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News and Blog

Howe Sound Stakeholders meet with MPs Weston and Carrie

Howe Sound Stakeholders Meeting
MP (West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky) John Weston
MP (Oshawa) Colin Carrie, parliamentary secretary to Department of
the Environment, Government of Canada

Monday, August 25, 2014, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
West Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club
650 20th Street, West Vancouver, BC

Hosted by John Weston's office.

SCCAS invitation received from:
Ruth Simons
Executive Director
Future of Howe Sound Society

In attendance:

Jools Andrés, Executive Director, Sunshine Coast Clean Air Society
Mary-Ann Booth, Councillor, District of West Vancouver
Kevin Brock, Canadian Wildlife Services, Environment Canada
Vivien Bromily, Consultant to MP Weston, "Environment is the Economy!"
Lynn Chapman, Representative, Salish Sea Coal Committee
Eoin Finn, Scientist & environmentalist, Bowyer Island resident
Stephen Foster, Howe Sound Team Lead, David Suzuki Foundation
Jason Herz, Chair, Sunshine Coast Conservation Association
Lorne Lewis, Director, Sunshine Coast Regional District
Randall Lewis, Environmental Advisor, Squamish Nation Project Negotiation & Development
Bruce McArthur (red-legged frog), North Shore Wetland Partners
Cheryl McNaughton, Squamish resident
Alison Morse, Councillor / Trustee, Bowen Island Municipality / Islands Trust
Gary Nohr, Director, Sunshine Coast Regional District
Stan Proboszcz, The Propeller Strategy, Watershed Watch
Howie Robins, President, Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia
Peter Scholefield, Director, Gambier Island Conservancy
Ruth Simons, Executive Director, Future of Howe Sound Society
Bill Soprovich, Councillor, District of West Vancouver
Kate-Louise Stamford, Trustee, Islands Trust (Gambier Island)
Lee Turnbull, Director, Sunshine Coast Regional District
Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director, Georgia Strait Alliance

Meeting highlights:

MP Weston chaired the meeting and began by introducing “Canada’s first National Conservation Plan,” a $252 million, 5-year fund focusing on habitat stewardship and species at risk. Mr. Carrie then introduced himself and touted the federal attention to the environment as well. See more: National Conservation Plan.

Ruth Simons of the Future of Howe Sound Society then spoke about some of that group’s history and the success that has resulted from protecting and cleaning those waters. She also spoke of a lack of a comprehensive land and marine plan that integrates ecological, social, and economic elements and the cumulative effects of all industries together and said that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities urged the provincial and federal governments to establish such a plan.

After an informal, brief round of self-introduction from group members, some individuals spoke longer on specific issues. Recurring statements included these topics:

• Howe Sound has begun to rebound from pollution and commercial fishing through decades of effort. Increased herring, cod and rockfish, dolphins, and whales are indications of the increasing health of this highly prized, world-class marine area.
• There are a number of industrial projects/developments proposed for Howe Sound that bring serious ecological threats to this recently acquired abundance, such as:
o two daily shipments of thermal coal from Surrey Fraser docks to Texada Island in coal transportation proposal;
o Woodfibre’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing and export facility proposed for Squamish, which projects pumping approximately 17,000 metric tonnes of warm chlorinated water per hour into Howe Sound. (See more at: North Shore News, West Van opposes LNG export plan); and
o waste incineration plants proposed for Duke Point and Port Mellon (Squamish First Nation lands).
• The Harper Government’s elimination of scientific experts from government department staffs.

Stakeholder groups reported that in addition to the above concerns, the primary problem currently is lack of clear lines of communication and transparency within and between the various levels of government. “There is no one to contact directly,” on any environmental inquiry, said SCRD Director Gary Nohr. This was reiterated by Alison Morse, Jason Herz, and others.

All group members who spoke expressed a passion for the beauty and wildlife in Howe Sound and a sense of alarm regarding the size and scope of these major hazards all coming forward at this time. There was also a sense of futility with the political system and economic objectives overriding ecological value.

Mr. Weston and Mr. Carrie did not answer any questions or address any specific concerns. Mr. Weston typed on his tablet most of the time while several silent, young, suit-and-tie-clad aides or interns clustered together on the periphery of the meeting room. The MPs thumbs-upped the Government of Canada with big smiles and had little to offer beyond that. Finding money through applying to programs of the National Conservation Plan was suggested as a solution—one audience member called this money a “band-aid.”

While there seemed to be a sense of frustration bordering on futility from stakeholder members, the brief session also rendered a clear understanding among them that strong leadership and cooperation between various environmental groups and local and regional governing bodies is the only route to meaningful environmental protection of Howe Sound, adjacent areas, and the rest of Canada.

Recommendations: that SCCAS write a letter to MPs John Weston and Colin Carrie that strongly states our areas of priority and concern for the health of the environment and citizens of the Sunshine Coast as they relate to the items discussed at the meeting listed above. It is also recommended that SCCAS presence at similar meetings be frequent to boost networking with other non-profit agencies and to be visible to local government representatives/granting agencies. The SCCAS should also commit to building a strong presence through social media, publishing with online magazines, and letters to print media publishers.

The SCCAS should research the suitability of applying to the EcoAction Community Funding Program (within the National Conservation Plan umbrella), which has a clean air category (deadline Nov. 1, 2014). EcoAction could be a good source of partnering funds for the BC Clear Clean Air Research project recently submitted to the Fraser Basin Council for establishing baseline air quality data collection on the Sunshine Coast. We will likely know whether SCCAS has been invited to continue in the BC Clear process in time to strategically link project funding.

The EcoAction Community Grant was the first received by SCCAS (2002). This was used to produce educational video materials featuring Dr. David Bates, an air quality expert from UBC, and which served for many of SCCAS’s outreach and educational efforts over the following years.

Respectfully submitted,

Jools Andrés
Executive Director
Sunshine Coast Clean Air Society