An open net fish farm in BC's Broughton Archipelago

Making the Environment a Key Political Issue in 2011


A new year and I enter the last year of my youth – I just celebrated the 40th anniversary of my 39th birthday. This is the year for my first great grandchild – a daughter will be born to my grandson Ty and his lovely wife Rhea in April. And it has all seemed to happen so fast.

This year will be a very important one for us who love our province and want it to be saved from those who, in Oscar Wilde’s words, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

Why is this such a special year?

Because it’s one that will be chock-a-block with electioneering as the two major parties in BC select new leaders, we see if a third middle party may emerge, and the feds almost certainly will have an election.

We have a critical job to do – and an unusual one.

Let me explain.

Until recent times, the public could rely upon the media to present them not only with issues but points of view surrounding these issues. There was always a debate going on and there was a reasonably informed voting public. Since 2001, when the Campbell government took over, the media have been, for one reason or another, defanged pussy cats. You only have to look back at the great work Vaughn Palmer did on NDP Premier Glen Clark’s “fast ferries” issue to see how a public could be informed very much against the wishes of the government. The NDP government of the day pulled out all the stops and had people like me, in the media, pressed to come and see these magnificent vessels that so clearly were the wrong boats for the waters they were to ply. All to no avail – not just because of Palmer but because the full media coverage made it a large and legitimate issue.

It was scarcely just fast ferries – the media made the government’s life miserable, which is what they did to the government I was in. And they were right to do so.

Of course there were excesses – that’s what democracies are all about. That’s the premium we pay for free speech.

Since 2001, the government has got away with whatever they wished to do and in 2009 we saw what that meant – a 50% turnout at the polls. And what should have been a huge issue – the environment in general and a disgraceful handling of fish farms, highways, and rivers in particular – simply wasn’t because these issues didn’t seem to be real. How could they be real when Tony, Vaughn, Mike, and especially Christy didn’t talk about them? How could they be issues when the opposition who followed the poll numbers instead of making them hadn’t the foggiest idea what was going on and campaigned in slogans, as so long has been their wont? I campaigned around the province for the NDP – not, for God’s sake, because I had become an adherent to that party but because I wanted to see the environment saved and they were the only possible alternative to the Liberals.

Most NDP stalwarts will now agree with me that their campaign, especially on the environmental issues, was appalling. We, the members of the voting public now have the solemn obligation of making sure that this doesn’t happen again.

The “environment” isn’t a non-issue because it isn’t an issue, but because both political parties, for one reason or another, haven’t made it one. In other words, it’s like the tree in the forest – if no one’s there to listen, there’s no noise when it falls.

As many of you know, I’ve been asking people to pass on that which I circulate and other stuff that comes to my attention. While I believe that what I say is right, that scarcely makes me right. What I do say with more confidence is that it is an important part of the debate that ought to be. And this is what we must, in my opinion, concentrate on – namely making the environment not just a real issue but one which will decide the government at election time.

Forgive my repetition on this point but if a government screws up the economy, a new government with time can make it better. What we cannot ever do is get back our rivers, our fish, or our farmland once destroyed.

Please, then, for the sake of those to come, get behind us at The Common Sense Canadian and help us make the environment the #1 issue such that political parties no longer can avoid.

Let me close by telling you one of the reasons we call ourselves “The Common Sense Canadian.”

Both Damien and I, the founders, are huge fans of Thomas Paine, the failed customs official from England who was both catalyst and chronicler of the American Revolution, starting with his blockbuster bestselling pamphlet called Common Sense.

With this and other pamphlets, he circumvented the censorship of the aristocracy and reached the “common man.” Google it and read it yourself – it makes damned good reading today.

With, we are trying to follow Tom Paine’s example. For 2011, please resolve to help us do that – by sharing our work with others and getting involved in your own way in these vital issues.

I have full confidence that if the public of BC is fully informed on the issues at hand, we shall see justice and common sense prevail.

Happy New Year!


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

3 thoughts on “Making the Environment a Key Political Issue in 2011

  1. Norm Macdonald got his ass whipped in Prince George after he was caught lying against sustainable energy development.

  2. We need a “None of the above” on the ballot.

    Our government is meant to be looking out for us and managing our resources for all of our futures. Instead we see bickering, no vision and the ideal of short term gains. We need to wake up before all is sold, the proceeds spent and nothing left for tomorrow.

    Maybe we should look for some real accountability from our politicians. It is too easy for them to walk away from the garbage they leave us and get on with life after politics. It is you, I and our descendants who will be paying the price for decades to come.

  3. Not that I am adovating for anything one way or the other, but the NDP has something called the 12 Principles of Sustainable Development. Our MLA Norm Macdonald presented them in Golden in the middle of November. These principles include ecosystem protection, biodiversity, environmental stewardship and a number of other goals. The policy platform attempts to balance economic priorities with environmental realities. What happened to this? Why isn’t anyone from the party bringing it forward as an election issue?

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