B.C. Liberal spill symposium little more than greenwashing photo-op

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After cheerleading changes to federal laws that weaken environmental protections and standing silently by as scientists and fish and wildlife biologists were laid off across the province, the B.C. Liberals are holding an oil spill symposium this week in a desperate bid to shore up their credibility on the Enbridge pipeline.

The B.C. Liberals’ timing couldn't be worse on this file. This oil spill symposium is happening just weeks before the election, and more to the point, it's happening more than two years after the Enbridge assessment began, a process that has seen the B.C. Liberals fail to stand up for our provinces interests:

  • Abandoned the Enbridge review process, leaving the Harper government in charge despite the fact that the law has been changed to allow cabinet to unilaterally approve the project and overrule the review panel

For all their posturing, the B.C. Liberals have refused to end the “equivalency agreement” that they signed with the federal government. This agreement effectively removes all decision-making authority around the Enbridge pipeline from the province and hands it over to Ottawa. All their so-called “conditions” are meaningless as long as this agreement is in place.

  • Refused to present evidence or respond to questions as part of the Enbridge pipeline review

Premier Clark and the B.C. Liberals refused to present evidence as part of the Enbridge pipeline process and only took part in the hearings as an intervenor rather than registering as a government participant. The B.C. Liberal government has also refused to have witnesses available to testify and be cross-examined.

  • Applauded changes to one of Canada’s oldest federal environmental laws, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, that removed protection for thousands of B.C. rivers and streams

“By reducing the need for complicated assessments that provided little or no benefit to navigation, the revised act will support responsible economic development and reduce the time required to build the projects our communities need.” – B.C. Liberal Transportation Minister Mary Polak, letter to federal government, Nov. 21, 2012

The so called “complicated assessments” are federal environmental reviews aimed at ensuring developments, including pipelines carrying oil, do not pollute or obstruct rivers, lakes and streams. The B.C. Liberals' approach to “world class” land-based spill prevention and response doesn’t include a science-based approach to evaluating the impact of pipelines on our waterways.

As for the Liberal environment minister, he pretended changes that removed protections for thousands of B.C. rivers and streams, including major rivers such as the Nass and Stikine, only apply to drainage ditches:

“Some changes need to be made to make sure that we're protecting vital waterways, not drainage ditches and man-made ponds. Those kinds of changes make sense.” – B.C. Liberal Environment Minister Terry Lake, Hansard, May 3, 2012

  • Defended the federal government decision to close the B.C. oil spill response centre and replace it with a 1-800 number based in Quebec

“If the member opposite would like to come and discuss oil spill response and how the fact is that five people sitting in an office planning and doing the science behind oil spills and the capabilities aren't actually the people that go out there on the water and mop up or coordinate a response, I would be happy to explain that to the member. Of course, maybe he's the one that wants to go out there and wipe up all of these spills.” – B.C. Liberal Environment Minister Terry Lake, Hansard, April 23, 2012

New Democrats recognize that every cut to environmental protection, oil spill prevention and oil spill response puts our rivers and our coast at risk. Yet instead of speaking out against these cuts, the B.C. Liberals have consistently defended them.

  • Refused bi-partisan action to stop cuts to the Coast Guard

New Democrats repeatedly invited the B.C. Liberals to join with representatives of the Conservative and Green parties to present a united opposition to the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and Coast Guard communication centres which are our eyes on the ocean.

After refusing to work with members of other parties to oppose these cuts, and days after the Kitsilano coast guard base was dismantled and towed away, Premier Clark engaged in back-of-the-napkin diplomacy, saying reopening the base was necessary to get pipeline approvals.

These are just a few examples of how the Liberals’ Enbridge talk doesn’t match their actions.

Quote from New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming:

“New Democrats believe that it’s vitally important to bring people and experts together to talk about what kind of oil spill prevention we want in the province, but talk needs to be backed up with action. New Democrats are opposed to the Enbridge pipeline and have committed to end the federal equivalency agreement and put in place a rigorous environmental assessment to ensure decisions about the pipeline are made here in B.C.”

The B.C. Liberals are not up to the challenges facing British Columbia today. B.C.'s New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time.