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Environment

Paying Tribute to James H. C. Walker

Today in the Legislature I rose to pay tribute to a highly respected constituent, James H. C. Walker who unexpectedly died on June 20th.

Below are the text and video of the tribute.


Text of Tribute


It’s with a heavy heart that I advise the House of the recent passing of a highly-respected constituent, James H. C. Walker. Jim trained as a fisheries scientist in New Brunswick, was widely known for his expertise in wildlife management and land use management. In his 28 years of public service, he held senior positions with the provincial government, including manager of habitat protection, director of wildlife, and assistant deputy minister in charge of fish, wildlife and habitat protection.

He was a respected leader in helping to develop and deliver a number of high-profile provincial initiatives, including the Forest Practices Code, the Muskwa-Kechika management area, the Tla-o-qui-aht land use plan, the grizzly bear strategy, biodiversity strategy, B.C. Trust for Public Lands, Vancouver Island marmot foundation and many more.

Jim was principled in defending the public interest in natural resources and always maintained humour and integrity during his career and in retirement. His incredible personal legacy continues today in the inspiration and development of scientists, practitioners, leaders, decision makers and stakeholders.


Video of Tribute


 

Probing the ability of British Columbians to trust the current BC Government

Today in the legislature I was up during question period. I took the opportunity to ask the government how they could be trusted in light of the fact that they did an about face in the throne speech. During the election campaign, the BC Liberals claimed that our platform was unaffordable. Yet now, the throne speech reads just like our platform!

Below I reproduce the text and video of my question period exchange.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: February’s business-as-usual budget contained little, if anything, for childcare, education, affordability, those in need of social assistance or the fentanyl crisis. During the election campaign, the Minister of Finance told the Vancouver Sun: “We have resisted consistently the temptation to go out and make all these pledges and promises.” He  argued that they would be unaffordable.

The Minister of Finance further argued this. He said: “The decision to forgo all toll revenues, in the way the NDP announced, will guarantee a credit downgrade.” Now we’re told that there’s $1 billion to spend on early childhood education. There’s money to increase social assistance rates, to invest in parks and to address the fentanyl crisis, and so on and so on. This can only be described as a rather dramatic change of heart.

My question to the Minister of Finance is this: how do you explain to British Columbians that you suddenly found over a billion dollars in the last couple of weeks to fund programs and initiatives that have been dismissed and starved of resources for years, and that this has only happened in the last couple of weeks?


Answer


Hon. M. de Jong: Thanks to the leader of the Third Party. Oops, can’t say that, can I? He voted against that, didn’t he?

Actually, I do appreciate the question, because the answer is pretty straightforward. The economy that was already leading the country, the economy that was already producing more jobs than anywhere else — in British Columbia — the economy that was already, in February, providing more opportunities to more families than anywhere else in Canada has actually gotten better.

I know the hon. member has made the decision to link hands with the official opposition, a party that in past opportunities, used to play a little trick called injecting fiscal optimism into their budgets. We didn’t do that. We didn’t have to do that, because the economy in British Columbia continues to lead Canada.


Supplementary Question


Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

A. Weaver: Yes, I understand why the economy is booming in British Columbia now. It’s in anticipation of the great stuff that will be coming forward in the next few weeks. Investment is coming to B.C. like never before.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, the Chair will hear the question.

A. Weaver: Thank you, hon. Speaker.

Investors are lining up a mile deep to invest in B.C. in anticipation of a kinder, gentler province that will soon be put forward.

Last week, the Vancouver Sun noted that the Premier offered no apologies for dramatically flip-flopping on so many positions from the election. She said she hopes the NDP and the Green MLAs — oops, that’s the third-party MLAs — would feel embarrassed to vote against their own ideas, now embraced by the B.C. Liberals.

My question to the Deputy Premier is this. How can British Columbians trust a government that just wants to embarrass the opposition and holds one set of priorities during the election campaign and another set of priorities immediately following the campaign? And what guarantee do we have that if the B.C. Liberals gain the confidence of this House, those priorities won’t flip-flop and change yet again?


Answer


Hon. M. de Jong: I should provide the hon. member with the technical answer to the question he asked about the dramatic improvement in both economic performance and in the revenues that flow from that. It relates to the reliance that we place on the independent Economic Forecast Council, which for both ’16-’17 and ’17-’18 have adjusted their estimates and their forecasts by over an entire percentage point for the growth in our economy. That is dramatic. It is certainly providing government with more revenues, and the member will see the specifics of that in the days ahead when the results for ’16-’17 are presented.

British Columbia is performing at a remarkable level right now. I know there are members sitting opposite who are salivating at the prospect and — who knows? — may get that opportunity. Were they to get the keys to this car, let there be no doubt that the tank is full, the engine is running on all cylinders and British Columbians are enjoying the benefits of the strongest economy in Canada.

Thank you Gwen Barlee for your service to our province

Claire Hume and I are very saddened to hear of Gwen Barlee’s passing. Gwen worked closely with us to help us draft an endangered species act during the spring, 2017 legislative sitting. We had no idea and she gave no indication that she was ill. Gwen was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge, patient and kind with her explanations, and tireless in her resolve to protect endangered species. We are so grateful. Thank you, Gwen, for your service to our province. We will think of you in the wilds of British Columbia and work towards the reintroduction of our Endangered Species Act in the near future.

My initial reaction to the BC Liberal Speech from the Throne

Today in the legislature the Lieutenant Governor read the BC Liberal Speech from the Throne. Below I reproduce the media statement that I released following the speech:


Initial Response


Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, responded to today’s Speech from the Throne.

The astonishing about-face taken by the B.C. Liberal government in this throne speech demonstrates the difference that the B.C. Greens made in the election and that we continue to make everyday with the minority government.

We committed to addressing the most pressing issues facing British Columbians. For the first time, we now have all-party agreement on major issues like banning big money, investing significantly in child care and raising social assistance rates. All three parties now support holding a referendum on proportional representation that will give British Columbians a legislature that reflects our province’s diversity.

The B.C. Liberals have been in power for sixteen years and until now actively opposed many of these policies. I am heartened to see them adopt so many B.C. Green policies that will address these issues in today’s throne speech. I am also pleased to hear of their willingness to work across party lines. After all, what could be more stable than all three parties working together to advance major policies that will benefit British Columbians.

The confidence vote is a matter of trust. We cannot have confidence in a government that for sixteen years has argued against these policies, and in the last few days has suddenly recognized that they are in the best interests of British Columbians. We will look to the Liberals to demonstrate a genuine willingness to follow through on these commitments regardless of where they sit in the legislature.

Leaders from all three parties have recognized that the results of this election present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work together. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues on both sides of the house to deliver on the change British Columbians voted for.

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Probing the government response to ongoing problems at Tulsequah Chief mine

Today in the Legislature I rose to question the Minster of Energy and Mines on ongoing problems at Tulsequah Chief mine located in northwestern BC. Untreated acid mine drainage has been flowing into the Tulsequah River, a pristine salmon spawning ground, since 1957.

Last week Rivers Without Borders, a transboundary watershed conservation group, questioned whether or not the government was backpeddling on its promise to clean up the mine site. Today I posed that question directly to the Minister.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange.


Video of Question & Answer



Text of Question & Answer


A. Weaver: The Tulsequah Chief mine, located on the best salmon-producing watershed in the B.C.-Alaska transboundary region, has been the host to a series of unfortunate events. Acid mine drainage has been entering the prime salmon spawning ground for 60 years. It’s bankrupted two companies in the last seven years. It’s an issue of profound concern for Alaska’s elected officials and is officially being opposed by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

It’s environmentally irresponsible, fiscally reckless and offensive to the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and Alaska for the B.C. government to allow the sordid Tulsequah Chief story to continue as is.

My question is to the Minister of Energy and Mines, who has repeatedly committed to fixing the problems that this mine has created. Will B.C. keep its word and address the Tulsequah problem with a long overdue proper cleanup, or will it allow yet another mining company to pick up where Chieftain Metals left off and let Tulsequah Chief’s controversy waste and environmental black eye to B.C. continue?

Hon. B. Bennett: I’d like to thank the member for the question. I think all of us — on this side of the House, and certainly, on the other side of the House — share the concern about any situation in the province, whether it’s mining or any other activity, that has potential to harm the environment and also has potential to harm the reputation of the province. I take the member’s question very seriously, and we take the situation very seriously on this side of the House.

The state of Alaska and the province of British Columbia have done three studies of the Tulsequah River and the Taku River to determine whether there are contaminants going into the river, and those studies so far have shown that there isn’t significant environmental harm being done. Nonetheless, the member is correct that B.C. has an obligation to manage that situation very carefully.

I can tell the member that we are committed to doing more work on that site. We did some work in the fall, up to freeze-up. We have a regular communication with the state of Alaska to make sure that they know what we’re doing up there. After breakup this spring, I know that we have crews going back into the site to do some more work.