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The Early Editions's Lee Rosevere and Shiral Tobin at the 2012 Webster Awards (photo by Dave Thomson)

Rafe on Webster winner Shiral Tobin and the decline of CKNW


How is the absence of environmental coverage in the media related to Shiral Tobin, who recently shared a Webster Award for “BEST FEATURE STORY – RADIO”?

Simple – when Shiral was my producer on CKNW and later did the night show for them, ballsy radio was still in vogue.

Before I go further, let me state up front that I was fired by CKNW in 2003 in a disgraceful way. I have never been bitter about this – just angry that they tried to destroy my personal reputation in doing so. I must also reveal that Shiral and I are close buddies. For example, when I was fired in 2003, Shiral, then working for the CBC, rose from her sick bed and, flagrantly flouting CBC rules, held a press conference to support me against the disgraceful behavior towards me.

Here’s where Shiral comes into the story.

A year or two before I was fired and before Corus had bought out CKNW, I urged the station to give the late night show where I had started to Shiral. They agreed and Shiral was given the show and she did a terrific job. Issues flew across the airwaves. All Shiral needed was a vacancy to happen.

Abruptly, Corus, now in charge (the new boss’ previous job was running a meat packing plant) promptly fired Shiral, reasoning that they could do re-runs of my shows for free.

My comment, on air, was that, in Wilde’s words, they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Shiral came with me to 600AM after this as my producer and was fired along with me when the manager – a devotee of ancient popular music – heard from his golfing pals that we were doing too much on fish farms.

CKNW’s collapse since 2003 has been catastrophic. Whereas they had a  15%+ of radio listeners in those days (I was about 20%) they now have a 9% share running third behind CBC’s Early Edition, where Shiral now plies her trade.

This is a crying shame. CKNW used to be the opinion setter in the community. Where they once had the public listening and arguing, they now have bland. They were a station with regular internal spats but even large spats were quickly forgotten as everyone wanted one thing: #1.

The station had a glorious chance to start the recovery process when Christy Clark left and the afternoon show opened up – by hiring Shiral. That’s what would have happened before Corus.

Now the great irony – one of the reasons CKNW is gasping for air is Shiral is now opposite them at the CBC and kicking the crap out of them.

Chad Hipolito/THE CANADIAN PRESS photo

Rafe challenges Christy to a debate


I have, for Premier Clark, an offer she can’t possibly turn down.

She refuses to call the Legislature into session because it will only make pundits and politicians (presumably she means those in the opposition) happy. In her view it’s better for the great unwashed if she goes on the road, from time to time, finding out what voters want – I wonder if “your resignation” is an answer she’ll pay any attention to.

It must be observed that the only functions of the Legislature are to pass, at its behest, Government bills and to hold their feet to the fire. It is an unpleasant place for the government because there are people there who can and do ask very embarrassing questions. Moreover, even the tame media are likely to print the questions and answers so that the public can be in the know. As to the uselessness of the system, I refer you to my article in the September 3 edition of  The Tyee, entitled “Martyn Brown’s Tepid Remedy”.

I call the Premier’s utterings – and there is no other word for it – bullshit. She has a much greater obligation than just politicking at government packed meetings and it is to face the public as represented by the media.

Strange isn’t it? When Ms. Clark ducked the Western Premiers‘ Conference (a very important conference I can tell you from personal experience) she said that her obligation was to be in the “House”, not at a conference of western colleagues who had the Enbridge pipeline on the agenda, upon which matter Premier Clark would be forced to comment. Now that we’re in a candid mood, she didn’t have the guts to do it and scampered home to the legislature as a way out.

Now that she has an obligation to place her legislation and policy before an unpleasant opposition and press, she has a greater obligation to miss it and, one guesses, at taxpayers’ expense, make political speeches before safe audiences.

I have this proposition, Madame Premier.

 I am not a politician any more than you are a talk show host. We’ve each moved on. And I can assure you that as I approach my 81st birthday, I have no intentions of returning, even though if I were elected I would be entitled to the pension I gave up when I left government in 1981. (By way of explanation, one needed to be elected three times. Moreover, if elected again, I would have to repay what was returned to me, but believe me, I would do that in a flash.)  

I am not a pundit, by which I assume you mean part of the working media.

Madam Premier, surely even the Liberal Party now must admit that the Environment is the #1 issue in BC. I propose that you and I debate the Environment around the Province so that you can tell everyone what your policy is on Fish farms, highways through agricultural land, private power schemes on our rivers, pipelines (Enbridge and Kinder Morgan come to mind) and tankers on our coast carrying bitumen from the Oil Sands to China and waypoints.

Now, to be fair to you, I’ll debate any other issues that you wish, although I will be at a great disadvantage and undoubtedly be quickly overcome because you are, of  course, the premier and will be much better informed.

I don’t care who chairs these meetings – having been to many private river hearings I know what biased chairpersons are like and though, again, a biased chair will be to your advantage, I’ll take my chances and will do my best to hold my end up.

I will be pleased to pay my way – hotel, vittles, spirits and transport.

If you use these meetings as fundraisers I only ask that The Common Sense Canadian be permitted to pass the hat to cover my expenses.

Madam Premier – I really don’t like to call people in high paces cowards, gutless and words like that which spring to my mind and, I must tell you, to an ever growing BC public when your name is mentioned.

What an opportunity to silence your critics! What a great way to show that you really are an environmentalist who puts the will of the people ahead of large corporations!

Surely you have nothing to lose whereas The Common Sense Canadian puts its entire raison d’être, its very existence on the line.

Name the dates and the locations and I’ll be there.

Let’s do it! 

Executives from Teck Resources pose with former BC Finance Minister Colin Hansen at a gala celebrating their company's $12.5 million donation to the Vancouver Aquarium, The Same company recently admitted to knowlingly polluting the Columbia River for decades. (Aquablog photo)

Rafe on ‘Corporate Citizenship’ and Changing Views


Sometimes a good dose of introspection is good for the soul…and as a test of whatever principles you now espouse.

I’m always amused when someone accuses me me of “inconsistency”, which reminds me of Emerson’s aphorism, “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

It remains, obviously, to decide if my changes in position are foolish.

I admit to being a contrarian. Seeing that, and recognizing that it might be an interesting experiment, Premier Bill Bennett made me Environment Minister in 1978. It was only a year as I was moved up to Health the next shuffle but that time gave me much pause for reflection and I became convinced that Industry would only care about the environment  if they were forced to or if, somehow, it made them money. As my associate Damien Gillis often points out, if corporations did things that prevented them from paying dividends or putting the bottom line first, it was tantamount to a breach of fiduciary duty.

This is true. The only thing a company is supposed to do is make a profit.

Companies often take pride in employing people as if that was an act of good citizenship, not for the purposes of profiting from employees’ labours.There is, of course, nothing wrong with companies employing people – what’s wrong is the notion that they do this out of some charitable gesture, motivated by altruistic philosophy.

They take pride in spending philanthropically although, as Jimmy Pattison has shown around the province, that is seldom done anonymously. Moreover donations are tax deductible.

Often the donation interferes with the plans in place – let me explain.

Say a company wants to place an MRI scanner in a certain hospital. The Health Ministry will have a schedule for placing these machines and the corporation’s choice is not at the top of the list. The donation now, in effect, deprives another hospital of the MRI it had reason to expect was theirs. Now, if the corporation were to say, “I understand that hospital X is in line for an MRI, I will build it for them,” that would be quite a different thing.

There’s another important factor – MRI’s cost a fortune to run. If the corporation stays in the lineup, the government will have made provision for the cost. When it jumps the queue, the Health budget is distorted.

I have nothing but praise for philanthropy when it is done in cooperation with the targeted donee and the donor is not seeking to gain business from the publicity and is not seeking a tax break.

My only point is that one makes a serious mistake in thinking that donations from corporations are not intended to increase profits.

Back to the environment. In Tuesday’s Sun was a headlined story of how Teck Resources has been polluting the Columbia River for decades and doesn’t deny the story but simply denies the the damages claimed. This candid admission came only after they were sued.

In all events, my short stint as Minister of Environment confirmed what I long had suspected – the real environment department of a company is its public relations budget and that there were no exceptions to that rule.

British Columbians now face serious environmental problems on many fronts – mines, rivers, farm land, fish farms, pipelines and tankers to name a few. And here’s the rub – the corporations are under no compulsion to behave appropriately and, in fact, the onus is not on them to demonstrate that their venture is environmentally sound; no, it’s private citizens and organizations they form that bear that onus!

The Precautionary Principle places to onus of proof on the developer, not the public.

In fact, the onus should not just be on the developer. Counsel for the public should be the governments, but they are, when so-called “free enterprise” parties rule, virtually always bought and paid for and wind up supporting the developer and bad-mouthing environmentalist groups. It’s interesting to note that Ministers accuse environmental groups as being bankrolled by foreign money as they help foreign companies such as Chinese government-owned corporations and companies like General Electric gobble up our resources, pollute like hell then take their money and run.

(Incidentally, The Common Sense Canadian has no foreign “sugar daddies” and would like it known that we would love some!)

Does all this mean that I’m a neo-communist – or even a socialist?

Not at all. I believe in the marketplace, if only because nothing else works as well. I say this recognizing that “socialist” countries are not that at all – they just demand that companies pay their fair share of taxes and obey social and environmental rules. I don’t want public ownership, other than natural monopolies, but strong laws and good policemen.

That is what I mean when I call myself an environmentalist.

In Canada as a whole and in British Columbia we have government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

That’s what we must change if we ever wish, as Lincoln actually said, to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

CN already transports bitumen by rail - more proposals to do the same are now being floated as Enbridge runs out of steam

Replacing Enbridge with Rail, Other Routes Misses the Point


The tide seems to be turning against the Enbridge Pipeline but we must take great care not to lose by winning.

Industry seems to be talking alternative routes by using rail or other methods.

My old friend Tex Enemark weighs in this morning in an op-ed in the Sun(August 15) and makes several points – we can soak the companies by levying high taxes for rights of way, we can make the pipelines safer (you will note he doesn’t say “safe”), we can use other routes, and that if we don’t permit the pipelines China will retaliate by reducing imports of our other goods.


Let me deal with the last point first – are we to announce to all trading partners, including the USA, that if you threaten our exports, you can come here and do as you please?

This is not a rhetorical question because a new government in 2013 will surely look at Private Power projects, many American owned, which could be canceled, altered or refused in the first place. Do we back off our sovereignty and say, “sorry for even thinking of this, Uncle Sam, please bring your money here and do with us that which you wish”?

Taxing the pipelines misses the point – this isn’t about money but our environment and while I know that old pols seem to believe that money solves all disputes, when it involves our sacred wilderness and our fish, money is off the table.

Making the pipelines safer is, with respect, a non starter. “Safer” does not mean “safe” and the latter is what we insist upon.

Let me pause for a moment and deal with the allegation that we environmentalists are simply bloody minded and are against all projects. The answer to that, from my perspective at any rate, is fourfold:

  1. We question all projects that impact our environment – if we didn’t, corporations would do as they pleased and that’s bad enough as it is.
  2. We insist upon any project that impacts our environment to leave little or no permanent damage. This can be and indeed is done all over the province.
  3. We expect the Precautionary Principle to be always in place, meaning that the onus of proving the environmental viability of any project rests with the proponent.
  4. We regard the safety and protection of our environment as protecting a sacred trust to be passed on.

The issue is unsolvable. It can’t be compromised or mitigated or compensated – not all problems can be solved by compromise, this and lost virginity being examples.

We run a very grave risk here – because once we get rid of the Enbridge line, we will be expected to go away.

We seem to be ignoring the Kinder Morgan line already pumping bitumen across British Columbia and plans to do more are coming. It will be said that because the absence of the Enbridge line removes the tanker issue in Douglas Channel, we can go away.

This simply is not so. Railways simply move the problem. The suggestion by Mr. Enemark that the port of Prince Rupert be used overlooks the fact that that pipeline would be alongside the Skeena River, one of the last great salmon rivers in the world. Always bearing in mind that pipeline leaks are inevitable, do we want to see the same happen to the Skeena that happened to the Kalamazoo?

We are, then, a hell of a long way from success and, in fact, must re-double our efforts.

A response from Tex Enemark:

Well, Rafe, there is a difference between “fair inferences” and quotes. You say flat out I said “safer” which I did not, and then reinforce your point by saying I did not say “safe” when in fact I said neither. I said “politically acceptable”. I think there is a very clear and quantifiable difference between the two. I made no mention of safe pipelines. Nor, as you say in your response, did I say anything about “better testing pipelines”.

One puts me in the position of being some kind of proponent or apologist for pipelines, which I am not. I am simply bringing out issues that have not yet surfaced.

The same with the allegation that I favour a pipeline to Prince Rupert. There are vast differences between the loss/possible breakage of a few rail cars that hold bitumen which will literally go nowhere when they hit cold water, and a pipeline in which the tar has been diluted.

Nonetheless, the damage to my reputation has been done among the readers of your blog.

I think a simple correction is in order, frankly–and fairly.

Dr. Herb Grubel is a former Reform MP, an SFU professor emeritus and Fellow of the Fraser Institute

Rafe Responds to Far-Right Wing Fraser Institute Fellow, Defender of Enbridge Pipeline


Herb Grubel, a professor emeritus of economics at SFU, is a far right “Fellow” of the Fraser Institute – forgive me, that’s, of course, redundant.
I’m not sure if he shares the views of Fraser “Fellow” Walter Block, namely that a poor woman with kids she can’t afford to support should be able to, if she wishes, enter into a slavery contract with a rich man who promises to look after them. (Whether this consensual slavery includes bedroom privileges I can’t say.)* I interviewed Grubel a dozen or more times when he was a Reform MP and although the point never arose, Grubel is uncritically supportive of the free market system which is what Dr. Block rests his case upon.

If Grubel wishes to comment on this we will be happy to print it.
*(Read my opinion piece in The Tyee several year’s ago on Block and his colleagues, followed by Block’s own rebuttal)
Fellow Fraser Institute “Fellow” Fazil Mihlar is in charge of the Vancouver Sun’s editorial pages and in today’s Sun (August 1) is an op-ed piece by Grubel. (I’ve been a writer for over 30 years yet have never been so honoured – I wonder why?)
Grubel gives advice as to how Premier Clark can get more money out of the Enbridge line and, frankly, that doesn’t interest me, for reasons I will go into.
Grubel believes that pipeline operators are already required to clean up spills…that the government should create a trust to match clean-up costs in excess of the costs not covered by insurance. He goes on to point out that tugs could be used to move tankers…other measures will be developed, he says, to be applied to the prevention of oils spills on land and sea.
Here is the critical part:
No measures, however expensive, can prevent all oil spills, (emphasis mine – RM) as the small minority of self appointed guardians of the environment and their allies in the media (the media??? – RM) are fond of pointing out. Only the outright prohibition of all oil transport will end all risks.
Grubel goes on to say that sensible British Columbians will vote for politicians “who support policies ensuring they will continue to be able to keep their homes warm, their cars running and shelves in their stores stocked while they enact and enforce policies that induce pipeline operators to adopt the best methods for minimizing oil spills and maximizing the protection of the environment.”

Before getting to the point of the matter, let me congratulate Grubel for acknowledging that spills are inevitable – a critical admission for what I will say in a moment. 

Dr. Grubel, as one of the “self appointed guardians of the environment”, I can only tell you that unlike your friends in the oil industry, we exist with very little funding and what we get is sporadic. So far at the Common Sense Canadian we have yet to receive our first foreign dollar.
Now to the meat of the matter.
Dr. Grubel glosses over the most important fact in this controversy – the oil spills he speaks of as certain cannot, for all intents and purposes, be cleaned up.
It is this fact that throws Grubel’s arguments out the window. We’re not dealing with gasoline, natural gas, bunker oil or ordinary crude oil but gunk called bitumen. When there is a spill in water, the condensate, which allows the bitumen to be piped, separates, leaving the bitumen to sink like a stone. I don’t suppose that Grubel has read about the Enbridge/Kalamazoo spill which occurred in a populated state and was accessible by equipment and how Enbridge has been unable to clean it to this day, more than two years later.
Grubel cannot have considered where the Enbridge pipeline is destined to travel – 1,170 km over two mountain ridges (The Rockies and Coast Range), through the Rocky Mountain trench thence into the Great Bear Rain Forest. It would cross nearly 1,000 rivers and streams, most of which are essential to salmon populations. Even a Milton Friedman disciple ought surely to be able to take a moment to be human and reasonable and see that the Enbridge pipeline would be an ecological disaster of huge proportions – and permanent. 
There is another point seldom raised which is of considerable concern – this pipeline will have regular leaks and fractures, each time creating a new, permanent ecological wipe-out, meaning we are looking at serial disasters.
As to tanker traffic, Grubel admits that there will be spills but industry will mitigate the consequences. He’s unable to get his head around the fact than any spill on our coast will have permanent, horrible consequences. Perhaps Grubel has never seen our north coast.
What Dr. Grubel has done is demonstrate, clearly, what we “self appointed environmentalists” have been saying all along – spills on land and sea are inevitable and that no amount of money will be sufficient compensation.
He has failed to consider that the consequences of those spills will be permanent, ongoing, serial catastrophes.

“Sensible British Columbians” know this and will take that knowledge into the polling booth.

A response from Herbert Grubel (published August 23, 2010)

Rafe has always been fair in our numerous discussions on CKNW when I was a member of the Reform Party in Ottawa during the 1990s. Such fairness was rare at those times when the media were out to demonize the Reform Party. I will always gratefully remember our efforts to bring rationality to the issues of the day by considering the benefits and costs of government policies, even if we ended up disagreeing on the final results of such calculations.

It surprises me that Rafe now seems to deny the need for the consideration of costs and benefits when it comes to human activities that affect the environment. But before I elaborate on this point, let me take up the challenge of responding to one of Walter Block’s outrageous positions on public policy.

Walter is the poster boy for Libertarians. In a recent public debate we had over some government policy he said that my views are those of a pinko and fascist. That should be enough to establish the fact that I disagree strongly with most of Walter’s ideas and that includes the one he advanced about what a widowed mother should do to feed her children. On the other hand, I believe that Libertarian principles should inform all public policies but that compromises are needed to accommodate the large range of other values held by people in a free society.

There is an irony in the fact that the views of both Walter and Rafe are based on the acceptance of absolutes. For Walter it is freedom, for Rafe it is the preservation of nature in its raw state. In a world in which humans exist with all of their needs and preferences, compromises have to be made.

Rafe’s rejection of my suggestion that the government should insist on the creation and enforcement of rules that minimize the incidence and severity of spills and maximize the dedicated cleaning efforts in the case of such spills rests firmly on his adherence to the view that nothing should ever be done to alter the existing state of nature.

This position is indefensible and impractical. All human activities carry risks. We may get injured or killed when we take a shower or drive a car. Yet, we take showers and drive cars because the benefits are greater than costs, especially after we have made all feasible efforts to minimize accidents.

I am willing to bet that Rafe does engage in all kinds of risky activities and I am at a loss to understand why he insists that collectively taken human activities like the transportation of bitumen should be allowed only if it carries a zero risk of damage to the environment.

I find it ironic also that the proudly liberal and progressive Rafe is extremely conservative when it comes to the environment. He insists that humans should do nothing ever that changes the existing ecology of a piece of land or a body of water. Political conservatives he despises similarly insist on the preservation of existing laws and institutions.

The fact is that nature itself constantly changes the environment, gradually through evolution and suddenly with floods, fires, volcanic eruptions, the impact of meteors and other such events.

I see nothing unnatural and catastrophic in the fact that the clean-up efforts of humans and nature have left a thin layer of oil one foot below the surface of the beaches that had been covered with oil from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. A previously alien species of bacteria is still busy at work gorging itself on this layer while its existence enriches rather than lowers the variety of life forms in the area. For Rafe this addition to the ecology somehow is a catastrophe of the sort that must never be allowed to occur.

Rafe and I will agree to disagree on environmental and many other issues of public policy. I hope he will keep up his work and continues to insert his absolute values into the debate over public policies. I will take his, as well as Walter’s views into account whenever I assess the practical merit of collective actions affecting the welfare of our fellow humans and the environment.

In the meantime, we should all celebrate that we are able to have the kind of exchange of views exemplified by this response to Rafe’s comment on my Vancouver Sun editorial. We live in a great, if imperfect society and time in history. It would be even greater if we could agree to refrain from attaching to our opponents inflammatory labels. Calling me “far-right-wing” is not the way to cultivate needed and civilized exchange of views.


Rafe: Clark has BC Behaving Like a Prostitute on Enbridge, Only Dickering Over Price


I wonder how many of you have come away from making a speech – perhaps the toast to the bride, being presented an award or perhaps just an after dinner speech and said to yourself, “damn … I should have said etc., etc.? I must admit that I’ve often felt that way and, even worse, I suppose, I’ve said to myself, what an idiot I was to say that!
In my recent blog on The Common Sense Canadian, I wrote about Premier Clark’s slow turnaround on the Enbridge pipeline case and in a moment I’ll tell you what I should have added.
The inadequacies of Clark’s leadership are exposed once more; she cannot bring herself to talk about the tanker traffic in the Inside Passage from Kitimat – or the close to 400 tankers a year through Vancouver harbour and the Salish Sea through the Straits of Juan de Fuca that would result from the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Clearly the tanker issue must be dealt with at the same time as Enbridge since, as the song says, “You can’t have one without the other.”
Clearly, Premier Clark just doesn’t have the courage to have a position on the issue as a whole.
It is not as if this was a complex issue. We know by Enbridge’s own admission that we will have spills from pipelines and common sense and statistics tell us that there will be tanker spills.
In the face of these certainties, Premier Clark is talking about insufficient financial benefits, on the assumption that money will compensate us for huge, ongoing tragedies over the 1,100 km of the pipeline and tanker spills – in short, our very soul is at stake and Clark is talking money.
Here comes the line I should have used…Premier Clark reminds me of the story where a man asks a lady if she will go to bed with him for $100,000 and she hems and haws, speaks of her needy children and, with apparent reluctance agrees.
The man then asks, “Will you then go to bed with me for $100?”
The lady is outraged and asks, “What do you think I am, a common prostitute?”
“We’ve already established that, ma’am,” says the man. “Now we’re dickering over the price.”
Thus the missing line: Premier Clark has declared British Columbia to be a common prostitute and is now ready to dicker.

BC Premier Christy Clark - pictured here with Alberta Premier Alison Redford - has softened her support for Enbridge this past week

Rafe Responds to Liberals’ Shifting Position on Enbridge: Clark Still Missing the Mark


I would be delighted to report that Premier Clark’s recent musings about the proposed Enbridge pipeline were a positive step but unfortunately must report that she misses the point – badly.
Her position evidently is that BC is not benefiting sufficiently from the pipeline.
The first and fatal flaw is that she doesn’t include tanker traffic, for if Enbridge goes through it must be accompanied by tanker traffic or the whole exercise is pointless.
The second and also fatal flaw is that the Premier puts the argument in monetary terms. Enbridge itself admits that it will have leaks in the same way an airplane company will have crashes. This is the critical point, for to say we’re not getting enough money from Enbridge says that we’re OK with a spill here and there as long as we’re adequately compensated. This will result in Enbridge, the government of Alberta and Ottawa coming up with a compensation package suitable to the Clark government.
Let’s remember three things: there will be spills, they will be in places no clean-up crew can reach, and there is no way bitumen, freed from the condensate which allows it to be piped, can be cleaned up anyway.
Never mind the terrible response by Enbridge to its Kalamazoo spill – the message there is that clean-up, even in a readily accessible location, can never happen. To that gloomy fact, add the admission by Enbridge and remember that there will be many spills over the years and, because cleanup is impossible, we will have more and more of our wilderness destroyed. We’ll be looking at Enbridge, a serial polluter, with the only questions being when and how bad.
I, for one, care about our land and the ecologies it supports, such that to me money doesn’t even enter the discussion.
What Premier Clark is doing is looking for a price for our wilderness and I say that this is irrelevant – no price is enough.

Alexandra Morton laid out the case against salmon farms and their diseases to an audience of 200 at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club on Monday

J’Accuse!…Fish Farmers and Our Governments


In 1894 a French army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island prison.
In 1896 a Paris journalist, Emile Zola, printed an article called “J’Accuse!”, which tore apart the case and led eventually to his pardon – which he accepted because he was dying on the vicious tropical Devil’s Island – and he was exonerated to serve, gallantly though sick and old in combat in World War I. An Alsatian Jew, Dreyfus was seen by the military establishment automatically to be suspected.

Last Monday night, along with 200 others, I listened to Alexandra Morton outline the loss of our salmon and carefully and surgically weave together the case against the fish farm industry, the provincial government and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The case goes back 12 years and mirrors the Campbell/Clark administration.
First it involved escapees from fish farms crowding native salmon on their spawning grounds, something that continues but became less relevant as Alexandra discovered that hundreds of thousands of wild salmon smolts were being slaughtered by lice from fish farms sited on their migration routes. Lately Alexandra has concentrated on diseases imported into our waters by farmed fish.
J’accuse both senior governments of deliberately avoiding this issue.
Before going further let me stress a fact that is of great importance but overlooked.
When I started helping Alex, my veterinarian, the estimable Moe Milstein, took me aside and said “Rafe, I don’t know anything about that particular issue but I can tell you that when you take huge numbers of animals and coop them up, disease on a massive basis is inevitable.”
From the outset, Alex was stonewalled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and by the provincial Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
Study after study was produced, all being peer-reviewed in prominent scientific journals, yet Alex was pilloried and threatened with jail.
World class ocean scientists everywhere praised her work and supported her scientific methodology. She continued to be harassed and insulted by government and industry alike.
As Alex presents her case on disease in fish farms and the impact on wild salmon you begin to wonder – isn’t this where DFO steps in?
As she moves on – surely the DFO gets involved now!
But the presentation proceeded to stunningly make the case that these diseased fish farms are slaughtering entire runs of wild salmon, but nary a move by the DFO, the federal Environment Department, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture or Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource (which now controls tenures for fish farms).

It’s worse than mere neglect – while all this is going on, not only does DFO stand idly by but the Minister is globe-trotting, flogging farmed salmon in potential markets. The provincial Agricultural Ministry, rather than pulling licenses, is considering granting new ones!
J’accuse the fish farm industry of deliberately destroying millions of Pacific salmon with their Atlantics. They have hidden their documents, dissembled at every turn, admitted that their farms ought not to be sited near migration paths while expanding their operations and markets.
J’accuse the Province of ignoring worldwide science while renewing fish farm licenses and issuing new ones.
J’accuse the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of gross neglect of its statutory mandate to protect Pacific Salmon and, quite to the contrary, shilling for industry.
J’accuse the DFO of wilfully ignoring (or worse) the ever increasing scientific evidence of fish farms infecting large runs of wild salmon.
J’accuse every federal fisheries minister since 2001 of gross neglect of his/her duty to care for the wild pacific salmon. J’accuse these ministers of forcing DFO scientists to make political decisions paramount over scientific evidence.
J’accuse the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Province of avoiding inspection of fish farms, which would have, without question, led to prosecutions.
J’accuse DFO, under political orders, of suppressing evidence and muzzling DFO scientists.
J’accuse the mainstream media of abdicating its responsibility to hold the governments they cover accountable and indeed looking for all the world as if they were promoting fish farms.
J’accuse both senior governments of failing to apply the Precautionary Principle, which would require fish farms to demonstrate they would not harm the wild salmon, instead of forcing those who care for the environment to establish their case against the farms.
This is a huge issue – in fact it goes to the root of the matter.
The Precautionary Principle is embedded in Canadian law and is sanctioned by the UN. Why shouldn’t industry be required to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that what they will do will not harm the environment?
Why should Alexandra Morton, who as a result of her decades-long fight is in straitened circumstances, be required to fund the research and carry the burden of proof? 
We are fools on an international scale. Those countries which have had experience with fish farms, namely Norway, the UK and Ireland, see us as idiots.
A few years ago I was a guest of Dr. Patrick Gargan, a world renowned fish biologist who has consistently verified Alex’s work, in Galway, Ireland, where he has his laboratory. Wendy and I were guests in his lab, and his senior technician, on learning I was from BC asked, succinctly, “Can’t you fucking well read out in Canada? Don’t you know what’s happened in Norway, Scotland and here in Ireland?”
Alexandra Morton is a hero and should be recognized as such throughout the nation – a nation that gives Orders of Canada to crooks while trying to put her in jail.
I’ve known Alex for over a decade and see the tremendous personal sacrifice she has made, to say nothing of the huge financial sacrifice.
Every step of the way – from escapees to sea lice to disease – she has been hassled, slandered, insulted and ignored.
Every step of the way she’s been proved right.

We are left, right now, with the two senior governments, especially Ottawa, still in denial and with Alexandra Morton doing all the work they should be doing and paying out enormous amounts for the research DFO should be doing.
All the while, the mainstream media ignores these issues while giving the Fish Farmers ample opportunity to attack Alex’s credibility.

This gallant lady who came to the Broughton Archipelago to study whales, became dedicated to saving wild salmon – and her thanks has been shit and abuse from the authorities.

For shame!

A clean-up worker at Enbridge's spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010

No Time for Relief as Regulators, Media Dismiss Enbridge’s Pipedreams


No one likes to hear those four words, “I told you so”, but Damien and I have been raising the issue of Enbridge for over 2 years. Our warnings have been confirmed by the National Transportation Safety Board in the US, in ringing terms, with Enbridge being compared to the Keystone Kops, which, in addition to comparing them to the fumbling police of that name may be a not-so-sly allusion to TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Tar Sands to Texas.
The report is devastating and even moved The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer – thus far noted for his silence on this matter – to conclude that the Enbridge deal is “doomed to be non-starter.”
I wish I could feel the sense of relief many do but I can’t.
Enbridge is not really the enemy – they are simply the designated drivers. The enemy is the consortium which wants to move bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat. There are three accomplices involved: the governments of Canada, Alberta and BC.
I believe that Enbridge is in trouble on this one and, amongst other things, have risked and lost several millions on their truly laughable ad campaign. (We break here for a moment while we all retrieve our hankies to wipe away out tears).
The unhappy news is that this report on Enbridge, far from lessening the Tar Sands threat to BC, has enhanced it. There will be a new pipeline consortium put in place and the companies and their three accomplices will say, “See, we listened to your concerns and have commissioned Leakabit Pipelines from Saudi Arabia (or somewhere else), who have assured us that they are 99% certain, or at any rate pretty sure, that there will never be a spill in BC; and they cross their heart and swear that they will really and truly be good corporate citizens and we can confidently place the fauna and flora of our beautiful state – oops it’s a province isn’t it? – in their hands.”
The issue hasn’t changed by reason of the NTSB decision. Somebody is going to get the contract to take the Tar Sands Bitumen to Kitimat and we would be bloody fools to let this decision weaken our resolve to stop all shipment to Kitimat – or perhaps it might wind up in Prince Rupert – and the consequent tanker traffic out Douglas Channel through the Inner Passage. The NTSB report will also place added pressure behind the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to Vancouver.
The only political leadership being shown is from Adrian Dix. The Cummins Conservatives support the Enbridge pipeline and the tankers it will fill, while Premier Clark has the guts of a jelly fish melting in the sun.
The Liberal government refused to join the Joint Review Panel as a government, even though First Nations did. We have, then, no place at the table. We are time-barred from even making an argument, which is probably good news in one sense since the present BC government and leader would waffle its way into supporting the Federal government.
Why is Premier Clark behaving this way?
A part of the reason is that the Liberal government is joined at the hip to the ultra-right wing Fraser Institute, who thinks it’s a grand idea to pipe bitumen through BC to the coast, thence down the coast by tanker.
There is a more pressing reason.
The HST expires a month before the May ’13 election and BC faces a crippling bill from the Feds. Whether or not the Feds have told Ms. Clark to be a good little girl and she’ll be rewarded or not, doesn’t matter – she doesn’t need to be told.
Ever since I can remember, BC governments have stood up for their province’s rights. The public expect that for the very good reason that if they don’t, the feds will run roughshod over us. The gutlessness of the premier shows up very clearly in the polls.
On the twin issues of pipelines from the Tar Sands and the tankers they will fill, the people of British Columbia, thanks to the Campbell/Clark government, are on their own. That’s happened before, as in the Charlottetown Accord Referendum in 1992, when the people in BC by nearly 70% defied both the provincial government and Ottawa.
My prediction is that one way or another, the people will rise up again against Victoria and Ottawa and make their unshakeable desire to protect their province well known.

The Fraser Canyon, which powerful interests fought for decades to dam

From Moran Dam to Enbridge: The Danger of Focusing on Economics Over Environment


Robyn Allan is the former President and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of BC and is an economist by trade. I have enormous respect for Ms. Allan and concur with her conclusion, stated frequently and as recently as July 6 in The Vancouver Sun, that the proposed Enbridge Pipeline will have a deleterious impact on the Canadian economy generally and that of BC in particular.
The economics of this huge issue are, of course, very important to the decision making process and to the decision itself. My caveat is, however, to dwell on the economy brings with it great risks.
The argument is the same one respecting dams and fish. If one were to debate a dam on the Fraser River near Lytton, the economic argument is all in favour of the dam. While the salmon runs to be ruined will cost the province and those who fish a lot of money, that is offset by the enormous financial gains from the dam itself many, many times over. In fact such a dam, called the Moran, has been on the drawing board since late in the 2nd World War when it was pushed by the federal government. Premier WAC Bennett raised this issue again in the 1960s and was only stopped by the outcry of those who put the heritage of our salmon ahead of the incredible profits that would come from a huge dam.
Here are the stats according to Wikipedia:
The dam would have been 261 metres (856 ft) high, generating as much power on average as Grand Coulee Dam and twice of Hoover Dam combined – much of this energy would have been sold to the north-western United States. It would form a gigantic reservoir 260 kilometres (160 mi) long, containing some 35.4 cubic kilometres (28,700,000 acre·ft) of water at maximum pool reaching almost to the town of Quesnel. A significant portion of this capacity would be reserved for flood control.
The argument that our Pacific salmon are worth more than money prevailed then – would it prevail today if the issue was revived, which I’m certain will happen?
With the proposed Enbridge Pipeline, the financial benefits are not worth the candle, as Ms. Allan so clearly and accurately says. The trouble is that the governments won’t pay the slightest attention to her or to The Common Sense Canadian’s economist, Erik Andersen. There will be a barrage of one-liners about progress, jobs, blah blah blah, so that economic truths will be trumped by public relations.
The environmental implications of the proposed pipeline are serious beyond belief. We’re talking 1,100 km, over 1000 rivers and streams. My point to Robyn is that before we get to economics, let’s see what this pipeline will do.
Enbridge has an appalling environmental record – about one rupture or spill per week. There is no question that if the pipeline goes through there will be multiple spills. And as Ms. Allan astutely points out, due to the shell corporation structure Enbridge has set up to own and operate the pipeline, their liability for a spill will be severely limited (by design, of course), leaving British Columbians holding the bag for cleanup costs.
The substance being transported is not crude oil as we understand it, but bitumen, a near solid, which unlike other oils, sinks like a stone, and is infinitely more toxic. Enbridge has shown in the Kalamazoo River case that it simply cannot completely clean up, even when it can easily bring workers and machinery into the area.
The Northern Gateway pipeline goes through some of the least accessible places it the world, where the only way to get in is by helicopter. There is no way in the world that workers and equipment could be brought to the site and even if they could, the damage from the spill could never be properly cleaned up.
It’s interesting to note that Enbridge and its supporters sneer at the possibility that they would have to file plans for crossing 1000 rivers and streams – this, they say, is absurd.
I ask why is it absurd? The common environmental requirement for pipelines is that they must file plans for crossing watercourses – why should that not be the case just because there are a lot of watercourses?
In conclusion, I thoroughly agree with Robyn Allan but simply say we shouldn’t let ourselves get to the spot where the economics are considered.