This is the time, at both end of year and end of the decade, when we look back to see how far we have or haven’t progressed. As the BC NDP government expects an election in October, 2021, it is certainly past time for a mid-term environmental review.
(Please note I include source links in the body of the article both for the reader’s convenience and to show the extent of objections and questions regarding this government’s actions. Title/content of the links are in green where possible.)
Ministry of Climate Change Strategy & Environment
It must be frustrating to be the BC Minister of Climate Change Strategy and Environment under Premier Horgan’s disorganised (see note at article end) NDP government. Fulfilling his mandate is prevented by Horgan’s obeisance to industry and the two main ministries that support that obeisance — namely the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources and the Ministry of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources.
So what exactly has the Ministry of Climate Change & Environment done — or not done — up to now?
Look closely. Borrowing a page from the practices of corporate deception, the program primarily addresses citizen action. It does nothing to increase accountability and transparency of the government-enabled resource extraction that contributes to climate change and pollutes and destroys Super Natural BC. It continues to support those projects claiming emissions and pollution will be reduced by “clean tech” and “clean electricity” (which is likely a rationalisation of the Site C dam). It perpetuates the myth of “clean natural gas consumption” totally ignoring the fact that natural gas is a fossil fuel contributing to climate change. See also
All of this is just promises. And we’ve already seen how the BC NDP don’t keep their promises — Site C itself is an example. Read on to see more.
No Protection of Endangered Species
Mandate: “Enact an endangered species law and harmonize other laws to ensure they are all working towards the goal of protecting our beautiful province.”
“In an interview on Monday, Mr. Heyman said the legislation has proven to be more complex than expected, and it may not be brought in until 2021.” Apparently delayed due to concerns about the economy.
See also limited caribou protection and faulty wildlife management by Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources.
Exemptions from Environmental Assessment & Inquiry
Clearcutting contributes to climate change
See also old-growth clearcutting by Forests, Lands & Natural Resources and emissions from Ministry of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources.
Lack of Incentives for Green Energy
Insufficient Water Protection
See also how the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources licences logging in watersheds.
Insufficient Prevention of Environmental Degradation
See also how the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources does not punish polluters.
Conservation Service Officers are Killing Wildlife Needlessly
Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources
The Ministry licences unsustainable old-growth logging and logging in species-at-risk habitat.
Clearcutting contributes to climate change
The Ministry Licences Watershed Logging
The Ministry sprays glyphosate to inhibit aspen and other broadleaf growth that protects from wildfire. The spray also kills off food sources and harms animals and humans
Trapping Regulations Need Update
The Ministry limits caribou protection, logs caribou habitat, exercises poor wildlife management
The Ministry Licences Logging on Indigenous Land Without Consent
Ministry of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources
The Ministry suppresses information
The Ministry gives false information
The Ministry regulates mining minimally and without relevant information
Environmental Assessment for LNG does Not Include Public Health
BC Hydro avoids transparency, breaks environmental laws and exercises “creative accounting”
The Ministry heavily subsidizes fossil fuel
The Ministry does not punish polluters
The Ministry Permits Projects on Indigenous Land without Consent
Note: Access to Minister Mungall’s email addresses include an extensive list of rules and conditions. It appears she is on the defensive which is not surprising given the above failures in responsibility and transparency. Premier Horgan has hinted at shuffling cabinet in the new year and perhaps she should be shuffled out to give both her and the residents of BC a break.
Premier of British Columbia
The most recent controversy over LNG involved leaks of RCMP attitudes of “lethal overwatch” and other violent possibilities toward the Unist’ot’en First Nation. It is their unceded territory where the BC Oil & Gas Commission (supposedly under the responsibility of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources) decided the LNG pipeline should be laid. Coastal GasLink obtained a court injunction for that purpose, enforced by the RCMP. Documents were leaked to media showing militarised RCMP authorised for “lethal overwatch” and other violent assault of the Indigenous landholders. Premier Horgan was videotaped (second video in the article) dismissing the problem (in his usual paternalistic manner) as an RCMP operational problem. He added that he expected them to behave.
Prior to this video, the Solicitor General advised me by email that
“As the Ministry of Public Safety, we are responsible for setting the objectives, priorities and goals of the Provincial Police Service which is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (BC-RCMP). Decisions on day-to-day deployment of resources, enforcement and response to calls for service are made exclusively by the BC-RCMP or a jurisdiction’s municipal police force. Individual investigations and enforcement decisions occur at arm’s length from government and we cannot interfere with or direct police on such matters.”
I continue to wonder whether, in fact, Premier Horgan and/or the Solicitor General or other staff, had actually set forth objectives to the RCMP to behave in conformance with the newly-legislated BC version of UNDRIP. Horgan went on to speak of the LNG project as an “opportunity” for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
That word, “opportunity”, seems to me to pinpoint the Horgan attitude and the government he leads. “Opportunity” is a polite way of saying “chase the money”, implying environment and resulting public health are much less important.
In spite of “CleanBC”, corporate pollution and environmental degradation continue as usual — behind the scenes. The BC NDP offers mere lip service to climate change, even as it continues to subsidise fossil fuels and enable environmental degradation. Even the memories of the horrible BC fire season of 2018, evoked now by the current visions of the Australian bush fires, apparently does not inspire the Horgan government toward sustainable and green policy. Hard to avoid a comparison to Scott Morrison.
While the New Democratic Party has defined itself as addressing social issues, it appears unable or unwilling to address the intimate relationship between environmental health — as defined by science — and human health. That relationship between environment and people is embedded in First Nations’ cultures and NDP blindness to it is increased and rationalised by NDP’s perceived “opportunity”.
A clear vision of the intricate interaction of environmental health with human health is precisely what is required in this time and is precisely what the NDP lacks. Currently a new BC political party has formed to remedy the NDP’s environmental deficiencies. The next election will be interesting.
Note on BC NDP Governmental Disorganisation
The BC government website shows a distinct lack of transparency around which ministry or minister is responsible for various areas. As an example, the government website doesn’t clearly show that the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources is responsible for not only forests but also the archaeology branch, caribou protection, tourist destinations, hunting and trapping licences, as well as being “alternate responsible minister” for energy and mining projects. While hunting and trapping fall under that ministry, the Conservation Officer Service falls under the Minister of Climate Change Strategy and Environment. Climate Change Strategy and Environment is also responsible for the administration and enforcement of the pollution-prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish“.
Further, the “arm’s length” agencies supposedly governed by the ministries (to varying degrees according to the website) are not clearly indicated. This includes BC Hydro, its corporate subsidiary Powerex, and the Oil and Gas Commission under the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. It includes BC Timber Sales under the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. It includes the BC RCMP, designated as the provincial police force by the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General. As Joe Foy wonders:
“Do our elected leaders have their hands on the wheel, or is BC logging and mining simply on bureaucratic autopilot?”
One wonders if this disorganisation is deliberate in order to deceive and confuse BC residents and free government from transparency.
Although this government complains about the messes left by the previous government, little to no proactivity has been demonstrated to remedy said messes and start with a clean slate. Examples are the five-year-old studies (which admit to incomplete data) that form the basis of plans to protect caribou. Outdated mining laws and unpunished polluters abound in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Forestry regulations are outdated. The Site C Dam and development of LNG fossil fuel have progressed as the pre-NDP government planned.