Spencer Chandra Herbert: B.C. Liberals plan to invite more industrial activity in provincial parks

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      B.C. parks are held as a public trust for all British Columbians.

      With changes proposed to the Park Act, the B.C. Liberals want the public trust to be replaced with "just trust us."

      Most British Columbians still don't even know that the government is ramming through new legislation, which would make it easier to route highways, pipelines, transmission lines, and other industrial projects through our Class A provincial parks.

      The B.C. Liberals' legislation could lead to drilling, excavation, and other disruptive activities aimed at extracting minerals from our parks or transporting fossil fuels across them.

      If you don't believe our parks should be subject to corporate demands to excavate pits, chop trees or otherwise make major disturbances to our parks without even having to inform or ask the public, you should be concerned about this new law.

      The B.C. Liberals are trying to sneak through this law by saying the bill allows "research" in our parks, but nowhere do they define what kind of research would be allowed.

      Research aimed at protecting and improving our parks would be celebrated by the public, and existing laws allow that research to proceed. Unfortunately, the “research” the B.C. Liberals have in mind appears to be aimed at providing justifications for cutting off pieces of our parks and opening them up to industrial activity.

      The government has consulted with no one on this law that will weaken our parks. That's right, no one. When you consult with no one you get bad legislation, which is what I believe we have here.

      That's why I moved to halt the bill in its tracks, with the support of New Democrats and independent members of the legislature. We called on the government to go out and talk to the people about the changes they are proposing, and to listen to the wide range of concerns we have been hearing in our communities.

      Our parks belong to British Columbians, not politicians.

      Parks help ensure there are grizzly bears for generations to come. Parks protect drinking water, they shelter migrating birds, and they protect fish stocks, providing untold economic benefits.

      The value of parks go far beyond dollars. They are more than the memory of spawning salmon, more than a first night spent in a tent, more than a long hike through beautiful country—our parks represent an effort to ensure our children and our grandchildren can experience a living land.

      There has always been a delicate balance in British Columbia between protecting the environment and conducting the resource activities that help power our economy.

      That's why it's important to respect the work that has been done to create protected areas in British Columbia.

      For the most part our parks were created after an exhaustive process bringing together communities, First Nations, individuals and environmental organizations. It's wrong for the government to rush through legislation that threatens British Columbia's most special places.

      If changes to liquor laws necessitate months of consultations, why is the B.C. Liberal government rushing through laws that will weaken park protections without giving British Columbians any opportunity to express their opinions about the legislation?

      Despite the fact that all opposition MLAs supported putting a hold on this flawed new law until the fall so that the public had time to learn about what is at stake, and make their voices heard, the B.C. Liberals voted to speed the legislation through.

      Worse, they laughed at the suggestion that the public should even be consulted before they rip up protections for our parks.

      Our parks don't belong to the B.C. Liberals. They don’t belong to corporations. They belong to all of us, and were won with the hard work of generations of British Columbians.

      Out of respect for democracy, our parks, and the people of B.C. we will be voting no to this legislation. Our parks deserve so much better than the B.C. Liberals saying "just trust us."

      Spencer Chandra Herbert is the NDP environment critic and the MLA for Vancouver–West End.

      Comments

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      3 Comments

      Sally

      Mar 7, 2014 at 4:54pm

      I was with you until I read the actual changes that you link to: http://www.leg.bc.ca/40th2nd/1st_read/gov04-1.htm. They are clear, limited to a defined 'purpose' and do not permit industrial development despite your assertions in your article.

      "purpose" means, (a) in relation to a park, (i) the preservation of the park's natural environment for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public, and
      (ii) if a category is specified for the park under section 12 (1), the purpose associated with the category, and

      Is there language in Section 12(1) - not accessible via the link - that would result in your position? Can you provide details if so?

      Kiskatinawkid

      Mar 7, 2014 at 5:15pm

      allows "research". Kind of sounds like a japanese whaling excuse!

      Hazlit

      Mar 8, 2014 at 12:35pm

      Where is the pro-city, anti big-business (anti resource extraction) political party that can actually win elections in BC? Why the hell in Canada do you have to pay money to join a political party? That is insane! It means that there are no pro-people anti-money parties in Canada. So what's the point of Canadian politics?