John Weston, Conservative MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky Country has let down his most vocal constituent, Rafe Mair

Another Open Letter to MP John Weston on Tankers, Salmon – from his Constituent, Rafe Mair



When we met at the meeting at the North Vancouver church last night, on pipelines and tankers, you mentioned that we have known one another for some years ,as we indeed have. Far from having any dislike of you, my feelings are quite the opposite. I often remember the tour you took me on of Boston when I came to address the Harvard Canadian Club, of which you were a member.
I’m going to get right down to cases. You have disappointed me in that I thought that you might just buck the system and stand up for your province but you have manifestly failed.
You said last night that you voted for Bill C-38 because it would enhance “process” around fish habitat. That was a lie, John, and I’m surprised that a good Christian would make such an egregiously false statement. You voted for C-38 because you had to – just as one of your colleagues did after expressing some public concerns. The truth of the matter is this was the Budget and you had no choice. What you could have done and should have done, seeing you are a “process” person, about which more in a moment, is support those MPs irate that the budget process should be abused to contain substantive policy changes (fish habitat, for example) in it.
Let’s get down to what you said last night. I had accused you of knowing nothing about the environmental catastrophe of pipelines and tankers and while I applaud your honesty am stunned to hear a BC MP admit he knew bugger-all about the subject matter of the controversy but relied upon “the process” to see that environmental concerns are addressed.
Your big word was “process” – a nice, lawyerly approach except you miss the entire point, and please pay attention: These hearings, be they over pipelines, tanker traffic, or so-called “run-of-river” projects do not address whether or not the project should be done in the first place.
These are, to all intents and purposes, done deals. While the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is an independent body, mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board, and is to assess the environmental effects of the proposed project and review the application under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act, you know and I know that your government is going ahead with the Gateway project, irrespective of the Panel’s findings.
This isn’t so you say? The government has an open mind on the matter?
Don’t you know what your Natural Resources minister has said ad nauseum?
Watch and read his comments such as, “Environmental and other ‘radical groups’ are trying to block trade and undermine Canada’s economy, according to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who has also stated, “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade.”
Prime Minister Harper said in a Q & A, “I think we’ll see significant American interests trying to line up against the Northern Gateway project, precisely because it’s not in the interests of the United States. It’s in the interests of Canada…they’ll funnel money through environmental groups and others in order to try to slow it down but, as I say, we’ll make sure that the best interests of Canada are protected.”
John, read what your leaders have said…take the time I did on the Internet and you will find that to your Prime Minister and the Natural Resources Minister, the Gateway is a done deal and the hearings simply provide a way for environmental groups to delay.
In fact, Oliver deals extensively with timelines and the need to get this project running “expeditiously”.
I have been to enough of government sponsored “hearings” to know that they are a sham. As I’ve said, “Id rather have a root canal without anaesthetic than attend another.”
Surely, John, prisoner of the system though you might be, you must admit that your government is bent on approving Gateway and in fact your leaders admit it. That being so, John, how can you baldly state that there is “process” of any meaning here?
There are some issues that go straight to the heart our social community and how we want to live.
One such issue, 20 years ago, was the Charlottetown Accord which would have dramatically altered the Canadian system of governance. To the people of British Columbia, the pipelines and tanker traffic similarly go to the very root of what we believe in and how we want to live. We’re dealing with the very soul of BC and you would have us believe that we are getting a process within which we can make our feelings known in a meaningful way?
You know that Gateway is a done deal as far as your government is concerned and that the hearings are not designed to discover what the people want to see happen to our province. The plain truth is that no matter what the Panel recommends, your government will approve the projects.
On the questions about the Fisheries Act, to say this will enhance “process” is rather like, “In order to save the village it was necessary to destroy it.”
For habitat to be protected, development must be prohibited, for the moment you open it to “process”, you condemn it to destruction. I tried to make you and others understand that some things by their nature cannot be mediated, nor can impacts be “mitigated”, an awful weasel word. The example the minister gave of a carp pond was puerile and dangerous. It’s not carp ponds you’ve exposed to the front-end loader but the BC salmon about which you know nothing. How can you take away protection from development without knowing what the hell you’re doing?
The DFO was politicized back in the 1980s by Tom Siddon in the federal government’s giveaway to Alcan and its Kemano Completion Project. This is a very sad chapter and you should know that the Mulroney government suppressed a devastating report by DFO scientists which condemned the KCP in no uncertain terms. The scientists (dubbed the “dissident” scientists by Alcan, a sobriquet they bore with honour) were given early retirement, transferred or refused promotion they were rightly expecting). That 1984 Report was released in 1992 by me after I received it in a brown envelope. If you want the inside story on that I will introduce you to Dr. Gordon Hartman, one of those dissident scientists.
The person to talk to about the gutting of the enforcement arm of DFO is Otto Langer, an ex-DFO man to whom I would be happy to introduce you.
John, you are an embodiment of almost child-like naiveté who has been captivated by the elected dictator system we find ourselves in. You have allowed yourself to self-hypnotize into believing untruths because you must  – then perpetuating dangerous falsehoods. It’s rather like the Stockholm Syndrome, where you’ve fallen in love with your captors.
I think it was Senator Daniel Moynihan who said, “You’re entitled to make up your own mind but not your own facts.”


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

12 thoughts on “Another Open Letter to MP John Weston on Tankers, Salmon – from his Constituent, Rafe Mair

  1. If John truly believes what he said to you then he should just move to Ottawa. There is no place for him here in BC. He’s a traitor, imo……

  2. The issue contained in this article that I would like to address is our archaic system of governance. We don’t elect people to represent us. We elect people to represent their political party to us. Until such time as political parties are relegated to nothing more than a footnote in history books, we will have nothing that resembles democracy.

    Trained seals belong in the circus, not our Parliament or Provincial Legislature.

  3. Calling BC ferries crew qualified deck officers is funny,thanks for the smile:)
    The new tractor tugs are 6300bhp and can stop a ship pretty quick.
    For the larger black oil tankers they have up to 4 tractor tugs connected.
    These ships go though second narrows all the time,then down past Victoria and out to sea.
    This is much more difficult than running down a 2 mile wide channel straight out to sea from Kitimat.

  4. Struan,

    How about the Queen of the North sinking – eh ?
    Fully qualified deck officers on watch and the ship still ran aground on a reef. Human error is all it takes – and that is common with all ship wrecks. Fortunately there was minmal oil pollution – though it is still seeping out from the hull as the government has done nothing further with the wreck.

    So, tankers are safer eh ! I doubt it and the tugs would need to be 10,000hp each to do the necessary pulling and pushing.

    Sorry, but your argument for shipping is pretty slim given the parameters you give. Pilots are known to make mistakes – they are human too. Again, human error is all it takes and when “Murphy” decides to add a little into the mix (loss of sea water cooling, blackout, generator malfunctions, water in the fuel, loss of main engines etc.) things start to get a little more complicated. During storm seasons, water getting into fuel tanks, rogue waves, high winds etc., all add to the pot. Then of course whatever the weather the tanker experiences, so do the escort tugs !

    As a retired C/E I find your arguments pretty lame to say the least.

    Thank you

  5. I love reading uninformed posts from people who have no idea how the marine industry works.I would bet most of you have no idea of the difference between a Pilot and a a Captain.
    I have news for you people ALL the ships carry heavy bunker oil and can have a spill,not just tankers but the tankers have many more safety features and protocols in place.
    We could ban all tankers and still have a spill.
    Everyday multiple ships in Vancouver fill up on bunker C while at anchor.
    Oil runs the world and nothing you do or say will change that.
    We all know they will push this through regardless of what anyone says.
    Your best option is to make sure we deal with it a safely as possible.

  6. Struan I’m sure people had “faith” in the Captain of the Exxon Valdez as well. Simply having “faith” will not prevent accidents and horrendous pollution should a ship flounder or run aground. The devastation will last for years and really, we don’t know for how long. How will they hide the pollution should there be a accident or wreck? Enbridge can’t put grass on it or cover it with sand like they did in Missouri.

    But that aside, the whole “process” and business case for building the pipeline is flawed. We could just as easily build the refineries here and process the bitumen on site. Quite frankly, the pipeline should never be built, period.

  7. I was fortunate to be present at this meeting/presentation to hear both Mr. Mair and Ben West of the Wilderness Committee speak. In my humble opinion, John Weston made an incredible fool of himself and Mr. Mair has quite rightly put him in place! British Columbians need to “get with the information programs” available to them and become aware of what is happening around them – largely due to a bullying, uninformed and – at times – unethical Conservative government! This conversation needs to become about sustaining our magnificient environment and solving our congested transportations issues – there are alternative job options for the population if our government looks to creating environmentally friendly projects and building alternate transportation routes lessening the need for vehicles – like urban rail. Yes – we will need oil – but polluting our Province with toxic waste from guaranteed oil leaks, filling our waterways with tankers the size of the Skyscrapers – is not the answer for our children and their children. We need a government that is dedicated to creating jobs by focussing on ways to change the dominant energy infrastructure of planet Earth!!

  8. I am Not a supporter of either the Conservatives or the Liberals.Most of the tankers I have dealt with on this coast are in top notch condition and very well crewed much more so than regular cargo ships .As far as ship handling in weather goes 4 3000hp tractor tugs could handle anything this coast could throw at them with ease. The Valdez spill was in US waters with no Pilot or Tugs in use,we do things safer here,and that is why we have had no spills. I cannot comment on the safety of the pipeline itself as I have no knowledge of that part of the operation.All I can say is that once it is loaded in the ship I have faith in the Pilots and Tug crews that they will get the ship out of Canada without running aground as they do this many times a day without incident.
    I do often wonder why nobody talks about the LNG plant and Tankers,that stuff scares me.We do not allow LNG tankers in Vancouver for a reason,yet nobody seems concerned about them being in Kitimat.
    If one of those takers explodes Kitimat would be wiped off the map.At least you can clean up an oil spill,how do you clean up a smoking crater.

  9. Struan,

    Unfortunately, most of the oil tankers visiting BC are foreign owned and most likely prone to gross underfunding with regard to liability in major oil spills.

    Do we really want to play `Russian Roulette`with foreign owned tankers full of diluted bitumen, knowing full well how bad shippiing conditions can be in severe weather conditions on the BC coast !

    Any major oil spill is serious and one around Kitimat would be devastating to the environment and nature in general. And no, there would not be sufficient resources to deal with the situation immediately in spite of your claims to the contrary.

    At the end of the day, who is to pay the people who have had their lives totally ruined for corporate greed – certainly not the tanker owners. Remember the Valdez spill – the people are still waiting for their compensation – including fishermen !

    No, we definately do not need to export the `dilbit`by sea from British columbia – refine it first in Alberta and let Alberta suffer the contamination process.

    Thank you.

  10. Raif you were straight to the point. I wonder if he will respond. As for the comment above, either he’s a supporter of the project and a supporter of the CONServatives and the LIbERalS. An bitumen spill on the ocean will be devistating, no doubt (and there will be one no matter what) but he doesn’t address an inland spill and what the response will be. Obviously neither has Enbridge. Keep the pressure on Raif. You are whittling down their responses to nonsense.

  11. Struan

    Two issues with tankers in Douglas Channel – VLCCs are far larger than any tankers currently plying the coast (1500′ long), fully loaded would be very difficult to move in heavy weather and bitumen has specific gravity lower than water (it sinks) – how easy will that be to clean up?

  12. I have mixed feelings about this project as an ex-fisherman who now works partially with oil tankers and who is trained in oil spill response I am aware of some of the dangers and safety precautions in place.
    Fishing in BC is dead and has been for quite some time due to Government mismanagement and over fishing, so there is not a lot left to protect.But I agree that what little is left should be protected, and it is.
    We have very skilled Pilots and Tug crews (some of them ex-fishermen) moving the tankers on our coast.
    Most Tankers have 2 Pilots and in some cases up to 4 Tugs connected any one of which could stop the ship.
    We have a coast wide network of spill response teams and gear on standby at all times.
    Due to the fact that Kitimat is at the top of an inlet if there was a spill I think it would quickly be contained.
    Most people are not even aware we been shipping oil on this coast and out of Vancouver for decades without incident.
    I loved fishing and I love the ocean as it has given me a great life but in order for me to continue working on it there must be work to do and the fish are gone.
    The people need to work and if we must move oil instead of fish then so be it, safely.

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