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.
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.
Today in the legislature I introduced Bill M231 — Local Government Amendment Act.
If passed, this Bill will ensure that municipalities in BC cannot be incorporated without first ensuring that there are residents actually living in the area at the time of incorporation. This might seem like an unnecessary bill as it would seem obvious that a municipality, governed by a Mayor and two Councillors, should actually have people and property to govern. Well that’s not the case in the wild west of British Columbia politics.
Back in 2012, the BC Liberals amended The Local Government Act to allow mountain resort municipalities to be created that have no residents. In particular, this was done in support of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Mountain resort that I have written about earlier.
Given opposition to the resort by the Ktunaxa Nation, the fact that the environmental assessment certificate has expired, and that the project has not substantially started, it seemed timely to close the loophole for good as it sets a dangerous precedence.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my introduction of the Bill.
A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Local Government Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.
A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be reintroducing a bill intituled the Local Government Amendment Act. It’s absurd that in British Columbia today a municipality exists that has no houses, no infrastructure and no people. The Jumbo Glacier Resort is designated as a mountain resort municipality, and despite not having any people, it has a salaried, province-supported mayor and two councillors.
This government created the loophole that has allowed this municipality to exist, despite there being no residents. It was created solely for the purpose of a specific pet-project that this government wants to proceed.
This bill would close this ridiculous loophole and ensure that municipalities in British Columbia actually have people living in them.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting after today.
Bill M231, Local Government Amendment 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.
On Friday, February 3rd, I spoke to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. In my presentation I offered a vision for a prosperous British Columbia that builds on our strengths, not the weaknesses of others.
For those wondering about the direction that a BC Green government would take this province, please consider watching.
Media Release: November 7th, 2016
Andrew Weaver Responds to the National Oceans Protection Plan
For Immediate Release
Victoria, B.C. – “Though weak on details, I am supportive of the initiatives outlined in the National Oceans Protection Plan includes,” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the BC Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
“I am especially grateful to see derelict vessels included in this plan. As an MLA for a coastal area, it is an ongoing problem I have struggled with in my riding. Currently, local, provincial and federal governments get mired in jurisdictional squabbles as the remediation process for derelict vessels is delayed, leaving boats to rust and leak on the foreshore.
“The Heiltsuk Nation has worked tirelessly to monitor and mitigate the impact of the recent diesel spill near Bella Bella. They stepped up to fill in where the provincial and federal governments were lacking and I’m glad to see the importance of co-management with Indigenous communities acknowledged in this plan.
“That said, I am worried this announcement will be held up as a justification for the approval future heavy oil projects. Even with a full protection plan the effects of a diluted bitumen spill in our waters would be catastrophic.
“If Trans Mountain were approved, which this announcement leaves room for, the number of tankers leaving Vancouver Harbour and traveling through the south coast of B.C. would increase by 580%. Currently, five tankers per month enter the port at the Westridge Marine Terminal. With Trans Mountain that would increase to an estimate 34 tankers per month. At 408 tankers transiting into and out of the Vancouver Harbour per year, over the project’s estimated 50 year lifespan that would be 40,800 tanker trips past the Gulf Islands and Southern Vancouver Island through the Juan de Fuca Strait – a route the Federal Tanker Safety Expert Panel has deemed “very high risk.”
“In both my professional and political capacity, and my role as a Trans Mountain intervener, I can state with certainty that the project must be rejected if we are to move in the right direction. The time for halfway measures – both to protect our marine environment and to reach our pledge to cap global warming well below 2.0°C – is at an end.”
“If world leaders understood what they signed in Paris, they would know that meeting the 2.0°C target is incompatible with the investment in any new fossil fuel infrastructure that is planned to be used in the next several decades.”
Mat Wright – Press Secretary
Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
Media Statement: October 27th, 2016
Weaver Calls for the Resignation of B.C. Minister of Environment
For Immediate Release
Victoria, B.C. – “I do not call for this lightly. I have spent my career in the climate science field advising provincial, federal, and international governments on their climate policies. Never in my life have I witnessed a government using such outrageous rhetoric to describe subpar efforts to protect the environment,” said Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and Leader of the B.C. Green Party.
“The ministry’s responsibilities have too often been neglected, forcing citizens to step in and try to protect the environment themselves. British Columbians have been left investigating and mitigating the impacts of environmental tragedies like what happened at the Mt. Polley mine, the Shawnigan contaminated soil facility, and the Bella Bella diesel spill with their own time and money, often employing the courts to force the Ministry to do their job,” said Weaver. “This government’s policy continues to put vested and private interests ahead of their responsibilities they have to the people of British Columbia.
“I now lack confidence in Minister Polak to uphold the obligations outlined in her ministerial mandate letter. As such, I am calling for her to be replaced by a minister who will stand up for the people of B.C. and the water and environment that we all rely on.
“The absence of a real climate policy, the reaction to the Mount Polley tailings pond breach, and the repeated compliance failures at the Shawnigan contaminated soil facility with no real ministerial response are egregious examples that I have tried to work with the Ministry on,” said Weaver. “The Minister’s failed response to the diesel spill in Heiltsuk Territory is the last straw for me.
“It is appalling that the B.C. Liberals can look British Columbians in the eye and tell them that they have a climate leadership plan. They are not climate leaders, and they don’t even have a plan. At least when Mr. Harper was Prime Minister we knew where he stood on environmental protection. Premier Clark and the Minister of Environment claim one thing and does the complete opposite.”
Sonia Furstenau, CVRD Director and BC Green Party candidate for Cowichan Valley is equally frustrated with the impacts provincial policy is having on her community. “In Shawnigan, we are experiencing first-hand the downside of this government’s insistence on ‘getting to yes’ at all costs. The people of Shawnigan are suffering from ongoing stress and anxiety while the Ministry of Environment allows for ongoing non-compliance with the contaminated landfill permit, and compounding failures at the site. This ministry promised the community that all water leaving this site would meet the strictest aquatic and drinking water guidelines, and already, 20 months into the permit, levels of toluene, copper, iron, manganese, aluminum and more have exceeded these guidelines.”
Furstenau has consistently urged the Minister to act. “Under the Environmental Management Act, misrepresentation during permit application stage and ongoing non-compliance since this company began operations gives the Minister more than adequate grounds to revoke this permit. If she won’t use her authority to revoke this permit and protect the people of Shawnigan Lake, she should step down.
Press Secretary for MLA Andrew Weaver
250 216 3382
250 812 6136