Environmental Issues - Summer 2014 Update

Summer seems like a good time to provide an update about some of the environmental issues I have been working on in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.  I am continuing to work alongside my colleagues in the NDP Federal Caucus to promote a healthy environment and sustainable communities, and in particular to strengthen protection of local ecosystems, waterways, coastlines and oceans.

Southern Resident Killer Whales Update

Many will know I have been working for more than a year to get the government to take concrete action to protect the remaining local Southern Resident Killer Whales.  On May 30th I wrote to the Minister responsible asking the government to move more quickly and with more resources to implement an action plan to ensure the survival of our local orcas, something legally required under the Species at Risk Act once the southern residents were designated as endangered in 2003.

Last October I introduced a draft action plan in the House of Commons as motion M-460.  This is a plan representing a consensus among whale scientists, environmentalists, fishers, and the local tourism industry on specific actions that we need to take now to address the three key threats to the survival of local orcas:  pollution, vessel noise, and availability of food.  On June 30th the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its own report calling for urgent action in these same three areas.

On July 8th I received a response from the Conservative government reiterating the provisions of their draft action plan which does little more than call for more research.  As well the Minister assured me they will continue to consult on this plan until spring 2015.  This is far too long to wait before meaningful measures are put in place, especially when we are now down to only 80 southern residents from 87 in 2008 and a number that represents probably less than one-third of their historic numbers.

Instead of acting now, the Conservatives are proposing more discussion of their inadequate plan. You can help by emailing Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and letting her know we need a plan like M-460 that will address the threats to the survival of the southern resident killer whales and that we need to implement such a plan now.   Contact Minister Shea by email at  Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca or by mail at The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Parliament Buildings, Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A6

Westcoast Pipelines/Tankers

Many of you will know that I have personally opposed the Northern Gateway Pipeline project and indeed all proposals to increase tanker traffic on the west coast since my days as an Esquimalt Councillor.  It was then that I discovered that neither my own municipality, nor the CRD, nor BC, and not even the federal government had even remotely adequate plans or infrastructure to deal with an oil spill of even moderate size.  As a result, these pipelines, that would create no jobs locally, would put at risk existing fishing recreation and tourism jobs on Vancouver Island and put at risk the entire local ecosystem from wild salmon to orcas to our own future.

The Conservative government approved the Northern Gateway Pipeline on June 17, 2014, just two days before Parliament adjourned for the summer.  On that day I was proud to stand with Tom Mulcair and all 12 BC NDP MPs in a joint press conference reaffirming our opposition to this project.  My colleagues and I continue to believe this project is bad for BC communities, First Nations, our environment, and our economy.  Conservatives should have said no to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and an NDP government in 2015 has pledged to set aside approval of this project.

These pipeline projects not only threaten our local environment and existing sustainable jobs in tourism and fishing, but they represent a stubborn failure to recognize the urgent need to begin the transition to a low carbon economy.  This transition is necessary to avoid passing the two degree temperature increase that promises massive disruption to both the environment and the economy.  At the same time it would also provide a clear path toward more jobs, and more sustainable jobs, in the future.

There is a lot of community work going on in the South Island this summer which is mobilizing public opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  I encourage folks to continue to voice their opposition to this project and to continue to say no to more tankers on our wild west coast.

Local Food

I spent several months this year sitting on the House of Commons Agriculture Committee.   This temporary assignment gave me a chance to raise the issue of local food production and food security in general.  I have been disappointed with the BC government's attempts to weaken the Agricultural Land Reserve and by some of the federal Conservative proposals in Bill C -18 which would grant extensive control over seeds to agribusiness.  I have used my time on the Committee to raise the threats to food security posed by climate change and to push Agriculture

Canada to pay more attention to local food production and farmgate and farmers' market sales.  In June the NDP released our comprehensive local food strategy called "farm to fork" which I invite you to take a look at on line.  You can see more details by selecting the Farm to Fork button at:  http://randallgarrison.ndp.ca/ and then selecting “Pan-Canadian Food Strategy."  This summer I urge all of you to vote with your food dollars by shopping at farmers markets across the Island.

Two more positive notes

Let me close on two more positive notes.  The Sherringham Lighthouse Preservation Society in Shirley continues to work extremely hard to convince the Conservatives of the importance of handing control of this iconic Lighthouse over to the Society.  They want to turn the abandoned, yet historically important lighthouse into a local tourism site as a way to enhance green space and local tourism. 

Finally we now have a signed agreement to restore passenger service on the E & N Railway in May of 2015.  This will again enhance tourism and provide rail alternatives for commuters on the Island.  Both of these projects illustrate the power that volunteers and local  communities have when they get organised to put pressure on government to do the right thing when it comes to the environment.

Please let me know about your environmental concerns and activities and in particular about your successes so that we can share the news about what works. There is obviously much heavy lifting yet to do on the environment file and I look forward to working with my community for real actions that will make a difference now and in the future.

 

Randall Garrison, MP
Esquimalt Juan de Fuca