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Letter summarizing my recent visit to Kamloops

On March 18 and 19 I toured the Kamloops region to learn more about the issues facing Kamloops residents. I will be writing further about my visit in the near future but in the meantime, a Letter to Kamloops this Week was recently published. This letter gives an overview of the visit. I reproduce the letter below.


Letter to Editor of Kamloops This Week


Green leader learned a lot about Kamloops in visit to city

Editor:

I am grateful for the generous welcome by Kamloops residents during my visit to the city on March 18 and 19.

As the leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, I arrived to what I knew would be two full days of public dialogue on issues that matter to the residents of Kamloops.

My schedule included site visits to Telus’ Kamloops Data Centre and the Kamloops Innovation Centre.

I came away from my visit with a greater appreciation for emerging issues in Kamloops and the enormous potential that is evident in the city

I also had the opportunity to learn about the proposed Ajax mine project.

As I knew the project was a controversial subject within the city, I came with an open mind and a desire to better understand both the positive and negative implications of the project.

I took time to meet with representatives of KGHM and toured the proposed site with them.

I also had the opportunity to tour the area with citizens who are concerned about the potential detrimental impacts of an open-pit mine so close to the city.

As a scientist, I found the information presented to the public by SLR Consulting very interesting and was impressed by its report.

It’s obvious to me KGHM will need to do a fair bit of additional work to address these concerns.

It was also heartening to see the level of community attendance at the public session and the high level of engagement coming from city council.

I was also fortunate enough to attend a local dinner and it was a pleasure to meet with local Green party members and supporters.

I was floored by the crowd that attended the dinner and by those who had excellent questions for me and brought up issues I’d never considered.

It was a well-organized event led by a local group and hosted by Dan Hines and Donovan Cavers.

Together we discussed a shared vision for the future of our wonderful province and looked ahead to the exciting potential our party represents heading into the 2017 election next spring.

I’m greatly looking forward to a return visit to the Tournament Capital city.

Andrew Weaver
Leader, B.C. Green Party

Shawnigan Lot 21 Soil Sample Results

Late last week I received the results from the soil samples I collected on Lot 21 during the period that title reverted to the Crown.

Lot 21 Samples - Screen Shot4As I discussed earlier, I collected a total of fives samples from five separate locations on Lot 21 (see image above left for precise locations). Since automated drilling instruments were not allowed under FLNRO policy on Crown Land Use Policy, we used shovels to dig the five samples at depths of 28″, 14″, 15″, 22″ and 0″, respectively,

The soil samples were analysed by Maxxam Analytics for Volatile Organic, Total Hydrocarbon and Elemental Metal analyses. The results are now available. While I recognize that my approach of taking a few samples is a bit like looking for a needle in a hay stack, the good news is that both volatile organic and total hydrocarbon content were below detectable levels in all samples.

Lot 21As indicated in the Residential/Parkland column of the Soil Quality Guidelines of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, the only sample that revealed above-recommended values was Sample #3. In this case both Zinc and Copper were over the guidelines.

While my tests are by no means exhaustive and do not address the fundamental question as to what, if anything, is buried deep under the surface in Lot 21, they add to the body of knowledge concerning the area.

A Small Investment, a Boundless Return — Bringing Broadband Redundancy to Prince George

Earlier this month I toured the Prince George region to meet with a number of key stakeholders in the region. It became apparent from my visit that we have an incredible opportunity in British Columbia for continued innovation in our resource and tech sectors.

Prince George real estate is still reasonably priced, the surrounding environment is picturesque, there’s a first rate university in town. Prince George is a hub for northern BC and on the rail line from the Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of greatest, if not the greatest, rail distribution centres in North America.

So what is missing? Why is there not a thriving and expanding hub of local technological innovation in partnership with the resource, forestry and agricultural sectors and capitalizing on the research expertise at UNBC? Why wouldn’t companies that are concerned about access to renewable energy, a skilled workforce and being able to attract and retain their workers not setup in Prince George? They’re located on the railway connecting Chicago’s North American rail distribution centre to Prince Rupert, a gateway to Asian markets.

The answer is simple. Broadband redundancy in the region precludes major investments in this area.

Today in the legislature I rose to question the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen Services about government’s plans to introduce broadband redundancy in Prince George.


Question


 A. Weaver: I wish to thank the members opposite for applauding my introduction of my question again.

It’s become perfectly clear to everyone in this House — and, frankly, everyone in British Columbia — that this government’s plans for LNG have been nothing short of a monumental failure. There’s no backup plan. The government is void of ideas and in desperate need of help.

As leader of the B.C. Green Party, a party that cares about social, economic and environmental prosperity for all British Columbians, I visited Prince George earlier this month. I was struck by the potential for this region.

Prince George is a home of a first-class research university, the hub for northern B.C.’s forestry and natural resource sectors and is on the rail line from Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of the greatest distribution centres in North America. The cooler climate of Prince George, relative to other jurisdictions on the west coast, also offers it certain unique advantages.

My question to the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services is simple. Has this government considered providing broadband redundancy for the Prince George region

 


Answer


Hon. A. Virk: I’d like to thank the member from Oak Bay for his leadership, first of all, and for the question. The fact that he has gone to Prince George and recognized the great universities and the great north of British Columbia. Perhaps those to his right could learn from that leadership and go realize that there’s more to this province than those four or eight or ten square blocks in downtown Vancouver.

But I digress. The question that the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head poses…. I’ve had staff, in fact, look into that. There are actually multiple backbone fibre lines to Prince George — up 97, east on Highway 16 and south on Highway 5. So there are redundancy lines to Prince George.

We’re going to continue to work on connectivity all across the province. If the member so wishes, I can certainly have him have a briefing with our connectivity experts at his earliest availability.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: In fact, the broadband redundancy does not exist in Prince George as we speak. Bringing the typically urban-based tech and the typically rural-based resource sector together, through partnership and innovation, will play a vital role in a 21st century economy that builds on British Columbia’s strategic advantage.

Prince George is an obvious strategic location for such growth, but in order for this to happen, it’s critical that broadband redundancy exist in the region — high-speed broadband redundancy. The government launched a $5 million ad campaign promoting its actions this past November. But instead of the slogan “Our opportunity is here,” the government could actually create that opportunity in investing in needed infrastructure to benefit B.C.’s northern communities.

At $20,000 to $25,000 per kilometre, a 300-kilometre distance from Prince George to Chetwynd would cost a mere $6 million to $7.5 million to lay. Tech investors, data distribution centres and other innovators will not invest substantively in Prince George until broadband redundancy exists. The best part about this opportunity is that the cost to government is small and the potential benefits are unbounded.

To the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, my question is simple. Will the government commit to invest the $6 million to $7.5 million, today, required to ensure high-speed broadband redundancy for Prince George and real, sustainable and diversified economic prosperity to the north? And, if not, why not?


Answer


Hon. A. Virk: I know that the members from Prince George and members of the rural caucus certainly applaud the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head in terms of his continued interest in rural British Columbia and continued interest in the north.

As I said, there is multiple backbone fibre lines to Prince George, but let’s look beyond that. The member will certainly recall the additional $10 million committed to increase connectivity all across British Columbia. We’re at 94 percent. We’re at 94 percent right now; 94 percent of British Columbians currently have access to high-speed Internet — considered in today’s technology environment.

We are committed to ensuring that every single British Columbian is connected to high-speed Internet because it’s become a stable item. We are committed that every single person in British Columbia by 2021 has access to high-speed Internet.


Video of Question Period



Media Release


Media Release: February 25, 2016
Andrew Weaver – Tech investment in Northern BC lacking
For immediate release

Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, today offered government an untapped opportunity for job creation and technological innovation in northern British Columbia through the introduction of broadband redundancy into the region.

Prince George is home to a first class research university, the hub for northern BC’s forestry and natural resource sectors, and on the rail line from the Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of greatest rail distribution centres in North America. The cooler climate of Prince George, relative to other jurisdictions on the west coast, also offers unique advantages for data centres.

“Bringing the typically urban-based tech and typically rural-based resource sectors together through partnership and innovation will play a vital role in building a 21st century economy that builds on British Columbia’s strategic advantages,” says Weaver. “In order for these to be possible, it is critical that broadband internet redundancy be brought to the region. This means investing in another line of broadband connectivity for Prince George.”

Broadband redundancy is when a city has at least two lines of connectivity to the rest of the world. Currently Prince George only has one direct highspeed line to Vancouver.

“Tech investors, data distribution centres, and other innovators will not invest substantively in Prince George until the infrastructure is there,” says Weaver. “The best part about this opportunity is that the cost to government is negligible and the potential benefits are unbounded.”

At a cost of about $20,000 to $25,000 per kilometre, the 300 km distance connecting Prince George to Chetwynd would cost between $6 million and $7.5 million to lay.

Telus invested $75m in a new data centre in Kamloops which opened in 2014.

“The fact that Kamloops has broadband redundancy is one of the key reasons they invested $75 million in a new data centre,” says Weaver. “This is just one example of the potential opportunities that could exist.”

Andrew Weaver asked the Minister of Technology and Innovation if he would support an investment in broadband redundancy for the city of Prince George today in Question Period.

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Media contact
Mat Wright
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver MLA
Cell: 250 216 3382
Mat.wright@leg.bc.ca
Twitter: @MatVic

Parliament Buildings
Room 027C
Victoria BC V8V 1X4

Eagerly Awaiting the Results of Lot 21 Soil Samples

104Last Monday I noted that the Crown was now the new owner of Lot 21, c/o the surveyor of taxes. Lot 21, of course, is the property located immediately beside the site of the contaminated soil facility operating in the Shawnigan Lake watershed.

In a media release that I issued on that day (February 15), I argued that the government no longer had any excuses to prevent it from thoroughly investigating the property. The government had previously told to me that drilling was not possible as the site was private property. But since Lot 21 returned to the Crown, I called upon government to undertake drilling to ensure residents, local and provincial governments and First Nations knew what, if anything, was buried on the site.

162Doing so would have put an end to speculation circulating in a prevalence of anecdotal stories. It would also have allowed the following question I had previously been left with to be answered directly:

What, if anything, has been buried on Lot 21 that could produce the Thorium, Lead and other heavy metal enrichment in the sediments?

096To my disappointment, the government failed to show the initiative to seek an answer to this question. As such, in order to address the concerns of my constituents who have property on Shawnigan Lake, I was forced to collect samples myself. And so, at 09:00 on February 19, my legislative assistant Aldous Sperl and I set off to the area to collect five soil samples.

Upon our arrival at Stebbings Road we were greeted by a small group of local volunteers who were keen to help us out. Armed only with shovels, we set off on a several hundred metre hike to Lot 21.

Lot 21 Samples - Screen Shot4This must have been the fourth or fifth time that I have now hiked along the boundary of Lot 23 (containing the contaminated soil facility). On this particular journey, while fondly remembering my first and rather more difficult hike, I remarked how there was now a well worn path that had been created on the CVRD parkland. It seems that the route has now become oft travelled path.

Prior to setting out on our journey my legislature office checked with the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) to ensure that there were no regulations prohibiting us from collecting soil samples. The Ministry directed us to FLNRO policy on Crown Land Use Policy that specifically stated, under section 6.2.3.3 Investigative Activities on Crown Land that:

Any person may use Crown land (including aquatic Crown land) for data collection and investigative activities including stream gauges, wildlife and habitat inventories, weather stations, non-mechanized soil sampling, investigations in/over the water and other similar activities. Any structures required for investigative activities may only be placed on the land for a maximum of one year.

 

Given the green light that we were given by FLNRO, Aldous, CVRD Director Sonia Furstenau and I set out to collect a total of fives samples from five separate locations on Lot 21 (see image above left for precise locations). Since automated drilling instruments were not allowed under FLNRO policy, we used shovels to dig the five samples at depths of 28″, 14″, 15″, 22″ and 0″, respectively,

Sample-03  113  129  134

Early on in our sampling we discovered a rather odd metallic cylinder with a plastic tube emerging from it (above left). As we felt that it was important to clean any debris off crown land, one of the local volunteers picked the cylinder up to examine and dispose of it at a later date. All holes that I dug were carefully refilled to ensure no disruption to “natural habitat” in the area.

Today I dropped off my soil samples at Maxxam Analytics for Volatile Organic, Total Hydrocarbon and Elemental Metal analyses. I expect results on Wednesday next week and I will report back immediately upon their receipt.

128  152

Shawnigan Lake: Questions Keep Mounting — the Latest Twist

On the day the judicial review of the process that led to the permitting of a contaminated soil facility in the Shawnigan Lake watershed begins, a new twist has occurred. In what has become the next chapter of the never ending saga, new information now reveals that as of February 5th, the Crown is now the new owner of Lot 21, c/o the surveyor of taxes.

Recall that back in April of last year, when I first wrote about this issue, I highlighted some concerns regarding what could have been buried upstream of the orange runoff that I took water samples of. My concern was amplified when I tested the metal content in the sediments underlying the orange water in July, 2015.

After examining the elemental sediment analysis, I was left with a number of serious concerns. The enriched metal values in the sediments under the runoff suggested that their source came from somewhere upstream and likely within Lot 21 itself. The question I was left with was this:

What, if anything, has been buried on Lot 21 that could produce the Thorium, Lead and other heavy metal enrichment in the sediments?

In subsequent discussions with the Ministry, I asked if they would consider drilling Lot 21 to determine what is buried beneath the surface. Doing so would put an end to speculation circulating in  a prevalence of anecdotal stories. It would also allow the above question to be answered directly.

One of the reasons I was given that the government could not do this was that it was private land. Well now that is no longer the case. So the question is this:.

Will the BC Government drill Lot 21 to determine what, if anything, has been buried there?

The government has now simply run out of excuses for not doing so.


Media Release


Media Statement February 15, 2016
No excuses left: Lot 21 title change means Government must investigate Shawnigan site
For immediate release

Victoria B.C. – The recent news that the title for Lot 21 near Shawnigan Lake, next to the disputed contaminated soil dump site, has reverted from 0782484 BC Ltd. to the Crown means that the government no longer has any excuses to prevent it from thoroughly investigating the property.

Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head and Leader of the B.C. Green Party, is calling on the Ministry of Environment to drill to bedrock to determine what, if anything, has been buried on Lot 21 that could produce previously observed heavy metal enrichment in the sediments below runoff from this site?

The government has previously argued that drilling was not possible as the site was private property. Now that Lot 21 has returned to the Crown, Andrew Weaver is calling for drilling to ensure residents, local and provincial governments and First Nations know what is buried in the site. Doing so would put an end to speculation circulating in a prevalence of anecdotal stories. It would also allow the above question to be answered directly.

“The fact that Lot 21 has reverted to Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia c/o Surveyor of Taxes means that the government now has no legal or legislative obstacle to thoroughly investigate what may be buried on that property. They own it. There is no excuse, the government should begin inspection drilling immediately.” says Andrew Weaver.

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Media Contact

Mat Wright
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver MLA
Cell: 250 216 3382
Mat.wright@leg.bc.ca
Twitter: @MatVic

Parliament Buildings
Room 027C
Victoria BC V8V 1X4