with RDOS Director, Brad Hope. I would like to thank Glenn Smith and others at the plant for making this interesting and informative visit possible.
Princeton Co-Generation, which was founded in 1994, owns and operates a 100,000 ton wood pellet mill and is the fourth largest employer in the town. It produces a much sought after carbon neutral green energy product.
The pellet mill supports thirty five (35) full time equivalent jobs (many at entry level) at the pellet plant, and supports a further seventy (70) full time equivalent jobs which transport feed stock – saw dust and shavings from BC interior saw mills to the pellet plant, and deliver finished goods – fuel pellets and animal bedding products throughout Canada, the West Coast of the USA, and to Vancouver port for export to Europe and Asia. The pellet mill contributes in excess of $8 million per year to the local economy.
The pellet plant exports roughly 60% of its product, the majority of which is being utilized in Europe to offset emissions from coal fired power plants. South Korea is also emerging as a key market for 2013 and beyond.
The current owners purchased the pellet plant in 2006 for a consideration of $5 million. They have subsequently invested a further $4.5 million in plant upgrades to increase the pellet plant capacity from 60,000 to 100,000 tons per year, despite significant economic challenges for the pellet industry during the last 3 years, recent and partial closure of BC interior saw mills, and the loss of export pricing advantage against the US$.
BC provincial policies supporting climate change policy, renewable energy, and good use of forestry assets remain the key attraction for the ownership group, which would like to continue and expand operations at Princeton if possible.
There were however a number of economic challenges which arose in 2012, namely significant unplanned mandated expenditure on pellet plant upgrades and electrical equipment, as a consequence of provincial saw mill incidents. Despite these economic challenges, the owners of Princeton Co-Generation remain very proactive and have managed to meet the additional unplanned expenditures.
It is my hope that both the federal and provincial governments will be able to assist Princeton Co-Generation to continue its existing operation and potentially grow to meet an ever growing demand for its green energy products.
Princeton Co-Generation has been a trusted and pro-active business and employer in the area for 18 years and is at the forefront of addressing a wide variety of community issues, climate change, and environmental issues, and continues to support and make financial contributions to local groups with strong community ties.
Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior