B.C. Green party leader calls for Mary Polak to resign as minister of environment

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      The leader of the B.C. Green party has issued a call for the province’s minister of environment to step down.

      “I do not call for this lightly,” begins a statement by Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. “I have spent my career in the climate science field advising provincial, federal, and international governments on their climate policies. Never in my life have I witnessed a government using such outrageous rhetoric to describe subpar efforts to protect the environment.

      “The ministry’s responsibilities have too often been neglected, forcing citizens to step in and try to protect the environment themselves,” it continues. “British Columbians have been left investigating and mitigating the impacts of environmental tragedies like what happened at the Mt. Polley mine, the Shawnigan contaminated soil facility, and the Bella Bella diesel spill with their own time and money, often employing the courts to force the Ministry to do their job. This government’s policy continues to put vested and private interests ahead of their responsibilities they have to the people of British Columbia.”

      B.C.’s minister of environment is Mary Polak, the Liberal MLA for Langley. She has held that position since June 2013.

      Weaver’s statement accuses the minister of no less than failing to do her job.

      “I now lack confidence in Minister Polak to uphold the obligations outlined in her ministerial mandate letter,” it reads. “As such, I am calling for her to be replaced by a minister who will stand up for the people of B.C. and the water and environment that we all rely on.

      “The absence of a real climate policy, the reaction to the Mount Polley tailings pond breach, and the repeated compliance failures at the Shawnigan contaminated soil facility with no real ministerial response are egregious examples that I have tried to work with the Ministry on,” Weaver continued. “The Minister's failed response to the diesel spill in Heiltsuk Territory is the last straw for me.”

      On October 13, a tugboat sank 20 kilometres west of Bella Bella, roughly 140 kilometres north of Vancouver Island. It spilled an unknown amount of fuel there and federal authorities have been widely criticized for a slow response.

      Last August, the provincial government was slammed by environmental groups when it released a highly anticipated policy document that outlined B.C.’s strategy for limiting greenhouse-gas emissions and combating climate change.

      The plan fails to include key recommendations made by the government’s own “climate leadership team” and makes clear that B.C. has essentially abandoned its legislated goal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 33 percent below 2007 levels by the year 2020.

      Weaver pointed to that plan as evidence of Polak’s failure as minister.

      “It is appalling that the B.C. Liberals can look British Columbians in the eye and tell them that they have a climate leadership plan,” he said in the media release. “They are not climate leaders, and they don’t even have a plan. At least when Mr. Harper was Prime Minister we knew where he stood on environmental protection. Premier Clark and the Minister of Environment claim one thing and does the complete opposite.”

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