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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


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.


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?


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


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.”


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

My brief statement on the BC Government Throne Speech

Today in the Legislature the Lieutenant Governor read the Speech from the Throne. I was of course very pleased with the message delivered in the Speech as it reflected much of what the BC NDP and the BC Greens had agreed to in our Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Below is the statement that I issued in response. I also prepared some comments that are available as a brief Facebook Video.

I want to emphasize that I am delighted with the Speech from the Throne. Without a doubt, this is the first Speech from the Throne that has focused on making lives better for the people of British Columbia in quite some time. The BC Green Caucus is looking forward to the next four years.

Media Statement

B.C. Green caucus statement on Speech from the Throne
For immediate release
September 8, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, responded to the Speech from the Throne.

“Four months after British Columbians cast their ballots, I am pleased to see so many B.C. Green ideas included in the new blueprint for government,” Weaver said.

“The Throne Speech highlighted many of the priorities outlined in our Confidence and Supply Agreement. These are policies that we believe we can advance together by moving beyond divisive partisan spin to truly address the challenges and opportunities facing British Columbians. Adam, Sonia and I look forward to working collaboratively with the government on these issues to deliver effective, well-considered public policy.

“These priorities highlight the difference that Greens made in the last election. This session, we will finally see corporate and union donations banned following the lead we took a year ago in banning them from our Party. We will see lobbying reform, a B.C. Green initiative, which will go even further towards ending the undue influence of special interests in our politics. B.C. will also have an Innovation Commissioner, one of the ideas in our emerging economy platform that will help ensure B.C.’s long term economic prosperity. I am also particularly encouraged that the government intends to increase funding for public education, which was the B.C. Greens’ number one priority in this election and is the best investment government can make.

“There are also initiatives outlined today that are not included in our Agreement. As an opposition caucus, we will determine whether to support, propose amendments to or oppose these initiatives on an issue-by-issue basis based on what we believe is in the best interests of British Columbians.

“We will not always agree with everything the government does. As with any relationship, this disagreement is healthy. All three parties share many values and goals, though we might sometimes differ on the best ways to implement them. There is much we can accomplish together if we are willing to engage in thoughtful, productive debate and to consistently put the interests of our constituents first.”


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

My statement on MLA Darryl Plecas becoming Speaker

Today the legislature resumed sitting and our first order of business was to elect a speaker. I am absolutely thrilled that Dr. Darryl Plecas, the MLA from Abbotsford South was duly elected.

I got to know Darryl over the last few years and must say I cannot imagine a better person for the position. He is a principled man of exceptional ethics and high moral standards.

Shortly after an article appeared in Abbotsford News on August 4th, wherein Darryl Plecas confirmed he had threatened to resign if Christy Clark stayed on as premier, I phoned him up and and asked if he would be willing to have his name stand as speaker. We had a long conversation and I certainly got the sense that he was interested. I was delighted to see him follow through on that interest today.

Tradition in the house is for both government and official opposition house leaders to drag the speaker to the chair. This tradition embodies the apparent reluctance of the newly elected speaker to take on the role. A humerous moment occurred when Liberal house leader Mike de Jong whispered to Darryl Plecas and Mike Farnworth (directly in front of where I was sitting) “In this case even token resistance will be taken as disingenuous.

But humour ended there. The BC Liberals displayed a remarkable lack of grace and acted in a manner most unbecoming of MLAs. BC Liberal MLAs were instructed not to clap as the Speaker moved to the chair. This form of passive aggressive bullying has no business in the chamber and frankly, I think the Liberal caucus should be ashamed of themselves.

To make matters even worse, and in what can only be described as a classless act, the Interim Leader of the BC Liberals, Rich Coleman broke tradition and instead of offering his congratulations, gave the Speaker a lecture:

R. Coleman: The role of Speaker is fundamental to our parliamentary democracy. As Speaker you are in charge of ensuring that the traditions of this House are respected. As Speaker you’re responsible for ensuring that the majority and the minority are equally heard in the chamber. As Speaker your job is to protect the integrity of the institution and always to act honourably.

There will be times when the Legislature becomes raucous, and the Speaker must have the fortitude to make decisions guided in this chamber by things that happened over the last hundred years. Mr. Speaker, we hope you live up to those standards.

Compare that to the congratulatory remarks delivered by Premier Horgan:

Hon. J. Horgan: Hon. Speaker, I rise to offer my congratulations to you as the Speaker of the people’s House. The people in their wisdom sent and an equal number of members from two political parties and a third party to support the work of the great province that we happen to be living in. I am so delighted that you’ve taken up the challenge of keeping us honest, keeping us fair and keeping us on course.

Of course, for the people of B.C., this is not about partisanship. This is about a new government and a new opportunity. I fully expect those on the other side of the House to keep us accountable, and I fully expect members on this side of the House to be respectful to the questions asked and, most importantly, respectful to you and the office that you hold.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to look forward to working with you over the next number of years to make B.C. better.

With that, Hon. Speaker, the best of luck to you. You have our full support. I look forward to working with you in our House for all of the interests that British Columbians want us to achieve in the days and years ahead.

Below is the statement that I released concerning the appointment of a Speaker.

Media Statement

Weaver statement on MLA Darryl Plecas becoming Speaker
For immediate release
September 8, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, issued the following statement in response to Darryl Plecas becoming Speaker.

“I am delighted to congratulate Darryl, who has been declared Speaker of the Legislative Assembly,” Weaver said.

“Darryl is known by his colleagues in the Legislature as a person of exceptional ethics and high moral standards. He will undoubtedly serve with dignity and honour as Speaker of this House.

“Darryl’s willingness to stand for Speaker is an encouraging sign that the MLAs of all parties will be able to work together in a productive, collaborative session. We have an historic opportunity to work across party lines to advance good public policy that serves the interests of British Columbians. I look forward to finally getting on with the business of the Legislature to do just that.”


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

Decision to order review of the George Massey Tunnel replacement options

B.C. Green statement on government’s decision to order review of the George Massey Tunnel replacement options
For immediate release
September 6, 2017

VICTORIA, BC – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, and Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, issued the following statement today in response to the government’s announcement that it will conduct and independent review of options for the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel.

“I am glad that the government will review the options for this project,” said MLA Weaver. “In our Confidence and Supply Agreement, we agreed that transit and transportation infrastructure must be developed in cooperation with the Mayors’ Council in a way that reduces emissions, creates jobs and gets people home faster.”

MLA Olsen added, “This project is not part of the Mayor’s Council 10 year plan for regional transportation. It is essential that such costly and major projects be planned in an integrated fashion in cooperation with municipal officials so that we can meet the transportation needs of British Columbians in the most efficient and cost-effective way.”


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

An out of order out of order

Today in the legislature I was up in question period and I wanted to take the opportunity to question the Premier as to whether or not she was going to fulfill her constitutional obligations as First Minister.

Last week, the Premier stated that she doesn’t intend to give the Lieutenant-Governor any advice when she loses the confidence vote scheduled for Thursday. But as I note in the framing of my supposed question today, she has a constitutional obligation to do so should she lose such a motion. The Premier can do one of two things: 1) resign; 2) provide advice to the Lieutenant Governor. The advice to the Lieutenant Governor would be viewed as her seeking another election. Of course, the Lieutenant Governor does not have to listen to such advice.

The Premier reiterated today in a press conference at the BC Legislature that she was not going to be providing advice but would be willing to answer the Lieutenant Governor’s questions. In my view the Premier’s behaviour is disrespectful of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

It’s pretty clear that the Premier is trying to trigger a summer election and to set the stage to blame the Lieutenant Governor, rather than accepting responsibility, if such an election is called. As I have reiterated many times before, the games the BC Liberals continue to play are never ending.

What was particularly disturbing about Question Period today was that I was hoping to question the Premier as to whether or not she was going to fulfill her constitutional obligation. Shortly after I rose, the Minister of Finance started calling on the Speaker to rule my question as being out of order.

As you’ll see below, my question was ruled out of order before I even asked it! You literally can’t make this stuff up.

The BC Liberals need to be put in a time out. They are clearly more interested in political calculation and the quest for power than they are in putting the interests of people front and centre. The BC NDP and the BC Greens have an accord that will ensure stability of the house and confidence in an NDP minority government.

Video of Exchange

Text of Exchange

A. Weaver: Last week, the Premier stated that she doesn’t intend to give the Lieutenant-Governor any advice when she loses the confidence vote scheduled for Thursday. Yet scholars have been very clear. The Premier has a constitutional duty to provide advice on how to proceed to the Lieutenant-Governor. It’s a long-standing tradition that the Lieutenant-Governor acts on the basis of advice from the first minister. For the Premier to refuse this advice is an abdication of her constitutional responsibility.

My question to the Premier is this.

Mr. Speaker: Member, the question is out of order. It has nothing to do with her ministerial responsibilities.

Next question.

A. Weaver: The question is as follows, then. The Premier has refused to have a vote in the House on confidence. We’ve delayed after delayed after delayed. Will the Premier make public her recommendation to the Lieutenant-Governor that will be put forward shortly?

Mr. Speaker: Again, that question is out of order. It has nothing do to do with her ministerial responsibility.