Editorial: Studying projects to death

Columnist Tom Fletcher talks about political gestures

B.C.Views

 

NDP leader Adrian Dix has announced that one of his first acts as premier would be to withdraw B.C. from the joint review of the Enbridge pipeline proposal from Alberta to Kitimat.

The two-year federal-led review will be mostly done by next May, but Dix proposes to start a new provincial assessment to examine at the B.C. portion. He doesn’t know how much it would cost, and under questioning he all but admitted the intention is to study the pipeline to death.

Fresh from a summer tour of the pipeline route to reaffirm solidarity with its opponents, Dix is hardly in a position to consider anything but maximum resistance. As Premier Christy Clark did in her showdown with Alberta over benefits, Dix hinted that provincial permits for river and wildlife crossings would be made as expensive as possible, if not refused.

The same fate awaits the Kinder Morgan plan to twin the existing Trans-Mountain oil pipeline to Burnaby. Dix left the impression that he would undo the years of work that have gone into bringing some rational sense to environmental approvals that can be, and have been, dragged out for years.

The B.C. hearings would provide another platform for opponents, and more complaints to justify refusal at the provincial level, to go along with court cases and direct-action protests.

Speaking of which, the frontal assault by agitators at the federal Enbridge hearings has mostly petered out. After 4,000-odd people were signed up to speak, most didn’t bother, and some hearings were cancelled. Apparently slacktivists such as “Jonathan L. Seagull” and “Cave Man” didn’t make it out of their Vancouver basement suites to tell the panel oil is bad.

Professional environmentalists are now wringing their hands over Ottawa’s decision to leave smaller-scale reviews to the province. This means, for example, that there won’t be a duplicate federal review of the urgently needed refit of the John Hart Dam on the Campbell River.

One reader suggested that environmental pioneer Roderick Haig-Brown is still spinning in his grave over the damming of this legendary salmon river. Perhaps, but that was in 1947. Does it make sense today to lard pointless bureaucracy onto a reconstruction that replaces wooden pipes and provides earthquake protection, without expanding river impact?

NDP environment critic Rob Fleming hammered away at the B.C. Liberals about this in the spring, reminding them that Auditor General John Doyle had exposed a lack of resources in the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, even before Ottawa’s changes.

Fleming makes it sound like a huge new burden has been dumped on B.C. False. Provincial assessment already must be done with the participation of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, the provincial ministries of natural resources and energy and mines, and of course aboriginal communities. This is why it’s so long and expensive.

And don’t be fooled into believing that a federal review would go out and count the tadpoles and caribou again. It’s only the desk jobs that have proliferated.

There weren’t just two levels of duplicate review, but three. Earlier in their mandate, the B.C. Liberals exempted major projects such as mines and energy generation from local government control, citing the “provincial interest” similar to the federal authority over projects that cross provincial borders.

I agree with the NDP that B.C. environmental assessment needs more resources, in particular to do the follow-up on approved projects, as called for by the auditor general.

Forest management needs more money too. All the more reason not to waste resources on political gestures.

 

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

City of Victoria considers proposed senior rental development

The Mount St. Angela’s complex aims to include affordable rental units

Middle school students busted for vaping in Oak Bay

Oak Bay Police respond to minors vaping, arson, and transients sleeping in a car

Peninsula Panthers look to claw their way back into the win column

Panthers remain the best team in the league, but the Victoria Cougars are set to pounce

Last call for raffle ticket to win $6,900 necklace with 163 diamonds

Oak Bay contest funds patient care for people and families dealing with cancer

More than 30 cars get tires slashed in Oaklands neighbourhood

VicPD are asking for help from witnesses to the incidents

WATCH: Greater Victoria’s top stories of the day

A round-up of the day’s top stories

Second young woman dies after rollover crash near Williams Lake

‘Someone’s going to get her heart, which is awesome, because she has the best heart in the world’

Google searches for ‘how to vote’ surge on Election Day

Interest spikes despite social media campaign by Elections Canada

Union says Western Forest Products refuses to budge from ‘unreasonable concessions’

According to a press release, both parties met on Oct. 16, 18, 19, and 20.

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

App designed to help cut waste and grocery bills

Food security advocates say addressing poverty is ultimate key

Most Read