Here at Georgia Strait Alliance, we are looking forward to the opportunity to do what we do best – advocating for the health of the Salish Sea and a climate-forward future. We need to make sure that important issues like Indigenous sovereignty, climate action, and marine protection are top of mind among all of the parties this election season. That’s why we identified this list of priority questions that we hope all of the parties will address during this campaign season.
We’ve asked the parties running in this election about some of the most important issues on our coast: their stance on a coastal strategy and law, fossil fuel subsidies, Indigenous Guardian programs, plastics and contaminants, and fish farms. Find out what they said here.
Coastal Protection Act
Question: If elected, will you (your party) commit to the development and implementation of a BC Coastal Strategy and Law in the coming term?
Why is a Coastal Protection Act important to British Columbia?
Subject to Aboriginal rights and title, BC has jurisdiction and the ability to manage what activities occur in parts of coastal BC, including the Strait of Georgia, the areas between the low and high tide marks, as well as between headlands. This power extends to giving authorization for activities from tourism to residential moorage, from fin fish aquaculture to renewable energy, which means they have the power to influence how we use and protect these waters, but they aren’t using it to its full extent.
BC is facing complex coastal issues, like the decline of wild pacific salmon and their habitats and climate change impacts such as sea-level rise. It’s going to take increased collaboration and coordination on the coast to find sustainable solutions to these problems. Several other provinces have implemented a Coastal Strategy and Law: Newfoundland/Labrador and New Brunswick have Coastal Strategies and Nova Scotia has a Coastal Protection Act. We need BC to fully embrace the jurisdiction it has to protect our local ocean by developing and implementing a Coastal Strategy and Law.
Ocean-based activities contribute $17 billion annually to the BC economy and employ over 170,000 people in coastal communities, while the current array of provincial policies and legislation that address marine and coastal issues was not designed to deal with today’s pressures of development, climate change, and diverse user demands.
A Coastal Strategy Act can:
- Address Coastal Flooding and Sea Level Rise
- Create a new governance structures that supports First Nations rights and title, and further reconciliation
- Support sustainable and vibrant coastal communities
- Support the development of improved aquaculture policy
- Improve recreation and tourism development
- Play a pivotal role and build on provincial leadership by coordinating engagement in federal marine spatial planning, marine protection and integrated ocean management
- Can support the development world-leading pollution prevention and spill response
If elected, how will your government deal with this economically and environmentally unsustainable industry?
How can the province respond to climate change?
Climate change is a crisis unfolding around us in BC. Warmer waters are causing salmon stocks to decline, ocean acidification is impacting shellfish harvests, and flooding and wildfire smoke are becoming a regular part of our weather forecast.
Our province’s climate plan, CleanBC, has a 5.5 million tonne gap between its legally binding 2030 goals and the amount we’re projected to reduce carbon pollution. Phase 1 of LNG Canada, which will receive $5.35 billion in subsidies from BC, represents 3.45 million tonnes of that gap. The fracked gas industry as a whole will make it impossible to meet our 2040 and 2050 climate goals: research by the CCPA indicates their operations in those years will represent more carbon pollution than our total, legally binding targets for those years.
This industry is not environmentally sustainable, and is dependent on government handouts. On top of the $5.35 billion for the LNG Canada project, BC has given away more and more in subsidies to fracked gas producers. Last year BC gave fossil fuel producers $998 million in subsidies, but only took in $198 million in royalty revenue. Since 2005, BC’s production of natural gas has more than doubled, but revenues are down 84%.
These subsidies are billions of dollars and tax credits that could be put to use building the green economy of tomorrow, providing a just transition for resource dependent communities, and closing the gap in the Clean BC plan.
If elected, how will your government support the long term viability and expansion of Indigenous Guardians programs in BC?
What are the benefits of Indigenous Guardian programs?
Indigenous Guardians programs provide communities with the opportunity to actively monitor, steward and study ancestral territories according to traditional laws and values. The Indigenous Leadership Initiative states that “Guardians are employed as the ‘eyes on the ground’ in Indigenous territories. They monitor ecological health, maintain cultural sites and protect sensitive areas and species. They play a vital role in creating land-use and marine-use plans. And they promote intergenerational sharing of Indigenous knowledge—helping train the next generation of educators, ministers and nation builders.”
Recent analysis of programs in the Northwest Territories shows that $2.50 of social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits result from every $1 invested, and with increased support that value could increase to $3.70 for each dollar of investment.
Seven pilot programs have been initiated by First Nations in BC, supported by funding from the federal government. Successful Guardians programs exist on British Columbia’s north and central coasts. Evolving these and other emerging Guardians programs into permanent operations will require additional support and resources.
If elected, will your government take definitive action to transition B.C.’s open-net pen salmon farms to land-based closed containment operations, such as discontinuing open-net pen fish farm tenures, as soon as possible?
What can the province do to protect wild salmon?
The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is responsible for managing Crown land, including the issuance of land tenures for aquaculture.
In late 2018 the provincial government announced that a “ground-breaking government-to-government process has delivered recommendations that will protect and restore wild salmon stocks, allow an orderly transition plan for open-pen finfish for the Broughton Archipelago and create a more sustainable future for local communities and workers.”
This announcement was seen by many as a positive development with regards to tackling the threat that open-net pen fish farms pose to wild Pacific salmon. Since the announcement, thousands of calls and letters have been written to the federal government asking for open-net pen fish farms to be removed from BC waters entirely.
Over the past several months, 101 First Nations, commercial fishers, ecotourism operators, environmental non-profits and others have joined in an unprecedented movement calling for the removal of open-net pen salmon farms from the Discovery Islands by September 30, 2020. This deadline was set by recommendation #19 of the Cohen Commission, a federal inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon.
On September 28, 2020 the federal government announced that open-net pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands pose “minimal risk” to migrating wild salmon. Given the significant body of scientific evidence that parasites and diseases from open-net pen fish farms negatively impact wild Pacific salmon, and the federal government’s commitment to transition open-net pen fish farms in BC waters to land-based closed containment operations by 2025, this announcement was very disappointing.
PLASTICS, CONTAMINANTS & WASTEWATER
If elected, will your government fund tertiary wastewater treatment upgrades for communities surrounding the Salish Sea?
What risk do contaminants and microplastics pose for the Salish Sea?
Research is clear that contaminants and microplastics negatively impact marine ecosystems. Sex ratios for fish populations living downstream from wastewater plants have been skewed because of wastewater effluent containing pharmaceuticals flowing into their habitat. Locally, pollution in the Salish Sea is putting Pacific salmon at risk and causing immune and endocrine system dysfunction in Southern Resident orcas.
Wastewater effluent flows into the Salish Sea from surrounding communities. This effluent can carry persistent, bioaccumulative toxins including (but not limited to) PCBs, DDT, PFOS, PFOA, copper, phthalates, bisphenols, current-use pesticides and microplastics. These come from household, commercial, and industrial sources. These contaminants are of major concern to Chinook salmon and endangered Southern Resident orcas. This list of contaminants was recently validated by the federal government’s Southern Resident orca Contaminants Technical Working Group, which was convened to develop strategies to mitigate the threat of marine contaminants to Southern Resident orcas and their prey. The Technical Working Group also identified wastewater effluent as a main source of several of these contaminants.
Tertiary wastewater treatment is the best option for communities surrounding the Salish Sea because it will prevent the largest quantity of harmful toxins like nitrogen, ammonia, metals and microplastics from polluting the marine environment.