Rafe’s New Year’s letter to Trudeau: Time for PM to get to know BC…for real

Justin Trudeau hasn't learned much about BC in the time he lived here and through visits like this one to the north coast in 2014 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)
Justin Trudeau hasn’t learned much about BC in the time he lived here and from visits like this one to the central coast in 2014 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a lifelong, pretty old British Columbian who loves his province with the same passion I’m sure people in Trois Rivières love theirs. Your inferential calling BC’s patriotism into question because we will vigorously oppose your approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline demonstrates clearly that you’re quite unable to understand this, your connections to BC notwithstanding.

There’s a sense that British Columbians think that because they’re different that “different” means “better”. That simply isn’t so. What we cherish is our distinctness (a word I use advisedly). When BC is included in the term “The West”, we bristle because we are indeed a very separate region but also because it does a great disservice to our neighbours to meld them into a fictional, however convenient, sameness as us.

Let me tell you a personal anecdote. I’m a writer who’s written 11 books and God only knows how many columns. For many years I wrote for the Financial Post and during that time, perhaps 20 years ago, I was offered a column with the Toronto Globe and Mail to be called “The View From The West”.

I protested that this would be badly received because I didn’t live in the West but on the Pacific Coast. I told Sarah Murdoch, the editor, that people in Brandon, Saskatoon, and Lethbridge would be justifiably outraged that I pretended to speak for them and their issues, as I would be if they spoke for mine.

Recent Kinder Morgan protest in Vancouver (Photo: Lu Iz/Facebook)
Recent Kinder Morgan protest in Vancouver (Photo: Lu Iz/Facebook)

Your decision to support the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the horrific Site C Dam demonstrates that in spite of your connections to this province, you don’t come close to understanding this – or you understand it perfectly but, for strictly political reasons, choose to ignore the inconvenient truth. More on that point later.

Sir, may I suggest that you read The West Beyond The West by Dr. Jean Barman, professor emeritus, Department of Educational Studies, at your old alma mater and mine, the University of British Columbia. Dr. Barman, a Winnipegger by birth, came to British Columbia many years ago and, like so many converts, became more devout than the natives. This highly readable book is a fascinating history of how this province really came into being, which was quite unlike Ottawa’s more preferred, vague version and I can assure you it contains much that will surprise you considerably.

Let’s deal with one area that you should know about. There are close to as many First Nation tribes and discrete languages here than in the rest of the country combined. I was surprised indeed to learn from Grand Chief Ed John that while he couldn’t understand the language of the nation next door, he could understand the Navajo in New Mexico. Our ignorance of First Nations is astonishing, except how could it be different when my generation were only taught about Iroquois, Algonquin and Hurons, not Salish, Secwepemc or Musqueam. This not terribly subtle effort to “Ontario-ize” English speaking Canada has been energetically applied in BC and just as energetically resisted. It spawns resentment, not national unity.

I don’t pretend to speak for all British Columbians but I believe, based on a long and multifaceted experience – including being a BC cabinet minister responsible for constitutional affairs – that there’s a general defiance in BC towards unfair treatment of their beloved province, endemic to Ottawa from the beginning. You may well see that defiance in action.

An existing BC salmon farm (Damien Gillis)
A BC salmon farm filled with a million Atlantic salmon (Damien Gillis)

I need only point to federal fisheries policy going back to 1871, continuing to this day with Atlantic salmon farms. Science, always brushed aside by the highly politicized Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has demonstrated that fish farms containing the alien Atlantic salmon carry, multiply and spread disease to wild Pacific salmon. They also propagate sea lice that damage and often wipe out wild salmon runs. This redounds to the enormous disadvantage of First Nations who rely upon wild salmon for food and ceremony, not to mention the damage to the commercial industry and sport fishing sector.

Your government, Mr. Trudeau, persists in defying science and not only permitting Atlantic salmon farms in BC, but promoting them. The Pacific salmon is, for us British Columbians, Prime Minister, our symbol – our icon. And you want us to believe that you really give a damn about BC?

Let me put it plainly – are the Tar Sands of Alberta really more important than the renewable salmon from which so many British Columbians derive their daily bread, prosper and enjoy as sports people?

Mr. Trudeau, a question: As Canada’s prime minister and grandson of a former fisheries minister, can you (without peeking or prompting) name the seven species of Pacific salmon (8 if you count Asia) and tell us which five are commercially caught? What about your fisheries minister? How about your cabinet ministers?

The ignorance in Ottawa of the Pacific fishery – what it is, where it is and where each species spawns – goes back to 1871 and gets worse by the year. This appalling ignorance is part of Ottawa’s built-in lack of concern about the discrete character and makeup of this province and its people who love it so much.

This symbolizes, sir, the difficulties between our province and your autocratic attitude, as evidenced by the Kinder Morgan decision.

Let’s get down to cases. This is our home.

OIl lingering on the Kalamazoo River long after Enbridge's 2010 spill (Jason W Lacey/Flickr)
OIl lingering on the Kalamazoo River long after Enbridge’s 2010 spill (Jason W Lacey/Flickr)

The land between the Tar Sands in Alberta and the ocean is extremely important to us, not only economically but as part of the ecology we have learned, often the hard way, that we must protect. Oil spills on land are permanent disasters because, even if they are reachable, bitumen is virtually impervious to clean-up. In the ocean, they are far worse. I urge you to spend a moment of your valuable time examining the spill in the Kalamazoo River six years ago which still hasn’t been cleaned up and never will be. In spite of the mindless blathering of our premier, there simply is no such thing as a “world class” cleanup that works on bitumen.

Like people everywhere, British Columbians had to learn environmentalism. This took time, a lot of effort, careful and often hard to accept education and a great deal of political shifting to decide that you couldn’t chop down all the trees, dam all the rivers and clog up the inlets with garbage. We discovered that the extraordinary beauty with which we, and I might add the entire country, were blessed with did not last without considerable, care, cost and sacrifice.

This is our home every bit as much as where you live is yours, Prime Minister, and we don’t intend to allow you or anybody else to damage, much less destroy it. I believe that the vast majority of British Columbians would endorse that statement and stand behind their province with every effort available to them.

This nonsense that bringing 400+ tankers laden with bitumen, plus many more with LNG, is of little or no consequence is, frankly, pure barnyard droppings. The constant statement by industry that that accidents are extremely unlikely, or if they do happen, they will be quickly cleaned up, is typical corporate bullshit from Kinder Morgan, and the people of British Columbia know it and will fight it desperately.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna with BC Premier Christy Clark (right) announcing her government's approval of PNWLNG (Province of BC/Flickr)
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna with BC Premier Christy Clark (right) announcing the Trudeau government’s approval of PNWLNG (Province of BC/Flickr)

The Laws of Probabilities tell us that there will be serious accidents in Burrard Inlet, Howe Sound, Saanich Inlet, the Salish Sea and any of a number of passes, including Juan de Fuca. Moreover these explosive, poison-laden vessels won’t cease being a threat when they are outside the inner waters into the Pacific coast. You have to know what we’re dealing with here, Prime Minister – a substance which simply cannot be cleaned up.

Let me close with this. We will fight for our homes in the Peace Valley, which I’ve only touched upon, but you’ll soon know a lot more about that very grave issue. We will battle for our homes and safety on the coast. We will put up one hell of a fight.

What have you won if, through the enormous advantage you have, you beat us down? Think on that Mr. Trudeau.

Will Canada be a better place if, by force, you compel the Province of British Columbia, to facilitate the full exploitation of the Tar Sands of Alberta, the acknowledged worst polluter in the world, make the wealthy wealthier, save the political bacon of Premier Notley and give your party lots of Alberta seats?

The fossil fuel industry will be better off, as will Premier Notley, and so will you. But will Canada be better off with a badly alienated British Columbia – an alienation which will increase every time there’s a tanker collision or an oil spill?

British Columbia didn’t provoke or ask for this fight, Prime Minister – you did, and whatever defence you may mount, or noble motive you preach, the evidence will shine through that you and the Liberal Party of Canada had a substantial interest in the outcome.

That, sir, will be your everlasting legacy – not just to this province, but to the country.

Ponder that, Prime Minister.


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.

49 thoughts on “Rafe’s New Year’s letter to Trudeau: Time for PM to get to know BC…for real

  1. “Let me put it plainly – are the Tar Sands of Alberta really more important than the renewable salmon from which so many British Columbians derive their daily bread, prosper and enjoy as sports people?”

    Actually yes. Way, way more important from any objective economic standpoint. For crying out loud the price of oil *sets the price* of our dollar internationally. You don’t see Salmon doing that.

  2. We need to get rid of corporate puppets as leaders and go Green/Socialist/7 Generation.

    Why not give everyone a 3 year, 2000. a month contract to learn/ invent/build/repurpose/solve problems/go green/go organic/get healthy/teach and get us back to a sustainable “beautiful B.C.” where everyone wins. The 7 generation party? I don’t want to wait for a catastrophe to happen, before we get on board with alternative and sustainable practices. We can trust our workers to do a good job when corporate greedos are not making the decisions. Machinery and computers have replaced so many jobs, now is the time to think about working to make this world a better place instead of destroying everything just to get by. Ignoring what is important didn’t work for the planet, our families or the creatures so we should stop doing what doesn’t work and get together and make it right. .

  3. Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
    Is it possible, sir, that you might be bi-polar? I am quite serious in this enquiry as I am observing such incomprehensible behaviour on your part as to cause me to be concerned both for yourself and for the millions of Canadians who have entrusted you with governing our country.
    Your promise of Parliamentary “sunny ways” has resulted in “elbowing” in the House of Commons and generic “non responses” to enquiries from other parties in Question Period when MP’s are simply seeking answers and reasonable justification for government actions. This has resulted in “clouding” issues and wasting time in posturing instead of “getting the job done”.
    Your promise to improve the lifestyles of lower and middle class Canadians has manifested into preferential treatment of billionaires and “cash for access” events which appear questionable.
    Your lavish spending (the Canadian debt is now approaching $640B) and “Bon Jovi-style” posturing as a globe-trotter is juxtaposed to now sudden meager spending when it comes to allowing veterans to have cannabis in reasonable amounts compensated by government coffers due to their service and resultant suffering from depression and PTSD.
    Your promise to seek alternatives to fossil fuel dependency has now become a pipeline approval that threatens the B.C. Coast and communities, as well as farmland flooding for a dam in the Peace River Valley in order to create electricity for the fracking industry.
    Your commitment to make 2015 the last year for first-past-the-post elections in our country is now rationalized by you as a change no longer needed since Canadians are now “so happy” with the current government. You even instructed your own minister to cast blame for this on the Committee struck to investigate alternative voting systems. We know it was YOU and not HER who gave the green light to throw those MP’s “under the bus” in order to justify keeping the voting system untouched.
    Quite seriously sir, I am concerned about your mental state and the resultant state of my country as a result.

    Ms. Pat Martin
    Creston B.C.

    1. No.
      Its just politics as usual.
      Different Party, different leader, same results…..
      Big business gets whatever they want.
      Why is everyone so shocked and surprised.

      Now it you want some truly bizarre and entertaining politics “anything but usual”, just watch the train wreck of a Presidency south of the border over the next 4 years.
      THAT will make people wonder about the sanity of their leader.

  4. Thank you, pal. Don’t listen to the critics who say that there is no point to your letter. Because your letter will fire up a whole bunch of support for the fight ahead. Yes, it’s a warning shot across the bow, but I think you may have singed the man’s still-juvenile whiskers.

  5. What happens when one of Trudeau’s Tar ships comes to grief on Race Rocks, or South Pender? It can not be cleaned up, the Salish sea is already nearing complete ecological collapse from the 17,000,000 people who live on it, a single ship accident could be enough to destroy this sea forever. Furthermore, the notion the NDP are now suddenly opposed to this pipeline is a whopper campaign promise, I would bet the Christy Clark’s “communications” budget they will flip flop the minute they ever gained power.

    1. ” A single ship accident is enough to destray this sea “forever”
      A little bit of an exageration dont you think?

      A Japanese nuclear power factility that spewed millions of tons of radioactive material into the ocean around Japan has seemed to adversly affected the price of Tuna caught off japan.


      I’d be more worried about overfishing everywhere than one ship sinking.

      The cod fishery in Eastern Canada collapsed 30 years ago from overfishing and its still not sustainable.
      Time for a moritorium on West coast overfishing?

  6. Rafe said, “Will Canada be a better place if, by force, you compel the Province of British Columbia, to… make the wealthy wealthier…?” Worse, it wouldn’t even be wealthy Canadians getting TransMountain’s profits. Richard Kinder and William V. Morgan are U.S. billionaires. Kinder’s net worth is $7.4 billion, Morgan’s is $12 billion.
    So are TransMountain and Line 3 just sops to ingratiate the Liberals with the new Trump administration?
    Why haven’t Mr. Kinder and Mr. Morgan at least built a refinery at the Tar Sands? Why does the product have to be diluted bitumen?
    And why should Trudeau’s $1.5 billion “coastal protection initiative” come from taxpayers’ pockets? When Kinder and Morgan inevitably spill bitumen, why shouldn’t they pay?

  7. Very good article. This almost 65 year old agrees with you.
    All Canadian resources should be value added where sourced in my view.

  8. Rafe Mair Shines down for B.C. again.One of the best voices B.C. has ever had. Keep up the fight loudly and the people will follow.Hell,run for politics and help topple Chrusty Clown.

  9. Dear Mr. Mair,

    While I agree completely with what you say, I question the efficacy of saying it. I think you waste your breath. What you should really be putting your girth to is trying to rally the people to force Ottawa to provide the people with control over what Ottawa does. Currently, they have no obligation to do anything but act in their own best interests disguised as Canada’s best interests. It’s a joke and I wonder why you feel this compulsion to write a letter you know damn well will have zero effect. The parasites will do what the parasites want to do and they will do it without any consideration of what you say. Especially when you begin your letter with a criticism.

    1. Robert, i have worked most of my adult life trying to reform our system so that the people can demand and enforce policy. I have a paper called Responsible Government which I’m sure you and many readers will find interesting and I hope instructive. Send me a nore at rafe@rafeonline.com and I will send you a copy.

  10. What an asshole of a leader we have for this country. Trudeau Jr. stands to do more damage to Canada than even his old man did. I’ll see you on Burnaby Mountain, Rafe. That’s where the Kinder Morgan fight will likely begin.

  11. Absolutely excellent article, I want thank you for your ability to articulate my feelings and thoughts so well as you do so often. I will fight for this coast as there is no option anymore. The end of the orcas is the end of life as we coastal people know it. Humans have different options on how we eat and travel but orcas, salmon, and all wildlife don’t. Port Metro Vancouver is planning another terminal on Roberts Bank which will add many, many more container ships travelling through Boundary Pass (narrow and huge currents) to the massive amount of vessels already travelling through our shipping lanes, and then you add on all the tankers KM will be adding it is way past the tipping point already. What the hell? The people making the decisions do not consider the cumulative impacts of all industries that ply our dangerous waters. It is really disturbing.

    Thanks to all of you who read media like this one and who get involved. Rafe, you are an inspiration.

  12. I hope you sent this letter straight to the PM’s residence and office, Rafe. I saw him on Global today with Chris Gaillus, and I’ve never heard so much bafflegab and ums and ahs in my life. And you know, if Justin thinks he’s going to gain some seats in AB, he doesn’t know Albertans. He could give them each a million bucks and they still wouldn’t vote for him because they still hold a grudge about his daddy’s Salmon Arm salute. It’s quite amusing, really.

    Anyway, I do hope you had a big, bang-up party on your birthday, along with your New Year’s celebrations. You octogenarians never cease to amaze me…….your resiliency is astounding!

      1. I know that…….I live about 150kms from Salmon Arm. The people who ‘invited’ the Salmon Arm salute, however, were disgruntled, misinformed Albertans.

  13. Wow Rafe, recalling that you were part of the Social Credit party a few decades back, I really (really!) didn’t expect to see a column from you like this. I’m happily impressed! Good work!

    1. Brock – prejudice is to prejudge. That, if you think about, is what you did. There is no difflerence between how you judged me than assuming that someone’s colour determines what that person is capable of. I have only changed in the sense that I’ve grown older and learned and unlearned as I did. Let me ask you – in that same interval, did you do the same?

      Very early on, when I was a student at, of all places, St Georges School, a very English “master” had us read some Ralph Waldo Emerson and I never forgot his aphorism ” foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

      Forgive me if I seem to preach but at my now advancec age, I’m entitled, don’t you think?

      Happy New Year!

  14. Thanks Rafe. It has always irked me that BC is lumped in with Alberta and the prairies as ” The West”. From here on the BC Coast it seems to me that any place the other side of the Rockies is “East” or “Mid-West” at best. Your analysis is impeccable. Count me in.

    1. Coming from Harold Steves, former MLA, Alderman but mostly the pioneer defender of the Agricultural Land Reserve of which he was the author, the legislation which our succeeding and politically opposed government dared not repeal (though Harold might be surprised to learn that that it was never seriously considered) ,this is high praise indeed. The attacks on the ALR are numerous and powerfully backed and Harold never quits fighting in its defence.

      Fighting for what is fair and right is what British Columbians have always done and sometime political foes Harold and I we may have been, but on this issue we’ve never quarrelled and we, BC and Canada, would be a great deal better off if Prime Minister Trudeau understood that our citizens love of our province transcends all political differences. Trudeau, with those Alberta seats blinding his vision, stubbornly refuses to understand but he will find that British Columbians may love political partisanship but they love their province a hall of a lot more.

      Put ‘er there, Harold, put ‘er there!

  15. Justin Trudeau should consider himself “schooled”. Also bitumen doesn’t float like oil; it sinks so Trudeau needs to know that spill response bases are totally useless. Only purpose is to make ppl feel the Liberal gov’ts are being responsive & responsible. NOT

    Thanks Rafe for schooling the PM. Do you think it might ‘sink’ in?

  16. Mr. Trudeau, I wrote to you the day after you announced the approval of the twinning of the KinderMorgan Pipeline & I told you that I will no longer support the Liberal party. You & your cohorts will need to earn my vote. I will also campaign against you!! I lived in Raven Woods for several years, directly across from KinderMorgan & watched the tankers being escorted ever so carefully by 2 or 3 tugs. They could only come & go during certain tides. A slow process indeed! Now you want how many tankers? Your arrogant & uninformed decision has left me angry & disillusioned !

  17. Any word as to what caused the death of the Killer Whale that washed up in Sechelt 2 weeks ago?
    I heard “ship collision” may have killed it.

    A harbinger of things to come?
    What ‘trumps” what when endangered Killer Whale pods are foraging through an increasingly busy Georgia Strait……Oil Tankers or Endangered Species?
    Well since Whales dont contribute money to re-election campaigns I can only assume Oil trumps nature………
    Maybe the tourism industry should buck up a few million since tourism has surpassed most other industries as the biggest money maker in BC.

    How about Tourism people?
    Do you really want a tanker spill? Not many tourists will want to see that!
    Time to put your tourism profits back into the election of govts that will help your bottom line……….

  18. Thanks Rafe. No one could have said it better. Now I wish our national broadcaster had the good sense to put a Pacific Coaster on their panels. We can hope.

  19. I do not totally agree with the artical. BC has a huge coal based terminal of Vancouver, sends most of the natural gas from northern BC through Alberta, cutting and sell raw logs instead of processing in the province for more jobs, damming rivers to produce hydo to send to the USA which stops the natural migration of salmon. And come on now we are all living in 2017 now, where my for-fathers and native cultures can continue. I am reqired to catch fish with a licence or go to a store to by it, we are all Canadians lets all live by the same rule. We need to look at the local BC government before we check other peoples closets. Just my thoughts.

  20. Thank you Rafe, I was born/raised in BC. Our own Provincial Liberal government doesn’t understand us either, sadly. I find your writing very refreshing and understanding to the needs of our home. You are still a very respected writer here in BC for a reason and I do pray the Prime Minister Trudeau Jr. will take notice before he regrets it.

  21. Thank you Rafe! You are eloquent and say what is on most of our minds and say it in a way I can’t because I am so angry at this youngster. Keep up the good work!

  22. Thank you, Rafe. Junior Turdeau thinks his connection to B.C. is a get out of jail free card. It isn’t. He really has no idea at all and I believe he’s too self-absorbed to learn how we feel, no matter how energetically we try to teach him.
    For reasons I do not fully understand, the voters gave this guy a majority government. Oh, I know, we wanted to get rid of Harpy but, really, there’s a huge difference between scratching your head and ripping out hunks of scalp! We seem to have managed to get rid of one arrogant dictator and replaced him with a younger arrogant dictator.
    And could you please find a way to suggest to Sophie that nobody voted for her!

  23. Very well written Rafe.
    Do we want to trade Beautiful British Columbia for a handful of shekels and a few votes from the uninformed for ‘Misty’ Clark.Guess who will pay for the clean-ups? Same ‘o,same ‘o….
    It’s time to stand up to corrupt politicians in the pockets of greedy multinationals.

  24. I live in Ontario and am behind BC in this fight 100% In light of the fierce storm Newfoundland experienced on Dec 30 I am enraged that corporations declare they operate safely. Have we forgotten the tsunami in Japan 2011 already???? Personally, I would like to see all corporate executives and politicians get out and clean up the mess in BC from that, then get back to us with their “figures” I hope sense prevails in 2017.

    1. I really like the idea of putting the board of directors of such as Enbridge in the front line-cleanups of such as the Kalamazoo spill.

      1. Yes It would be good to see .Ceo’S, Executives and Politians with tar sands TAR on their face’s ,shoes and DESKS ! Now try to clean it off. Before you use our province as a trial !

        1. Yes and all the people profiting from Nu Clear shoud be forced to live in the communities directly surrounding these dooms day machines.

  25. Thank you for articulating so clearly the importance of these issues to the guy who should already have a clue.

  26. In the long run, Trudeau, Notley, Alberta & Canada will all be better off if we can avoid the expansion of the tar sands (I grew up in Calgary, I don’t remember when it was green washed into “oil sands”). At current production levels neither Trans Mountain or Line 3 is needed. Were they to be completed, tar sands production would, at minimum, have to be doubled. Given the length of time required to cover construction costs just one of those pipelines would have to be used for 25 years, or more.
    Production costs of tar sands crude are substantially higher than conventional oil and because of its make up it is sold at a discount of up to 30% of the benchmark world prices. With prevailing oil prices it cannot be extracted profitably.
    Tar sands crude also requires a different sort of refinery. As of now, the only refineries of that sort are located in North America. If we’re going to make this bonanza from selling this toxic goop to China, when are they going to start building the refinery capacity to process it?
    As my mum would say, here endeth the lesson. Happy New Year!

  27. Mr. Trudeau –
    – The Salish Sea has an endangered resident Orca population.
    – Over the proposed 50 year lifetime of the Kinder Morgan pipeline there will be… over 20,000 Aframax tankers loaded with bitumen leaving the harbour of Vancouver and over 20,000 Aframax tankers entering the harbour of Vancouver to load the bitumen. These “empty” tankers will have tens of thousands of tons of bunker oil in their tanks to power their engines. The total number of tankers going out and in the harbour of Vancouver over the proposed 50 year life of the pipeline will be more than 40,000.
    – DOUBLE HULLED TANKERS HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO HAVE HAD COLLISIONS THAT HAVE RESULTED IN LARGE OIL SPILLS. HUMAN ERROR CAUSES ACCIDENTS. – Are you willing to roll the dice and very likely render extinct these magnificent animals in return for 50 years of profit for a Texas oil company and a few multinational oil companies in Alberta?

Comments are closed.