With the federal government decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline looming, this year's World Oceans Day takes on even greater meaning for B.C. Anyone who has lived on our coast knows how important our oceans and our beaches are to our lifestyle, our economy and our identity as British Columbians.
There are guidelines over assessing what kind of activities are to be allowed in B.C. parks. However, they are not law -- they are regulations, and they can be changed by the ministry without any public consultation, public debate, or public scrutiny. The passing of Bill 4 means that the law protecting our parks has been weakened, while the ministry has increased its power and adopted a "trust us" approach.
The Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals plan to significantly increase heavy oil tankers to Asia and both governments have promised "world-class" oil spill response on land and in the water. British Columbians are skeptical about this commitment. Stories like the sinking tug near Squamish are regularly in and out of the media reminding folks that nothing has been done. There is nothing "world-class" about the provincial-federal response to marine-based environmental concerns in the past.
Nearly 20 per cent of British Columbians live on the coast, generating over 35 per cent of the revenue to the provincial coffers. Yet when compared to the billions of dollars of investments the provincial government has made in the Lower Mainland alone in recent years, BC Ferries are woefully underfunded. As a consequence, people, businesses and economies that rely on the ferry service suffer.
I never imagined I would be a candidate for any party. As a scientist, I am way outside my comfort zone. But when I look at my children and imagine what their future will be if we continue with politics as usual, I realized I could no longer sit on the sidelines. The reason I joined the Green Party of BC was not because I was yearning for power, or willing to parse the truth and join in the hyper-partisan spin of the major parties. I joined the Green Party because it is the only party to consistently support climate action -- carbon pricing, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, aggressive efforts in energy efficiency and demand-side management and the steady expansion of renewable and green energy.
The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, sent all four parties a questionnaire pushing them for clear positions on how they would stop the erosion of our privacy rights and defend our access to government records through Freedom of Information. On April 30th, we received responses from the NDP, the Liberals, and the Greens (we've yet to hear back from the Conservatives). They all had interesting, if decidedly different things to say.
Information issues were smoking hot right up to the drop of the writ. But ever since, they've received hardly a mention. Looks like nobody wants to talk about the government's increasing unwillingness to create written records or its habit of sheltering public documents from FOI by hiding them in personal email accounts. Even multi-million dollar data linkage and information management programs like the Integrated Case Management (ICM) system, which has been slammed repeatedly by officers of the Legislature and civil society alike, don't rate a mention from the four major parties. This is pathetic.