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andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Fish Farms and the Need to Protect Wild Salmon

Last week I sent a letter to B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture seeking clarity as to what the B.C. government is planning to do to promote and facilitate the transition from ocean based, open net fish farms to land based closed containment systems. Today, I followed up with her in Question Period. As you will see from the exchange reproduced below, I was very pleased with the thoughtful answers provided by Minister Popham.

Fish farms have long been contentious on the B.C. coast due to concerns about sea lice, disease, escaped non-native species, and the impact these contaminants are having on wild stocks – many of which are already significantly depleted. Tensions between some First Nations and operating farms have escalated in the last few weeks following a salmon spill near the San Juan Islands. While action on this file is long overdue, a responsible and effective move to protect our wild salmon stocks now seems especially urgent.

The B.C. Green caucus position on fish farms has always been very clear. We need to get fish farms out of the migratory paths of wild salmon. And, at the same time, the provincial government needs to promote the establishment of closed-containment systems on land.

Prior to the last election, the B.C. NDP were also very clear about their commitment to shut down open-net farms and move to closed containment, land-based fish farms. They promised to implement the recommendations of the Cohen Commission as well. This past April, NDP North Island MLA Claire Trevena – now the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure – told a gathering of indigenous leaders in Alert Bay that if elected, her party would remove fish farms from coastal waters. “We will remove fish farms, we are committed to that and we can actually form government to make this happen and make sure that these territories and the North island are clear of fish farms”

“It can happen here,” she said of a shift to land-based fish farming. “We will make sure it does.”

These are strong words. Unfortunately, jurisdictional divisions threaten to make this far easier said than done. The federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) department is responsible for the regulation of most aspects of the aquaculture industry in B.C. The government of Canada issues licences for marine finfish, shellfish and freshwater (or land-based) operations. Licences stipulate the volume and species that may be produced at a site and outline requirements for fish health, sea lice levels, fish containment and waste control.

To complete that structure, the province of B.C. issues tenures where operations take place in either the marine or freshwater environment, licenses marine plant cultivation, and manages business aspects of aquaculture such as work place health and safety.

So, the province only has jurisdiction over one piece of the fish farm regulatory puzzle, but it is still an important one and there is still a lot of room for progress to be made. In collaboration with First Nations and the federal government the province can take it even further. The B.C. Green caucus remains committed to advancing this issue, and making sure the NDP government does the same.

The leading closed-containment Atlantic salmon company in Canada is Kuterra, based in Port McNeill and owned by the Namgis First Nation. Kuteraa received part of its funding from Tides Canada on the basis that it provide open access to its knowledge and since become an industry leader.

To their credit, the ocean based B.C. fish farming industry has taken measures to improve security and there have been very few escapes over the past five years. The last major escape of Atlantic salmon from a B.C. operation was in 2008 and the most recent significant fish spill was in 2014 when more than 13,000 farmed rainbow trout escaped from an operation at Brettell Point, near Powell River. This summer’s incident in U.S. waters, however, highlights the continued risk of farming Atlantic salmon in open net pens. Escaped salmon increase the risk of spreading disease to wild stocks, and heighten competition with wild Pacific salmon, which are endangered in many B.C. watersheds. It is time for governments to help the fish farming industry transition from open-net farms to closed containment land based facilities. It is time to prioritize the protection of wild salmon.

In May, 2015, I was afforded the honour of introducing a petition by 108,848 people who are asking the government to please not issue licences of occupation to salmon farms trying to expand in British Columbia. I also introduced a second petition signed by more than 100 business organizations across the province who supported the individuals who signed the larger petition. The business organizations argued that they are convinced by the published scientific evidence that open net salmon farms are a threat to B.C. wild pacific salmon.

Below I reproduce the exchange I had with Minister Popham as well as the accompanying media release


Video of Question Period Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: The 2017 B.C. election platform states this.

We will ensure that the salmon farming industry does not endanger wild salmon by implementing the recommendations of the Cohen Commission, keeping farmed sites out of the important salmon migration routes and supporting research and transparent monitoring to minimize the risk of disease transfer from captive to wild fish.

In addition, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure promised First Nation leaders, in Alert Bay on April 23 of 2017:

We will remove fish farms, we are committed to that, and we can actually form government to make this happen and make sure that these territories and the north Island are clear of fish farms.

She did so, with respect, as a means or way of convincing First Nation leaders not to vote for the B.C. Green Party.

My question to the Minister of Agriculture is this: what is the government’s plan now to implement the recommendations of the Cohen commission and assist in the transition from ocean-based fish farms to land-based closed-containment systems?

Mr. Speaker: If it was always that friendly.


Answer


Hon. L. Popham: Thank you to the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head for the question. I appreciate it, and I want to assure the member and the people of British Columbia that our government is deeply committed to protecting B.C.’s wild salmon. It’s essential to our economy, it’s essential to our province, and it’s essential to our B.C. First Nations.

The Cohen commission recommendations are something that we did commit to in our platform, and we are absolutely committed to fulfilling those recommendations. There are federal recommendations and there is B.C.’s portion of those recommendations, and we are committing to do that.

Also, I’m sure the member probably knows that, but I did want to point out that in 2010 there was a Hinkson decision which moved the responsibility for fish health and licensing of fish farms to the federal government. The provincial government has the responsibility for tenures. It’s important to know that at this time, as we’re figuring out where we go next, there are no tenures being approved and no renewal of tenures being approved.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: First off, I do wish to thank the official opposition for their support in the question. I’m sure they thought I was going to offer a softball, but this is a very serious question that we would like to actually get details on.

I’d like to acknowledge that this is a very complex multi-jurisdictional issue, but let me be very clear. The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure was forthright and clear that her government was going to remove fish farms from the migratory tracks of sockeye salmon — period. She said that to First Nation leaders in the north Island and convinced them not to vote for the B.C. Green Party because of that.

Now, my question, again to the Minister of Agriculture, is this. Does she intend, in her mandate, to end the use of open-net fish farms along the migratory passage of sockeye system, as promised to British Columbians by the now Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure?


Answer


Hon. L. Popham: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall…. The friendliness is wonderful, but we shall hear the minister’s response.

Hon. L. Popham: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you again for your question. I’m not sure if the member knows, but I am waiting for the recommendations coming from a report from the Minister of Agriculture’s advisory council on finfish aquaculture, which has been looking at the issue. I expect that report to be coming forward with recommendations at the end of this year. While I wait for those recommendations, I have already been on the ground, meeting with stakeholders. I’ve met with First Nations, the industry.

I’ve also sat down with the Minister of Fisheries, Minister LeBlanc from the federal government, and invited him to come sit at the table with us, because I think it’s going to take the provincial government, the federal government, First Nations and industry to sit together as we move forward and figure out the recommendations and how to implement them.


Media Release


Weaver seeks action from government to end ocean based fish farming
For immediate release
September 13, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, is seeking leadership from the government to protect B.C.’s wild salmon stocks. Weaver questioned Minister of Agriculture during question period, after having sent a letter to the Minister last week.

“Fish farms have long been contentious on the B.C. coast due to concerns about sea lice, disease, escaped non-native species, and the impact these contaminants are having on wild stocks – many of which are already significantly depleted,” Weaver said.

“In April, NDP North Island MLA Claire Travena, now Minister of Transportation, promised that her party would remove fish farms from coastal waters.

“Last week I sent a letter to Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham seeking clarity on when and how the government intends to keep its commitment on this promise. Today in question period, I asked Minister Popham whether her government still intends to end the use of open net fish farms along the migratory paths of wild salmon during this government’s mandate.”

In her response, Minister Popham referenced plans to work with federal and First Nations governments and an upcoming report.

“While this is no doubt a complex multi-jurisdictional issue, the provincial government must play a leading role. The province needs to actively advocate for British Columbian values. They must push the federal government to adopt policies that will protect the wild salmon that are foundational to our coastal communities and ecosystems. I will continue to work with governments and stakeholders to keep this issue a priority.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Comment: Green Party sees chance for a new era in B.C. politics

As published in the Times Colonist on Sunday, June 11th.


On June 22, 87 MLAs will take their seats in the legislature. Some are returning to serve their sixth or seventh term, and many others are just beginning their first. All will serve in a new era of B.C. politics.

British Columbians voted for a minority government, with the B.C. Greens holding the balance of power. In the days that followed, all three parties acknowledged that this presents an historic opportunity to do politics differently.

The results of this election are a clear opportunity to break with the bad habits of the past — political calculation, polarized debates and cynical decisions that prioritize the interests of big-money donors — and to work together to put forth good public policy that will make a difference in the lives of British Columbians.

In order to make these changes a reality, British Columbia needs a stable government. The Green caucus was faced with the responsibility of determining which of the other two parties we would support in forming this government. After lengthy discussions with both parties, we came to an agreement with the B.C. NDP that will provide stability while enabling collaboration across party lines.

Our agreement is based fundamentally on the principle of “good faith and no surprises.” We made this basis of our agreement not only to ensure that we can maintain a stable minority government for four years, but also so that this stability is founded on trust and collaboration.

The principle of good faith and no surprises has enabled minority governments from New Zealand to Scotland to collaborate to enact good public policy.

If all MLAs honour their commitment to work together, it will work for B.C., too.

This begins with a new way for developing policy. Under our agreement, the NDP is required to consult with our caucus as it crafts policy. Through these consultations, we will evaluate their proposals and provide input so that it can earn our support. There will be times when we support legislation introduced by the NDP, and times when we do not, because we will evaluate each bill on an issue-by-issue basis.

Our agreement identifies many areas where we agree on principle, from banning donations of big money, to reforming our electoral system, to reinvigorating our forestry sector, to making sure our children have the public education resources they need to succeed.

British Columbians can expect to see action on these issues in the early days of their new government.

While we will collaborate on many issues with the NDP government, we will remain a distinct caucus. There are many other policy areas where the Greens will advance ideas not shared with other parties. Our caucus ran on a bold, principled platform with a strong vision for B.C., and we will work hard to implement its best ideas.

We will also consider legislation proposed by the other opposition caucus, the B.C. Liberals, and support their bills if we believe they are in the best interests of British Columbians.

In the previous government, we worked with the Liberals to advance legislation to require that post-secondary campuses develop sexual assault policies. Together, we also banned employers from requiring their employees to wear high heels. These examples prove that when we work together across party lines to advance the interests of the people we all serve, government is at its very best.

But before all of this can happen, a new government must be formed.

Christy Clark, as leader of the incumbent government, has indicated that she would like to follow protocol and test the confidence of the house with a throne speech. The first step in following protocol is to elect a Speaker from the government. If the premier is serious about following protocol and working together across party lines, the Liberals will put forward a Speaker and introduce a throne speech in a timely manner.

The Green caucus will honour our agreement with the NDP and support them in forming government.

The first sitting of the house presents an opportunity, perhaps once in a lifetime, to do politics differently. We look forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the house to uphold our commitment to serve the people of B.C. who entrusted us with their vote.

Andrew Weaver, Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen are the three members of the B.C. Green caucus.

Response to Premier Clark’s Site C Letter

Today I received a letter from Premier Clark in which she requested I respond to questions regarding the construction of the Site C Dam.

Premier Clark’s letter follows one sent last week by John Horgan, leader of the B.C. NDP, to Jessica McDonald, President and CEO of B.C. Hydro, requesting the delay of the destruction of two homes pending future review of the Site C Dam by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Last week, I signed a Confidence and Supply Agreement, indicating that the B.C. Green Caucus would support confidence and supply measures introduced by a potential B.C. NDP minority government. As part of the agreement, both parties agreed that the Site C Dam construction project should be referred to the BC Utilities Commission on the question of economic viability and consequences to British Columbians in the context of the current supply and demand conditions prevailing in the B.C. market. The B.C. Liberal government chose not to put the dam to independent evaluation by the BCUC before moving forward with the project.

Below is a copy of the letter that I sent back to Premier Clark.


June 6, 2017

The Honourable Christy Clark
Premier of British Columbia
West Annex
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC  V8V 1X4

 

Dear Premier Clark,

Thank you for your letter in response to Mr. Horgan’s request to delay the relocation of two homes pending future review of the Site C Dam by the BC Utilities Commission.

While I was neither privy to, nor involved in, writing Mr. Horgan’s letter to Ms. McDonald, you will know that for four years I have raised significant and substantive concerns regarding the economics of the Site C project.

Your government has chosen to proceed with the costliest public works project in BC history without adequately analysing its economic viability. Even the chair of the Federal-Provincial Joint Review Panel that reviewed the Site C Dam, Dr. Harry Swain, has criticised the process for not sufficiently evaluating the project’s economic case. In the face of these significant concerns, and despite numerous calls for an independent review by the BC Utilities Commissions, you are about to apparently move the project to the “point of no return”.

Please let me express my disappointment in how your government is choosing to proceed with this project. Your government is turning a significant capital project that potentially poses massive economic risks to British Columbians, into a political debate rather than one informed by evidence and supported by independent analysis.

Your letter asserts that delaying the relocation of two homes will cost BC Hydro ratepayers an estimated $600 million due to the project delay. You further request an indication of my position on the matter.

Before I can comment on these assertions, I require access to the supporting evidence, including but not limited to the signed contracts, the project schedule and the potential alternative project timelines that could allow an independent review to be conducted at minimal cost to the ratepayer.

 In addition, I would need briefing notes on the status of existing delays including those associated with the stability of the north bank as well as the acquisition of and compliance with any environmental permits.

I would be pleased to answer your questions on the assumption that the information requested will be forthcoming in a timely manner.

Best wishes,
Dr. Andrew Weaver, OBC, FRSC
Leader, BC Green Party

Introducing Endangered Species Legislation for British Columbia

Today in the legislature I introduced a private member’s bill entitled Bill M 225 — Endangered Species Act, 2017. This Act builds off the Ontario Endangered Species Act and the B.C. version of their legislation tabled by the BC NDP in 2011. My office was grateful to work with Gwen Barlee from the Wilderness Committee and environmental lawyer Sean Nixon from EcoJustice to close loopholes and make the bill more proactive and preventative. I also incorporated language from the United States Federal Endangered Species Act to make it more effective and comprehensive. Of note is the addition of a section that mirrors the US Endangered Species Committee, known as the “God Squad” because of the substantial impact of its decisions on the natural world. 

Below I reproduce the text and video of the speech I gave as I introduced the bill. I also include the accompanying media release.


Text of my Introduction


A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to move that a bill intituled Endangered Species Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Endangered Species Act, 2017. The world is in the midst of an extinction crisis, and humans are the driving force. British Columbia is the most biodiverse province in Canada, but it is also the home to more at-risk species than any other province. Half of British Columbia’s assessed species are deemed at risk.

In addition to identifying, protecting and rehabilitating at-risk wildlife populations and habitats, this act seeks to introduce proactive measures that will prevent healthy species from declining in the first place. The act substantively expands upon the Ontario Endangered Species Act, the B.C. version of their legislation tabled by the B.C. NDP in 2011 and the American federal Endangered Species Act. Under the guidance of lawyers and advocates who have worked tirelessly on this issue, I was able to close problematic loopholes and make this act more proactive, transparent and effective.

Of note is the addition of a section that changes how exemptions are made. Under this new section instead of being left to the discretion of the minister, if government or industry want to take actions that will result in a species going extinct, it is required to go through an independent publicly disclosed board review.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of this House after today.

Bill M225, Endangered Species Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of my Introduction



Media Release


Weaver introduces Endangered Species Act
For immediate release
February 27th, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – The entire world in is the midst of an extinction crisis and humans are the driving force.

“In Canada, British Columbia is the most biodiverse province, but it is also home to more at-risk species than any other province,” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party. “Half of B.C.’s assessed species are deemed at risk.”

“B.C.’s biodiversity is globally significant, rapidly declining, and lacking any substantial legal protection – this Act aims to change that by bringing into force standalone legislation to safeguard British Columbia’s native wildlife species and their habitat.”

In addition to identifying, protecting, and rehabilitating at-risk wildlife populations and habitats, this Act seeks to introduce proactive measures that will prevent healthy species from declining in the first place.

“Compared to reactive government efforts to intervene in a habitat already out of balance, preserving healthy ecosystems is easier, more cost effective, and avoids needless animal suffering,” says Weaver. “Furthermore, as the global climate warms and precipitation patterns shift, having a complete ecosystem within which animals and plants can try to adapt will be essential.
“The Federal Species at Risk Act and B.C.’s current non-binding patchwork approach to protecting wildlife is clearly not working. The biodiversity in our province is prodigious, but it is not without risk. We will lose it if we do not act.”

This Act builds off the Ontario Endangered Species Act and B.C. version of their legislation tabled by the B.C. NDP in 2011. It incorporates language from the United State Federal Endangered Species Act to make it more effective, proactive, preventative, and comprehensive. Of note is the addition of a section that mirrors the US Endangered Species Committee, known as the “God Squad” because of the substantial impact of its decisions on the natural world.

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Introducing Right to Roam legislation in British Columbia

Today in the legislature I introduced a private member’s bill entitled Bill M223 — Right to Roam Act. This Bill reestablishes the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams, and lakes, and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation.

Increasingly, British Columbians are being fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations. One particularly high profile example involves public access to Minnie, Stoney and other lakes surrounded by Douglas Lake Ranch spread out over more than 500,000 acres. Approximately 365,000 acres are already crown land with full public access.  But concern over access to several lakes was raised when Stoney Lake Road was suddenly gated in the late 1970s and subsequently locked in the early 1980s.

Below I reproduce the text and video of the speech I gave as I introduced the bill. I also include the accompanying media release.


Text of my Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Right to Roam Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Right to Roam Act, 2017.

The ability to access and experience nature is a right for all British Columbians, and we must protect it. This bill will re-establish the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams and lakes and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation.

Hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation are a pivotal part of British Columbia’s heritage and form an important part of the fabric of present-day life in British Columbia. They are also vital to the understanding, conservation and management of fish and wildlife in our province.

Increasingly, however, British Columbians are being fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations.

One particularly high profile example involved public access to Minnie, Stoney and other lakes surrounded by Douglas Lake Ranch, spread out over more than 500,000 acres. Public access was prevented when Stoney Lake Road was suddenly gated in the 1970s and subsequently locked in the 1980s. This bill, which is built on a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act, aims to address and prevent such conflicts.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M223, Right to Roam Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of my Introduction



Media Release


Weaver introduces Right to Roam Act
For immediate release
February 27th, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Locked gates on back roads are increasingly restricting access to wild lands in the province, making it harder for outdoors people to go hunting, fishing or hiking. A new bill tabled Monday by Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party, would put a stop to that practice.

“British Columbians are increasingly being fenced out of the province’s wild lands. The ability to access and experience nature is a public right, and we must protect it,” says Weaver, who is the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. “Free public access to the outdoors is vital to people’s health and well-being, but it is also vital to the health and well-being of our environment. People protect what they know and love. If we become disconnected from our environment we risk disengaging with the fight for its future.”

In many regions of the province, the only way to access wild Crown lands is via logging roads, public back roads, or across privately owned forests and uncultivated areas. While casual public use of these accessways has not been an issue in the past, there is a growing trend of neighbouring landowners and forestry companies locking people out. Some are building fences and installing locked gates to block access altogether, others are implementing strict schedules or access fees. In extreme cases, British Columbians are getting arrested for trespassing while walking to public lakes they have been fishing for generations.

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club, a non-profit association dedicated to the local preservation and management of habitat and wildlife, for example, has spent years in a legal battle with the owner of the Douglas Lake Ranch over the public right to fish in public lakes..

“The Right to Roam Act aims to address and prevent conflicts like the Douglas Lake Ranch case. Nature in British Columbia should be open to all, not to just the privileged few,” says Weaver.

This Act was built off the existing BC Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and the Nova Scotia Angling Act. It includes a few additional amendments, made with reference to a UVic Environmental Law Clinic report about enhancing public access to wild lands.

“By allowing people to cross uncultivated wild land to access public lands, rivers, streams, and lakes, the Right to Roam Act aims to re-establish the rights of British Columbians and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca