Category Archives: Farmland and Food Security

Rick Mercer

XL Too Big for Food Safety – Rick Mercer Rant Nails It


The tainted meat scandal that continues to dominate Canadian news headlines has provoked harsh criticism of XL Foods – the company at the centre of the nation’s largest ever meat recall – regulator the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Federal Conservative Government. Yet, as humourist and political commentator Rick Mercer astutely underscores in a recent video rant (see below), the most important question the crisis raises relates to the whether it is safe for up to 40% of the country’s beef to be processed by a single plant.

The XL scandal is but the latest and most dramatic wake-up call for Canadians as to the direction successive federal and provincial governments have pushed the Canadian food system – legislating smaller, locally run farms and processors out of business in favour of monolithic, centralized corporate food producers.

In the aftermath of this tainted meat debacle, as our politicians point fingers, attempt to derive lessons and develop policy changes to help prevent this situation from repeating itself, the primary focus needs to be on addressing this overblown corporate food system run amok. We are frequently told small operators can’t safely produce and process our agricultural products, yet the system our governments have imposed on us in their place is clearly proving the opposite is true.

Check out Rick Mercer’s prescient rant on the subject below.

American robins killed by DDT as shown in Michigan State University research in 1961.From Introduction to Ornithology, 3rd Edition, 1975

Sick, Stupid and Sterile: The 50th Anniversary of ‘Silent Spring’


In September 1962 – 50 years ago this month – a book was published which changed the way we looked at the post-World War Two chemical revolution. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – a clarion call about the perils of pesticides – is largely credited with launching the modern day environmental movement.

Soon after its publication, the indiscriminate spraying of  DDT on farm fields and suburbs in the US ended, followed in 1972 by an outright ban on its manufacture and use. Forty years later, DDT’s metabolite DDE can be found in the bodies of 95% of Americans.

These chemicals persist.

Rachel Carson wrote about the damage pesticides could do to humans and wildlife in doses as small as one part per million.

In 1996 another ground-breaking book was published. Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn and Peter Myers details the wealth of scientific research highlighting the ability of many supposedly safe manmade chemicals (including still widely used pesticides) to mimic hormones and – in parts per billion – interfere with immune system, cognitive and reproductive development.

Put simply, there is every reason to believe that chemicals in our environment are making us sick, stupid and sterile.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its annual guide to pesticide residues on domestic and imported produce. The guide highlights the worst of the worst, the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables which shoppers should replace with organic produce wherever possible.

Think all you have to do is wash and peel your fruit and vegetables before you eat them? Guess again. The majority of studies on which the EWG guide is based involved testing samples after they had been washed or peeled. 

Most alarming were the number of samples contaminated with organophosphate (OP) insecticides.

A study by Stephen Rauch of BC Children’s Hospital has linked prenatal exposure to these known neurotoxins with lower birth weight and shorter gestation. Rauch notes that these pregnancies began after OPs were restricted for most uses. He also flags other studies linking prenatal exposure to OP insecticides with abnormal reflexes and reduced cognitive abilities.

In a worrying article in the current issue of Watershed Sentinel, children’s health expert Bruce Lanphear highlights the research linking exposure to environmental contaminants with increasingly common childhood illnesses and disabilities.

For example, OP insecticides have been strongly linked with dramatic increases in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while the marine anti-fouling chemical tributyltin has been identified as an “obesogen” which can mimic the hormones involved in the development of obesity.

One of the several quotes from Rachel Carson which Lanphear uses in his article is the following: “Thalidomide and pesticides represent our willingness to rush ahead and use something new without knowing what the results are going to be.” Lanphear points out that the substantial and lifelong implications for children of exposure to environmental chemicals are subtle and often unlikely to be recognised.

In the month when the manufacturer of thalidomide finally issued an apology for the damage caused by its drug, Lanphear quotes environmental health expert David Rall, who once remarked: “If thalidomide had caused a ten-point loss of IQ instead of obvious birth defects of the limbs, it would probably still be on the market.”

In an article written for Environmental Health News to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring, the distinguished scientist Paul Ehrlich observes: “Many people have the impression that climate disruption is the worst environmental problem humanity faces, and, indeed, its consequences may be catastrophic. But the spread of toxic chemicals from pole to pole may be the dark horse in the race.”

Ehrlich thinks Rachel Carson would be appalled by our lack of progress in stemming the flow of toxic chemicals into our air, water, food and bodies.

Perhaps it’s too late. Perhaps we’re already too sick and stupid. I hope not.


In-Depth CBC Report: Food Lobbies Have Been Controling Canada’s Food Guide, Nutritional Info for Years


Check out this in-depth report from CBC on the history of manipulation of Canada’s Food Guide and nutritional recommendations for the public by power food lobbies. (July 30 ,2012)

The 1992 food guide marked “a new era in nutrition guidance in Canada,” according to Carmen Connolly, then the chief of the Nutrition Programs Unit at Health Canada.

The title changed to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and the design changed to a rainbow graphic to display the four food groups. The major change was a shift in philosophy to a “total diet approach” for meeting both energy and nutrient requirements, replacing the minimum requirements approach of earlier guides.

When the draft guide was sent out to food industry groups for comment, they didn’t like what they saw.

The draft guide had a small, fifth food group in a corner, called “extras,” with this description:

There is no recommended number of servings for these foods since they have little nutritional value. They provide taste appeal but are often high in fat and calories. The less you eat of these foods, the better.

The Grocery Products Manufacturing Council found it disturbing “that ‘extras’ continue to be presented negatively and inappropriately, creating a good/bad food scenario.”

In the final version of the guide, “extras” was gone and that corner of the rainbow was white. Replacing it was a box on the second page of the two-page guide called “Other foods,” with this description:

Taste and enjoyment can also come from other foods and beverages that are not part of the other four food groups. Some of these foods are higher in fat or calories so use these foods in moderation.

Check out full report – including audio clip:

Salmon biologist Alexandra Morton

Alexandra Morton: Farm Disease Secrecy Act Quietly Withdrawn by Minister


The following is a press release from Alexandra Morton

Victoria (May 31, 2012) For Immediate Release.

In the face of enormous public outcry, agriculture Minister Don McRae quietly withdrew his Bill 37 that would have made disease reporting in animals an offence punishable by two years in prison and $75,000.  The stated intent of the Bill was to encourage greater disease reporting by farmers in BC.

On May 3, Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham wrote a highly critical letter calling Minister McRae’s bill “extreme”, pointing out Bill 37 “would override the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act” saying “this is a matter of deep concern considering the importance of disease management” and tying it to salmon farming.

Citing the debate in the House between Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture, Lana Popham and McRae, arguing the definition of the word “person”, Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law wrote McRae, “I strongly advise that you seek legal advice…”.

A petition continues to grow targeting supermarket chains Loblaws, COSTCO and Safeway asking them to stop selling farm salmon that have tested positive for viruses.

On Tuesday, McRae began to retreat telling the media that he was going to amend his Bill to suggest that it would not apply to media or the public, only to government workers, but he left that on the order paper, never standing in Parliament to bring it forward.
“If Minister McRae wants higher disease reporting compliance, why didn’t he create a Bill to make it mandatory that all farmers in BC report disease, instead of attempting to take away free speech in violation of the Constitution of Canada,” says biologist Alexandra Morton. “I am deeply grateful for all the people who wrote McRae and signed the petition, this was an extremely close call with oppression.”
Bill 37 could rise when the BC Legislature sits again.



New BC Liberal Law Would Make Discussing Farm-related Diseases Illegal


Read this story from The Province on the new “Animal Health Act”, which would make it illegal for anyone to discuss publicly farm-related diseases, overriding the Privacy Commissioner’s powers in the process. (May 22, 2012)

B.C.’s Liberal government is poised to further choke off the flow of public information, this time with respect to disease outbreaks. The Animal Health Act, expected to be passed into law by month’s end, expressly over-rides B.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, duct-taping shut the mouths of any citizens – or journalists – who would publicly identify the location of an outbreak of agriculture-related disease such as the deadly bird flu.

“A person must refuse, despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to disclose . . . information that would reveal that a notifiable or reportable disease is or may be present in a specific place or on or in a specific vehicle,” Section 16 of the Act reads.

It is quite conceivable that the provincial government, in the event of a disease outbreak at a farm, would delay releasing a warning in order to protect the farm in question or the industry it’s part of.

In that event, should you as a citizen hear about the outbreak, or if you were an employee at an affected farm, you would be breaking the law by speaking publicly about it or bringing concerns to the media.

Citizens or journalists breaking the Animal Health Act but not charged with an offence can be slapped with “administrative penalties,” which are fines. And the legislation contains an additional attack on rights of citizens: if you don’t pay your fine, a government representative simply files a paper in court that is the same, according to Sec. 80(2) of the Act, “as if it were a judgment of the court with which it is filed.”

Except for the absence of a judge or any semblance of due process.

Ultimately, this legislation aims to protect businesses from disclosure of information that may harm their financial interests.


Metro Vancouver Pushes Back on Secret Land Deal in Delta Which Would See 600 Acres of Farmland Converted to Port Use


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on Metro Vancouver’s reaction to news of a secretive deal orchestrated by the Emerson Real Estate Group to buy 600 acress of prime farmland in South Delta and convert it to rail yards and other uses connected with the expansion of Deltaport. The story was broken this week by Independent MLA for the region, Vicki Huntington. (April 5, 2012)

The battle to save Metro Vancouver’s agricultural land is heating up, with regional officials pushing back at the potential loss of 600 acres of prime south Delta farmland for port expansion.

Directors at Metro’s environment committee Wednesday agreed unanimously to have staff investigate an option-to-purchase agreement for the active farm land, which is now in the Agricultural Land Reserve but is tagged for a logistics and rail yard for the province’s Gateway Project.

Metro directors argued Wednesday that the 11 parcels of farmland, between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way are protected by the ALR, are not zoned for industrial use, and are earmarked as green space in Metro’s Regional Growth Strategy.

The opposition voiced by Metro directors Wednesday may well be at odds with the province’s plans to expand port operations in Delta and increase road and transportation routes for goods.

Lawrence Frank, Bombardier chair at the University of B.C., said the situation comes down to a trade-off between health and quality of life versus preserving agricultural land and there should be a special plan in place to determine where and why expansion is happening in a certain area.

He noted Metro Vancouver is affected locally by a national objective to move goods and supply the economy and Deltaport has been tagged as the gateway for good movements. Having logistics facilities next to Deltaport, he added, would create health benefits for the region because goods would not need to be trucked across the Port Mann Bridge and Knight Street, reducing traffic congestion and impact on residential areas.

“We have to be very careful of the loss of any agricultural land at this point; it’s critical,” said Frank. “But there’s a need to deal with competing interests and regional planning around logistic and goods impacts.

“Our local economy benefits from being a port city. We’re going to have to take the good with the bad.”

Metro directors insist there are alternatives. They also suggested staff examine the possibility of barging containers from wharfs in Surrey, New Westminster and Port Rupert.

“It’s a real blow against agriculture when that much land is taken out,” warned Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, vice-chairman of the committee.

Directors argue the regional district has already lost thousands of acres of farmland to senior government developments such as the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty settlement and the provincial government’s Gateway Project, which includes the four-lane South Fraser Perimeter Road — a 40-kilometre transportation route that would run along the south side of the Fraser River from Highway 1, around Port Kells in Surrey to Deltaport Way in South Delta.

The provincial government claims the Gateway Project will reduce truck traffic and increase the movement of goods and services throughout the region.

The BC Gateway Transportation Strategy, released earlier this week, also supports private-sector investments in new “transload” and integrated logistics facilities, along with $2-billion in improvements to the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2.


Cross-Border Deal’s Grave Threats to Canadian Food Security


The following is the third installment of a three part investigation by Nelle Maxey into the wide-ranging environmental and socio-political implications for Canada of the recently signed US-Canada cross border security deal and ancillary agreements related to the Regulatory Cooperation Commission. Read part 1 and part 2 here.

To introduce the third article in this series on the Regulatory Cooperation Commission (RCC), let’s begin with a brief reminder of the Martin-era Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP. The SPP met with significant public opposition on both sides of the border when it became known. Then it seemed to disappear. The Border Security deal and the RCC are simply a continuation of the SPP under new names. This is readily apparent from this statement in the RCC Joint Action Plan introductory comments:

The United States and Canada will seek, to the extent possible, to coordinate the RCC’s activities with the work of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council when the three governments identify regulatory issues of common interest in North America.

These policies have been transacted by government bureaucrats and private business leaders behind closed doors with no involvement of parliament or public debate. This excellent background video, End of Nations, from Global Research in Toronto gives a great overview of the subversion of the SPP into the current Harper Border Security and RCC policy deal. Please do not kid yourselves. This deal IS about national sovereignty and the formation of a North American Union.

Nowhere will Canadians be more personally affected by this deal than at their own dinner tables. That is the subject of this article — the agricultural trade sector and what the RCC Joint Action Plan reveals is in store for us as “misalignments” (their word) in regulatory “processes, practices and activities” are “fixed” by the swell deal.

The first section of the Agricultural initiatives concerns “Food Safety”. The justification for this portion of the deal is stated as follows:

“Food produced under the regulatory systems in both countries is some of the safest in the world, and it should usually not be necessary to apply additional inspection or testing requirements, simply because it is crossing the Canada-U.S. border.”

While many Canadians may take exception to this statement about the safety of our food supply as teenagers drop dead from energy drinks, the elderly keel over from their listeriosis-laced sandwiches, and obesity and illnesses like cancer and diabetes rage in the general population, the fact remains that the government is sold on its business-friendly policies regarding food additives and contaminates, GMO crops and foods, lax food labeling, lax inspection procedures and opposition to natural supplements and locally-produced foods. I present here the most worrisome of the specific details provided in the Joint Action Plan and its supplementary document, The Consultation Report.

Here are the specific initiatives (emphasis added):

  • Develop common approaches to food safety, in light of food safety modernization efforts in both countries, to jointly enhance the safety of the Canada-U.S. food supply and minimize the need for routine food safety surveillance inspection activities in each other’s country (applies to products within the mandates of both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Food and drug Administration).
  • Enhance equivalence agreements for meat safety systems to streamline, simplify, and, where possible, reduce import and administrative procedures, while maintaining public health outcomes.
  • Establish mutual reliance on jointly acceptable food safety laboratory recognition criteria, test results and methodologies to ensure that food safety laboratory testing conducted in one country is acceptable to regulators in both countries and facilitate cross-utilization of laboratory results by industry and regulators (applies to products within the mandates of both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration).
  • Streamline the certification requirements for meat and poultry, including, where possible, the reduction or elimination of redundant certification, data elements and administrative procedures for shipments flowing between Canada and the U.S

The second section concerns “Agricultural Production”, with the following initiatives listed (emphasis added):

  • Further align crop protection product (e.g., pesticides) approvals and establishment of maximum pesticide residue limits/tolerances in both countries.
  • Further align marketing application submission and review processes for veterinary drugs, including efforts to establish identical maximum drug residue limits/tolerances in both countries.
  • develop a perimeter approach to plant protection with a view to leverage each country’s efforts to mutual advantage and, where possible, streamline certification requirements for cross-border shipments.
  • Work towards a common approach to zoning of foreign animal diseases.

The third section is “Marketing” and is the only section we heard anything about in the press, namely the initiative to adopt a common approach to naming meat cuts for labelling and inventory purposes. The other initiative in this section regards adopting similar “financial risk mitigation safeguards” for nonpayment of producer bills.

The implications of the entire Agriculture section raise the following questions. Please click on the links so you understand fully what is at stake here as regulations, testing, processes and procedures (like inspections) are harmonized.

There was a hard-fought, 10-year battle to keep Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) out of Canadian dairy products because it had not (and still has not) been proven to be safe for human consumption. The concern is risk of breast and colon cancer in humans. So, will Canadians be forced to drink milk and eat cheese containing this genetically modified veterinary drug now as happens in the US under FDA approval?

Will Canadians see higher levels of pesticide and herbicide residues than we already see on our vegetables and fruits as American standards are adopted?

Will we see a proliferation of GMO crops which are dangerous to human and animal health and are producing resistant insect and weed strains, not to mention actually killing the crops themselves?

Will more GMO foods begin hitting our dinner plates? Specifically, will Canadians see toxic but FDA-approved Gulf Coast seafood, or genetically modified and ISA-contaminated salmon, or GM pigs on our dinner plates soon?

Will levels of veterinary antibiotics increase in our meat supply so even more antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria will appear in the Canadian population?

Will we see raids on small farmers, organic co-ops and health food stores as documented in the movie Farmageddon? These raids are being carried out under the US Food Safety Modernization Act. The RCC Consultation report says:

Develop common approaches to food safety requirements and policies, aligning new regulations and guidance—specifically, implementation of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act requirements.

Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions seems to be “YES”, as regulations are harmonized. Think about what this may mean for our food security, the right to choose what foods we eat, the sustaining of small, local farms, and above all for our health and our children’s health. Then consider taking political action on this vital matter.

Nelle Maxey is a grandmother who lives in the beautiful Slocan Valley in south-eastern BC. She believes it is her obligation as a citizen to concern herself with the policies and politics of government at the federal, provincial and local level.

A representation of Port Metro's Planned second terminal at Deltaport

Prominent Fish Biologist Questions Port Metro’s Expansion Plans


The following is a letter from retired senior Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologist and manager Otto Langer to Port Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Director:

Dear Mr. Desjardin – Sustainability Director – Port Metro Vancouver:

As someone that has spent 42 years of my life protecting the Fraser River Estuary I find the Port Metro Vancouver’s latest phase of its upgrading of the Roberts Bank Port facilities including the transportation infrastructure to be of great concern and is again another setback in protecting this globally significant estuary. Continued development in the Roberts Bank area and on the bank itself will reduce options for future generations to benefit from our natural environment and will again degrade the habitats of vast populations of fish, wildlife and harm public recreation and livability. Further much of the new development is dependent on encroachment on some of the best farmland in Canada and that is yet another nail in the coffin in our ability to protect our base to grow food near this large metropolitan area.

The original development of the Roberts Bank Facility in the late 1960’s was one of the greatest impacts that the Fraser River Estuary has ever suffered since the construction of the many dykes around the estuary in earlier times and after the 1948 flood. That dyke building destroyed vast habitat areas and cut off much of the estuary from what was a large and extremely productive ecosystem.

We are only now protecting a small part of the original estuary and any new development will have an incrementally larger toll on estuary health and survival. Expansion of the port facility a few years to increase coal exports and then container facilities has allowed this port facility to extend across this unique and highly productive mudflat and marsh estuarine complex like a cancer. This present proposal is not a major development but it helps set the stage for major new expansion just over the horizon.

For the concerned public to now have to face and comment on yet another round of industrial expansion is truly unfortunate especially when one considers the a state of world economic uncertainties and a present myopic drive to increase an overly exploitative phase of resource development and the export of as many raw resources as possible and then import most of our manufactured goods. The port planning seems to see no limits to future development and that should be of concern to anyone concerned about our future and quality of life.

It appears the port authority has not learned much from our history and is ignoring all signs that indicate that we must pay more attention to the issues of sustainability and respond to global warming and generally our over exploitation of the earth’s resources. I see none of that thinking in this new phase of development at Roberts Bank. The PMV seems to show little insight as related to the global picture of over development as it relates to our sustainable future as dependent on a clean and healthy environment and the protection of the limited but extremely valuable farmlands we find in this area.  The Port again seems to be driven by a development at any cost agenda and again the overall development by PMV in the estuary has to be put into its proper temporal and estuarine ecosystem context. This project is just one small impact as supported or promoted by PMV.

The above statement is not made without any foundation. The recent comments by the PMV CEO ( Mr. Silvester) in BC Business hi-lites the indifference and insensitivity and the total lack of understanding of the value of the natural environment and our agricultural land in the Lower Fraser Valley. My response to Mr. Silvester’s recent comments are attached. It is unfortunate that his comments seem to symbolize what PMV stands for and that is definitely not for future sustainability. It is indeed rather odd that Port Metro Vancouver would even have a position on staff that they call Director of ‘Sustainable Development’. Maybe that has to be defined because the Port concept of sustainability seems to leave out many aspects of the social and environmental legs of the sustainability stool. Maybe it is sustained industrial development that PMV is dedicated to.

What is most disturbing about any development at Roberts Bank is the disjointed approach PMV is taking in this new development phase at that site and indeed in the entire estuary. To make matters worse, why in earth would the Federal Government have delegated any environmental review / screening delegation under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) to a port agency that is the developer that will gain financially from this development i.e. why and how can we get a proper unbiased environmental assessment when it is abundantly clear that PMV’s pro-development stance and mandate puts the Port in a total conflict of interest?

As part of the above and key to this review is the PMV ambush style of public consultation. I am informed that a few months ago Nature Vancouver invited PMV to appear at their October meeting to outline PMV expansion plans at Roberts Bank. PMV spokesperson agreed to appear some three months ago but two weeks before the event PMV backed out of the event saying their plans were not ready for public discussion. However, at about the same time the Port then listed this project for public comments and have given the public only two weeks time to respond to the planned development.

This approach should be embarrassing to any Port staff that have environmental, social sustainability or public consultation responsibilities.  This is totally unacceptable and it appears that PMV have not learned from the less than stellar environmental review PMV is conducting in harmony with the BC Environmental Assessment Office in the VAFFC Jet Fuel Delivery Proposal to ship jet fuel into the Fraser River Estuary.  In that review the PMV joint review only allowed the public 2 minutes of speaker time at the ‘public hearing’ last spring and limited written public input to a very short time period.

After protests by the public and local government, the comment period was expanded another two weeks. Despite an expedited process that was to be done about now, the public is left in the dark as to what has happened and above all doubt the sincerity and adequacy of that partnership review. Also in that project the Port is conducting the review with a more junior level of government. This is not proper when the issues related to the port, airport, fishery, navigation, wildlife, shipping, etc are all federal responsibilities. How can we trust a PMV environment assessment of any sort?

I do not know how PMV can with any degree of conscience believe they can conduct an impartial environmental review / screening process. The public and certain local governments including the City of Richmond have strongly stated that PMV cannot do environmental assessments when they benefit from the approval of the project.  Accordingly a group that is examining the joint BC EAO and PMV review of the VAFFC Jet Fuel Delivery Project has launched a petition to the Environmental Commissioner of the OAG of Canada to raise the issue of PMV’s obvious conflict of interest (attachment). This jet fuel project is very relevant in that that the conflict of interest noted in that project also is relevant here. The PMV is the wolf in charge of the sheep and that can mean the continued environmental degradation and eventual destruction of the Roberts Bank and other parts of the Fraser River Estuary.

The container and transport project now being screened is just the tip of the ice berg as related to Roberts Band port expansion. To review this part of the project in isolation of any work on the bank proper (Terminal 2) is akin to getting your foot in the door – again. This is not an acceptable review procedure in that it is obviously piecemeal and does not address the cumulative impacts of all development planned at this port facility, including the Gateway Highway Project,  as is required by the intent and spirit of the cumulative impacts provisions of CEAA. Further an environmental ‘screening’ is the lowest level of CEAA review and considering that the future of what is left of Roberts Bank natural environment and considering the impacts on the adjacent communities a higher level review (i.e.  a full Public Panel Review) is necessary.

I strongly recommend that PMV go back to square one and develop a complete proposal and an objective business case for significant expansion at this time in the face of port tonnage handled in the recent past, a realistic projection of increased port needs and relate that to the significant port development at Prince Rupert that will compete with this port. Also an objective review of the conservation future of this part of the estuary is long overdue.  Once these issues have been addressed, only then can the Federal Government, through a higher level FEARO Public Panel Review, do an objective environmental assessment that we can trust.

To date PMV has caused catastrophic damage to Roberts Bank habitats and fish and wildlife populations. Many of these populations are global in nature and truly unique and are under great pressure from past development. Further PMV has not shown that it has significantly mitigated the impacts from past development on Roberts Bank including the massive loss of habitat due to massive filling, fuel and coal dust spills, killing of wildlife by inappropriate power lines over the water directly in the paths of migratory bird populations and in the blocking of natural ocean currents, sediment transport and fish movements by the causeway.

To propose more development when past impacts have not been addressed is a way of saying that we will continue to develop regardless of environmental or agricultural or resident concerns and as we do more damage to new areas we will promise to mitigate the damage of the past. This is wishful thinking and a line must be drawn on the map because what has taken place in past development is well beyond the concept of what is sustainable development at that key estuarine habitat area.

In summary:

  • The Roberts Bank Port development as started in the late 1960s has caused catastrophic impacts on Roberts Bank natural processes, habitat and fish and wildlife populations. To date, these impacts have not been properly mitigated.
  • This environmental screening review of improved transport infrastructure at Roberts Bank Port Terminal is out of context with what is next planned and a proper review of what is planned for this area must be addressed as a comprehensive review of a complete package.
  • A proper review that can best address the intent of CEAA must be much
    more comprehensive and done at a higher level (i.e. Public Panel Review)
    and include all planned development at Roberts Bank Port to address
    perceived needs up to 2030. Anything less than this is a piecemeal short
    term review and undermines the cumulative impacts intent of CEAA and
    the public trust.
  • The stated opinions of the Port CEO in the press are bound to affect the
    thinking of all working staff at PMV including those on any
    environmental assessments conducted by PMV. Allowing an agency with a
    gross insensitivity to farmland and natural world values is bound to be
    not trusted by an informed public and that is not in the interest of the
    estuary, its life and federal responsibilities.
  • PMV is in an obvious conflict of interest due to their gain if the
    project is approved and this undermines an objective and unbiased review
    and greatly lowers public trust and the possibility of maintaining
    natural values on the remaining  and undeveloped portions of Roberts
    Bank and its backup lands.
  • The Federal and BC environmental agencies must draw a line on the map as
    to what government is willing and must protect in this valuable and
    essential part of the Fraser River Estuary. Continued piecemeal losses
    associated with an improvement of infrastructure such as this project
    must be put into context of what PMV has planned for this port site.
  • The environmental screening as applied to this project by PMV as per
    CEAA is inadequate especially as related to how the public was informed
    and the extremely short time given to evaluate and comment on what is
    indeed taking place and about what is to next take place considering
    known PMV expansion plans and attitudes stated for natural values in the
    Roberts Bank area.
  • PMV does not seem to appreciate that the Fraser River Estuary, including
    the Roberts Bank area, is an estuary of international significance and
    is one of handful of estuaries of global significance on the West Coast
    of the Americas. This alone requires an attitude of greater insight into
    how that legacy must be protected.
  • The PMV should withdraw from a leading any environmental review when
    they are the primary developer and beneficiary of the approved project.
    The Federal Government must re-evaluate why and how this terrible
    arrangement was ever allowed under CEAA. This bad precedent is now
    taking place in several projects in the Fraser River Estuary and it now
    appears that the estuary is simply treated as a port that is
    unfortunately entering a new era of industrialization. This will
    incrementally harm a very rare and unique Pacific Coast natural
    environment and promote the continued loss of some of our best

 Sincerely yours,

Otto E. Langer MSc

Fishery Biologist and Aquatic Ecologist

Richmond, BC.


Delta Independent MLA Vicki Huntington

Port, Province Set to Steamroll Over Delta’s “Meaningless” Farmland


We’ve known it all along, but at last we hear it out loud. Robin Silvester, the President and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, has stated that:

“Agriculture is emotionally important, but economically [of] relatively low importance to the Lower Mainland. And in terms of food security, [it] is almost meaningless for the Lower Mainland.”

So there we have it…finally, honesty from someone in a position of power. Our Premiers and their governments have known it was too political to admit to — that Delta’s agricultural land will be turned into an industrial park.

And to put the icing on Delta’s cake, so to speak, the Premier commented at a recent dinner to the construction industry that those silly people in Delta don’t want the Port: how unpatriotic can they be? Look at the jobs, the opportunity to be “Canada’s face to Asia,” to contribute to the good of the province and of Canada!

Well, Madam Premier, we know the value of Deltaport to BC and to Canada. We live with it. We accept its presence. And we have given up more than you can imagine in order to host the port, as well as its access roads, its rail tracks, the overpasses, the highways and the causeways it requires to operate efficiently.

We have contributed to the economic prosperity of our country and region. And enough is enough. Credible alternatives are available in Vancouver harbor and at Prince Rupert so it is irresponsible to destroy more farmland and internationally-significant habitat for world-renowned salmon runs, Canada’s major stopover for migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway, and endangered southern resident orcas.

Now we know that the Premier and her industrial supporters intend to lay waste to what is left of the Fraser estuary. Now we know that any obligation to community, to family, to history, to wildlife (both marine and avian) migrations, to the finest agricultural land in Canada, is not on the provincial agenda. Habitat and farmland are being sacrificed for business and a plan that could ultimately be unfeasible. This is also about rezoning farmland, a lucrative enterprise for the business associates of government.

Many of those fighting to preserve what is left of Delta’s agricultural heritage and the migratory bird flyway that depends on those uplands have known that government policies supported Silvester’s position. It has been clear from its reports that the Gateway Council controls the government agenda. But to hear the comment finally spoken aloud is still a jarring experience.

Yes, Mr. Silvester, it is emotional. Our community – our families, our history, our agricultural industry, our soul and our quality of our life depend on the land. So does the entire Pacific population of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. But the people don’t matter. Nor does wildlife or the morality of protecting an international Treaty obligation to preserve the habitat on which that migration depends.

The people of B.C. recognize the importance of credible business and trade but question the motives of unnecessarily destroying the environment and fine agricultural land.

We deserve a say in the decisions that affect our communities and lives. Does anyone else feel there is a reason people are occupying Wall Street?

Vicki Huntington is the Independent BC MLA for Delta South and a contributor to The Common Sense Canadian

Dana Maslovat of Southlands the Facts, in front of a barley field on the Southlands property

Delta Council Paves Way for Massive Housing Development on Farmland, Over Public Opposition


On the eve of municipal elections, Delta Council has unanimously voted to begin amending its Official Community Plan, paving the way for a highly controversial housing development by Century Group atop the Southlands (aka Spetifore Farm). The October 17 decision could override a recent lengthy public consultation process that rejected changes to the Tsawwassen Area Plan (one of three communities that constitute Delta) to rezone the property for development.

“Given the two years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent on updating the Tsawwassen Area Plan, I am extremely disappointed that Mayor and Council are proceeding with this application,” said Dana Maslovat of Southlands the Facts, a community group fighting to save the farmland.

“The public has clearly indicated their wishes to keep this land agricultural and it makes me wonder why all that time and money was spent to update our Area Plan if it is to be changed almost immediately. Furthermore, they are proceeding with a change to the Official Community Plan without a specific development proposal which is basically akin to giving the developer a blank cheque.”

The 500-plus acre parcel of land in Tsawwassen’s Boundary Bay was removed from the ALR by a 1981 order in council – at the urging of several ruling Scored MLAs who were interested in developing the property at the time. The order overruled the Agricultural Land Commission, which opposed the property’s development, based on its high soil quality – yet the Southlands has remained protected by its municipal agricultural zoning.

Despite numerous polls and meetings over the past several decades that have consistently demonstrated the community’s overwhelming opposition to rezoning the Southlans for development, Delta Council is now poised to override the Tsawwassen Area Plan and push ahead with the unpopular proposal from Century Group that could see between 1,000 and 2,000 homes on the property.

There will be some form of public consultation before the amendment to the Delta OCP is ratified, which sets the stage for yet another round of heated criticism of the plan. According to Maslovat, “A proposed timeline would involve public information meetings early in 2012 with a possible Public Hearing in the spring. The OCP designation change application was submitted without a specific development plan application, which would involve a separate process and Public Hearing.”

It remains to be seen what political fallout will arise from the decision, which comes just one month prior to municipal elections.

Watch this recent documentary by Damien Gillis on the battle over the Southlands