Rafe: MP’s Woodfibre LNG meetings to focus on climate…what about fish, tanker and health risks?

Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)
Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)

Well, there’s great excitement in the federal constituency of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country – Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones is having not one, not two, but count ’em, three public hearings on the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, far and away the most contentious issue in this neck of the woods.

Sticking to climate change

No, that’s not quite accurate because the public hearings are billed to be just about greenhouse gases and climate change, not about such things as the emissions that would come from the plant, the dangers to the newly-revived sea life, nor, of critical importance, the narrowness of Howe Sound, making it totally unsuitable to LNG tankers. There is another issue which no one in government talks about, it evidently not being polite to say anything – Woodfibre LNG is run by a tax-cheating crook best known in Indonesia for burning down jungles.

A welcome change from Harper days

Now, I am writing this before the first meeting and my firm suspicion is that the above issues will be raised, thank God, even though they are distinctly not on the agenda.

It is, however, quite an exciting time because we’re not used to members of Parliament talking to us, except to tell us what government thinks we should be thinking. Indeed, when it was brought to our new MP’s attention that the folks back home were very restless about this issue and actively planning ways and means to make nuisances of themselves, within hours she had scheduled these meetings.

Publicity exercise?

Not everybody thinks these are a wonderful happening. I am not alone in believing it’s all a crock of crap and a political publicity exercise by the government.

The federal government obviously doesn’t give a rat’s ass about global warming or climate change.

Why do I say that?

Well, the issue was great for giving the rookie Justin Trudeau a stage for an early dog and pony show before the world in Paris, and it certainly looked promising when Canada decided we’d wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

Then Mr. Trudeau came home and the next thing we knew, pipelines were being built as usual, new ones approved, fossil fuels coming out of the ground in ever increasing amounts, then shipped to countries that couldn’t wait to send gunk into the atmosphere. Fossil fuel companies are acting as if the Paris conference didn’t happen and, for all intents and purposes, it didn’t. The fossil fuel companies not only control our newspapers but our governments too.

The actions don’t fit the words

Let me ask Pamela Goldsmith-Jones a question or two.

I confess to being a bit of a cynic, but when I look at Mr. Trudeau in Paris and then listen to him back in Ottawa it occurs that I have two stories to choose from and, based on his words and past performances, I can safely assume that the fossil fuel companies are in no danger, their subsidies will continue, their pipelines will be built, the National Energy Board will continue to be a sham and it’s business as usual. That being the case, why the hell would I waste one second of my time listening to you, Madam MP, explain how concerned the government is about climate change and GHGs?

Focus on Howe Sound

Now, if you really wanted to find out what your constituents are fussing about these days you wouldn’t talk about climate change and GHG’s, which, after all, is a pretty easy subject to bullshit about and then do nothing, but you’d deal with what are the issues specific to Howe Sound. I say that because greenhouse gases and climate change is a universal issue and, if not addressed, the world will expire. What do you expect us to add to Paris?

No, Madame MP, let’s take a look at the potential emissions from the proposed plant and what harm they will do will not only to people but also to the renewed sea life, now once more abundant thanks a great deal to be concerned and generous residents of the Howe Sound area who worked so hard for the last 25 years on their restoration.

Woodfibre boss is bad news

Woodfibre LNG- Shady PR firms, lobby violations, fraudulent owner - Is this the kind of business BC wants to welcome
Sukanto Tanoto (right)

Let’s talk, Pamela, if I may be so bold, about the ownership of Woodfibre LNG. Sukanto Tanoto is world-known in the industry as being bad news. His record as a big time tax cheat puts him in a class by himself. His environmental record shows him to be an uncaring industrialist who cuts down or sets fire to anything that gets in his way.

Furthermore, Pam, it’s easily demonstrated that his Canadian company is setup so that skating taxes and royalties into tax-free Singapore is child’s play.

Now, it may be that Mr. Tanoto will see the light and suddenly care deeply for the environment, pay his taxes like we all do and be a wonderful corporate citizen. And, of course, pigs might fly.

Shipping LNG is risky business

On the critical, fundamental issue of the width of Howe Sound, no scientist would deny there will be accidents and and with LNG tankers, they are very serious and deadly. The Department of Environment concedes that there will be accidents which means that it’s not a matter of if we have calamities, but when.

The United States and generally accepted international standards of width, as well as those of SIGGTO, the industry organization, make it abundantly clear that LNG tanker traffic in Howe Sound is too dangerous to countenance.

When are you going to talk about this issue?

Constituents ready for serious discussion

Many of your constituents, Pam, would like you to hold open meetings and deal with the questions which specifically concern the residents of the Howe Sound area. This is not a NIMBY issue but one for all of BC. Howe Sound is the southernmost Canadian fjord and one of the most beautiful in the world. Why would you, as our member of Parliament, not want to hear from us on these issues and why wouldn’t you not take them directly to the prime minister and make it clear to him that the people in your constituency are deadly serious about fighting WLNG up to and including civil disobedience?

Pam, I don’t join the enthusiastic applause for your sudden decision to have three meetings on climate change and GHGs. It’s a copout and, frankly, not only is no better than we got from your predecessor who simply ignored us; it’s worse. At least Weston was honest enough to say that his boss loved the idea of the LNG plant, that he, Weston, also thought it was a terrific idea and if his constituents didn’t like it, too bloody bad.

That attitude got him badly beaten by you in the election but I say to you that if you don’t take your constituents seriously, very seriously, on this issue, we’ll run a fencepost with hair and thrash you.

High Hopes

Like most Canadians, Pam, I had high hopes for Mr. Trudeau but now I see that when it gets down to cases, the fossil fuel industry with all its money and power will carry the day and Mr.Trudeau and the government will go along and, like Weston before you, you will too.

If I’m wrong, it will be my huge pleasure to shout my apologies from the rooftops – and from here.


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 rafeonline.com.

26 thoughts on “Rafe: MP’s Woodfibre LNG meetings to focus on climate…what about fish, tanker and health risks?

  1. No – the focus should be as stated – on the issue of anthropogenic global warming. The other factors you cite, while significant, are secondary by any substantial risk assessment. For instance, it hardly matters what local environmental effects occur considering that continued GW will eventually trump them not just locally but globally.

    I say this because the local opposition nearly always focuses on local, direct effects ( herring, whales, stack emissions, risk of explosion). This has two psychological effects: frames AGW as a secondary concern and increases the perception that the Anti’s are flat out NIMBY’s. I’m not saying either is true or false, just that that is the perception among those who we need to persuade.

    I have tried to convince My SEa to Sky to state unequivicably that if LNG or NG could be produced (regulated effectively) with a clear demonstrable lowered GHG per BTU as coal, that they would endorse its production. They wont do it. If they did state that one simple sentence, that would strongly signal that they are not NIMBY, they recognize the importance of climate change as the pre-eminent threat, as well as a recognition that risks must be taken to ensure energy transition occurs in the most expedient and pragmatic way.

    This is the achiles heel of environmentalists – the inability to see the forest for the trees, just like everyone else. If global temperatures don’t stop climbing, it dosn’t matter how many tankers float the sound…. there will be no future for whales, herring, salmon, skiing or anything else the NIMBY’S cling so darly to.

      1. Plant food? All the more reason to continue cutting down our forests at an every increasing rate. Trees are the “lungs” of the Earth and we are raping those forests. So, are you choosing simply to ignore the obvious – glaciers receding, permafrost melting, Arctic ice disappearing, etc.? The oceans are acidifying, coral reefs are dying, sea level is rising, and you prefer to bury your head in the sand?!

  2. We met a family from near Pink Mountain BC that is selling millions of liters of clean spring water to Cenovus and other frackers. These waters are destined to flow into the Fraser river and the reduced flow is contributing to the warming.

  3. Just got home from the Gibsons public meeting on the Woodfibre LNG proposal. It was a packed house at the Heritage Theatre (around 160 or so?) & people were turned away due to lack of space.

    There were many excellent points made by the speakers, all strongly opposed to the project. There was no support for the project expressed by speakers. Towards the end of the meeting, there was no support for the project acknowledged by the audience in response to someone’s inquiry.

    It was noted that, if indeed there are people in support of this project, where can the public go to hear project advocates speak & make their views clear, in order for the public to understand their views?

    It seems there is little understanding amongst the public in Howe Sound region about why such a project would even be considered. Public benefit has not been demonstrated and much public risk is proposed.

  4. Now Hydro is applying to raise our rates another $4 a month? Perhaps their BC Hydro needs an infusion of cash this year or the Government taking its dividend might cause a few more to notice what is happening to our once proud BC Hydro?

  5. Why are so many folks unaware that an integral component of LNG is fracking? A little study on the affects of fracking on our planet should be enough for us to say, Hell No.

      1. Clean hydro electricity? That’s a wonderful early 20th C viewpoint.
        The Site C Dam project will be neither clean nor green. Already the “unforeseen” silting of the beautiful Peace River is seen as a catastrophe for the fish. Anyone who actually knows all the impacts of large hydro-electric projects will not support them.

  6. Total agreement Rafe.
    These hearings are all smoke and mirrors and I’m sure every sitting politician that could sit next to the Devil incarnate to have their photo taken on inauguration day would do so in a heart beat.
    Jobs, jobs jobs…..the same old mantra in a time of increasing unemployment is the siren song that may literally run us on the rocks……..

    One wonder how close those tankers will travel when a fully loaded BC Ferry is sailing towards Horsehoe Bay……

  7. Hugh, my friend, people who are “crazy” don’t choose to be afflicted. They don’t go out of their way to behave in crazy ways or to inflict their condition on others. People who are “crazy” are afflicted, and need our help and compassion. Those who are shoving this other blind madness down our throats and up our basic fundaments aren’t crazy, they are evil, they work overtime to stomp on the rights of others, they ignore or mock some of the finest emotions and philosophies of those who don’t want the evil to ruin irreplaceable lives and regions. If these goobers were crazy we might be able to medicate them or at least put them in a nice secure hospital somewhere. This other, and Site C is a prime example of it, is just bullheaded bullshyte being forced on all of us in order to enrich those who already have disgusting amounts of wealth.
    We can yell, scream, rant, rave, we can even try to vote the bletherskytes out of office but we might as well make little wax dolls and stick pins in them because we’re up against something we might not be able to stop.
    Still, I have a feeling increasing numbers of us are going to try to stop it! Hang in there, Hugh!

  8. Potentially explosive LNG tankers and LNG terminals have to be kept away from populated areas. The Howe Sound, tanker transit route is too close to populated areas.

  9. There is another very troubling aspect. Where is the representation for those who oppose? We have no direct democracy such as referendum or initiative and must rely upon the elected representatative at the senior level. That’s said to be our parliamentary system but those are just words that mask the reality that citizen opposition is shut down without a say.
    The governing BC Liberals are desperately in love with LNG as are the Opposition NDP. Who speaks for dissenters which in the Howe Sound area are most certainly the majority. Ottawa is scarcely any better as my article indicates. Even if Ms. Goldsmith-Jones were opposed, and there is no evidence she is, what could she do? If as our MP she were to represent our interests and they didn’t accord with those of Mr. Trudeau, she’d be tossed out of Caucus and the Party as John Nunziata was when, following Liberal policy opposing the GST in a recent election, voted against the budget which contained the GST. Here an MP campaigned on party policy, told his voters he would oppose the GST, tossed out on his ass for keeping his promise to his constituency! This is why precious few of Ms Goldsmith-Jones constituency take her seriously on this issue especially as the real questions we have are out of order as proved. .
    Where the hell is democracy here?

    1. That’s a “talk-radio” rant, Rafe. Save it. We have a form of democracy that you were once part of, and proud to be called a government minister in your time. That the baton has passed to others who you look down on as being unqualified is an interesting fact, but not a compelling argument. If you feel that a member of the government is not up to snuff, then commence a recall action — that’ll be the plebiscite you’re tossing around to find (if the enactment is still on the books).

      Frankly, I have a hard time equating an LLD (Hon.) with what I’m reading of yours on this website. But be that as it may be, I wandered over here in search of some information thinking that if it’s Rafe Mair then it should be worth the trouble to find out what it is he has on the subject, right? Wrong.

      I’ve just returned from attending the first hour of the second of three community meetings hosted by Pam — the one held in the Lower Music Hall at the West Vancouver Community Centre at 2121 Marine Drive, West Van. Pam was in her element, and very graciously moderated the meeting. She quickly established an easy rapport with the audience, her constituents. Those who chose to speak to the topic generally focused on all manner of issues relating to climate change, impact on the local environment in Howe Sound, water, fish, air, the BC government, etc.–virtually every aspect of the issue with the exception of the issue that the meeting was called to address, namely the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s report. Of the speakers that I heard in the first hour, all but two spoke against the Woodfibre LNG project.

      I find myself puzzled by your implicit criticism of Pam set out in the remark above. Her role is to represent the constituency, but she is also a member of a political party that is set on a particularly challenging program. I don’t happen to agree with the thrust of that program, but that’s neither here nor there. She’s also green. Green, as in ‘inexperienced at the federal level’. It’s premature to draw conclusions or make judgments. She wasn’t my choice for MP, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

      Your website could use some balance and coherence. It could use some factual information, and reasoned argument. Everything that “talk-radio” isn’t. Your fellow co-founder could also use some editorial help in order to make his arguments cogent and compelling, though I don’t expect he’d be open to it.


      1. Always open to specific critiques, D.J. But please be specific – otherwise it’s just chatter from the peanut gallery. Name me a particular story – a line of argument you find less than cogent and where you feel it’s lacking and we can talk.

  10. Thank you Rafe for continuing on with the campaign to educate citizens about the many negatives regarding LNG. I sat in at the Ledge last summer when Clark brought back MLA’s to pass a bill paving the way for LNG. The proponent will not have to make any environmental standard changes even if it becomes clear that changes must be made for decades. The proponent is not responsible to employ Canadians. How can this slip under the radar?

    I was listening to an actor on CBC radio this morning who plays the part of a con-man. He was stating that politicians are some of the worst offenders when it comes to lying. We certainly have seen this throughout the LNG propaganda that tax payers fund. I also wonder about B.C. Hydro’s steep increase rates. It is unaffordable for most people to heat their homes with electricity. Is it possible that citizens are paying to fund Site C dam?

  11. I hear Woodfibre LNG would use electricity from BC Hydro. No doubt we’ll be told that this would make it ‘clean’, since BC Hydro produces mostly clean hydro power.

    All the natural gas gets burned, whether or not power comes from BC Hydro.

    A new power source for BC Hydro would be the Site C dam (if it gets built).

    So publicly-owned BC Hydro is expected to spend $9+ billion on Site C, flood agricultural land, affect local landowners and First Nations, just to provide ‘clean’ electricity, probably at a loss, to uneconomic, stupid projects like Woodfibre LNG.

    It’s beyond crazy.

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