Whoever wins in BC needs to take early action on environment – by Mark Hume (Globe and Mail – May 13, 2013)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

VANCOUVER – Whatever happens in the election this week, it is clear the newly elected premier, whether it is Adrian Dix or Christy Clark, will have to put the environment high on the agenda for early action.

Pipelines and liquefied natural gas development emerged as key, perhaps even defining, issues during the campaign, but there are more problems out there.

No. 1: Withdraw from the Environmental Assessment Equivalency Agreement that the province signed with the federal government. There is an exit clause in the deal, which essentially gives the National Energy Board the power to do environmental assessments for B.C. By opting out, the province will have a lot more say over pipeline proposals, natural gas processing plants and off-shore oil or gas facilities. The NDP has said it will get out within 30 days. A Liberal government should do the same.

No. 2: Scrap Site C. The province shouldn’t drown valuable farm land that can produce food for thousands of years to provide power to LNG plants that will be relatively short-lived.

No. 3: Bring the rapidly expanding number of independent power projects under tighter environmental scrutiny. Under the Liberals, 55 private hydro projects have been built and another 35 are proposed. But the government has done a poor job of monitoring them, allowing fish kills and other damaging impacts.

No. 4: Bring in legislation to make it illegal to cut any more giant, old-growth trees. The Ancient Forest Alliance alerted the public to plans to log the Avatar Grove, near Port Renfrew, saving it just in time. But the group is now warning the last of B.C.’s ancient trees will soon be lost unless something is done.

Vicky Husband, one of B.C.’s leading conservationists, says the group’s new maps “clearly show the ecological crisis in B.C.’s forests due to a century of overcutting.”

No. 5: Modernize the 150-year-old Mineral Tenure Act, which was drafted during the gold-rush and has given mining companies “free entry” for far too long. The law allows miners to stake claims virtually anywhere they want to in B.C., without consulting the government or First Nations. Should mining companies really be allowed to stake claims over places such as the Gulf Islands? They are now, under an antiquated law that should have been revised when miners stopped using mules.

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