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Probing Jurisdictional Rights and Responsibility Regarding Air Quality in Metro Vancouver

Last week I sent a letter to Minister Anton hoping to clarify the province’s role in Fraser Surrey Docks’ ongoing court case. The company is disputing a ticket issued by Metro Vancouver and the court’s decision could have significant consequences for Vancouver and the province as a whole. Below is the text of the letter. I await a reply.


Letter to the Minister


April 22nd, 2015

Honourable Suzanne Anton
Minister of Justice
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

Dear Minister Anton:

I am writing to you with regards to the ticket issued to the Fraser Surrey Docks LP for air contamination and the ongoing trial disputing the fine.

As you know, the maintenance of air quality is generally the purview of the province and government has decided to partially delegate this responsibility. Under the Environmental Management Act, passed in 2003, the Greater Vancouver Regional District is able to, “by bylaw, prohibit, regulate and otherwise control and prevent the discharge of air contaminants.”

On October 3rd, 2013 the regional district used this power to issue a $1,000 fine to the Fraser Surrey Docks LP for the discharge of an air contaminant, in this case soybean dust. This fine was disputed by the company, arguing that because they operate within the boundaries of Port of Metro Vancouver they are beyond the jurisdiction of regional, and by extension provincial, authority.

Serious concerns have been raised over the implications that this case could have. Locally, a decision in favour of Fraser Surrey Docks could affect Metro Vancouver’s ability to maintain clean, breathable air in its jurisdiction, as air contaminants do not adhere to provincial and federal boundaries.

Secondly, there have been concerns that the legal decision could have ramifications that go far beyond the port itself. The maintenance of air quality is a responsibility shared by all levels of government but it primarily falls within provincial jurisdiction. A decision in favour of Fraser Surrey Docks could undermine the province’s ability to set air quality standards for other federal lands, including ports and pipeline corridors.

With this background in mind, I would like to submit the following questions:

  1. What is the government’s position on the validity of the ticket (#006035) issued to Fraser Surrey Docks LP by the Greater Vancouver Regional District for the discharge of air contaminants?
  1. In your government’s opinion, how far reaching are the powers surrounding air quality that you have delegated to the Greater Vancouver Regional District? Do they include federal port lands?
  1. What is the historic and current involvement of the province in this case?
  1. Following question three, does the province have any plans to either remain involved or get involved in this case in the future? If so, what are these plans?

I look forward to the Minster’s response to my questions and hope that it will shine more light on this issue.

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver
MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head

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