Environmental impact assessments are key for a better future

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      Every parent wants a better future for their children and grandchildren—not one where they are paying for our mistakes.

      That’s why governments must manage finances prudently. It’s every bit as important to make responsible decisions about our environment, because much environmental damage can never be reversed.

      Through Vancouver-based groups such as Kids for Climate Action, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, and UBCC350, young people are demanding respect for their future. They are pointing out that decisions made today can saddle their future with an irreversible environmental deficit. They must be heard.

      We must have open and democratic decision-making about the environmental impacts and costs—including climate change—associated with our development decisions.

      The current processes are not working. In fact, both federally and provincially, governments are closing the door on public participation and science-based decisions.

      • Representatives of health authorities and local governments have raised concerns about the impacts on climate, air quality, and public health that will be caused by increased coal transport. Port Metro Vancouver and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority simply ignored the calls to evaluate the cumulative effects on health before granting approval. Their process excluded the public.
      • In a last round of “public hearings” on the Enbridge pipeline and tanker traffic down our coast, British Columbians were barred from hearing rooms. We were denied the right to attend and support the presentations made by our neighbours.
      • At “public hearings” advertised and organized by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, ordinary people were denied the opportunity to speak. They were told by government representatives that the events were simply an opportunity for the proponent of a private power project to make his case.

      Such closed-door processes undermine the interests and values of British Columbians. It is irresponsible—and disrespectful to the future of young people—for federal port authorities to expand the Neptune and Fraser Surrey coal facilities without a transparent and accessible environmental and public-health assessment process.

      We need—and B.C. New Democrats will deliver—a made-in-B.C., rigorous, and science-based environmental-assessment process to properly evaluate resource- and energy-development projects. We will withdraw immediately from the “equivalency agreement” that allows projects of deep concern to British Columbians to be evaluated under weakened and flawed federal laws.

      We’ve heard from a number of people—including, sadly, many young people—who don’t vote because they don’t believe that government will listen or even allow their voices to be heard. Elections are important: they define our choices, in many ways. Our political process should inspire all of us to create change for the better, working together. We need to engage people in the critical issues that affect us.

      To ensure that democracy has real meaning, people must be treated with respect. Assessments must be more than a rubber stamp.

      We need to replace arbitrary and closed reviews with publicly accountable processes that respect the needs and views of all British Columbians. The future of young people will be shaped by the decisions we make today. Their voices must be heard—and respected.

      George Heyman is the B.C. NDP candidate in Vancouver-Fairview. David Eby is the B.C. NDP candidate in Vancouver–Point Grey.



      Joe Public

      Apr 18, 2013 at 3:38pm

      Dear David and George,

      I wholeheartedly agree that there has been an attack on science, evidence, and democracy by current governments and a terrible erosion of already weak environmental protections. That said, the problem can and also should be addressed at an even more fundamental level.

      Please consider re-instituting democracy in the electoral process as well. We need to move beyond first past the post (FPTP) and ensure true(r) representation in the legislature. Show your true commitment to public input by supporting and fighting for a more representative system. Regardless of whether it's STV, PR, or something else, lets put FPTP out to pasture now. It's the first step and long overdue.