2011 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Volume 25, Number 5
Orders of the Day
Point of Privilege (Reservation of Right)
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 2 — Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act
Hon. S. Thomson
Withdrawal of comments
Hon. S. Bond
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 2 — Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act (continued)
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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2011
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Point of Privilege
(Reservation of Right)
L. Krog: Hon. Speaker, I rise this morning at first opportunity to raise a point of privilege. I wish to outline factual support for my contention that the House should find the Attorney General has misled this House and that she be directed by this House to apologize. The matters which consolidated this point of privilege arose on October 5, 2011, when I rose during question period to ask the Attorney General a question regarding cameras in the courtrooms for the Stanley Cup riot trials.
The Attorney General is an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly and an active member of a political party. However, she is not an ordinary MLA. She is not an ordinary cabinet minister. As stated by William H. Davies, QC: "In British Columbia the Attorney General has a dual role. As the chief law officer of the Crown, he or she has an independent responsibility to consider objectively, and independently of partisan concerns, what actions...must be taken to uphold the rule of law."
The holder of this office should be able to balance the dual role of being both the Attorney General and a member of the executive council and must fulfil her duties with integrity. Yesterday the Attorney General misrepresented my position regarding cameras in the courtrooms for the Stanley Cup riot trials.
Further, she wrongly attributed a quote to me…
Mr. Speaker: Member. Member, just….
L. Krog: …when, in fact, it was made….
Mr. Speaker: Excuse me, Member. First of all, if you are going to make the presentation, the argument would take place at a later time. What you're presenting now is the point of privilege. So the point of privilege is the point that you bring forward. The argument you would have to present at a different time.
J. Horgan: I did consult with the Clerk's office on this matter, and I was advised that the argument could be made at the earliest opportunity. We thought it would be expedient to make the argument now so that the House and the Speaker would have an opportunity to rule later in the day. It was not an attempt to circumvent. In fact, it was an attempt to expedite the proceeding.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Member. I think the point here is to make the statement brief and to the point. Then, if there is a prima facie case, you could at that point present your arguments on why that's the case.
Member, you can continue.
L. Krog: Thank you, hon. Speaker.
As I say, when in fact the quote was made by someone else, the government news service created a transcript of an interview from March 19, 2010, on CFAX Radio, where radio host Murray Langdon asked me about the idea put forward by the government to have cameras put in courtrooms in B.C.
Yesterday in this House the Attorney General referred to that interview and attributed the following quote to me: "The notion of cameras in the court I don't think is a bad one."
It is irrefutable, based on the transcript, that I did not make this statement. The statement was clearly made by Mr. Langdon, the CFAX Radio host. In fact, a clear and accurate reading of the transcript would show that my position on that day was as it was yesterday and today.
In that March 19, 2010, interview I said the idea of putting cameras in courtrooms "is essentially a public relations exercise by the government to draw attention away from their miserable record around justice in this province." That is precisely what I said yesterday.
The idea of cameras in the courtrooms, good or bad, is a diversion from the real issues facing our courts: chronic underfunding and a shortage of judges and sheriffs. That is what is causing delays and cancelling trials, allowing alleged criminals to walk free into our neighbourhoods in British Columbia.
Instead of responding to the genuine concerns regarding our justice system, the Attorney General recklessly bombarded this House with inaccuracies. It is irresponsible of the Attorney General to deliberately misrepresent my position and to wrongfully attribute quotes to me. The Attorney General clearly overstepped and failed to balance the dual role of her office.
Again, I ask that she be directed by this House to apologize.
I have a package for the Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Member. I will take it under advisement.
Hon. R. Coleman: Good morning, Mr. Speaker, and to members of the House. It's a bright, lovely day in Victoria. I call second reading of Bill 2, intituled the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act, in this chamber.
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Second Reading of Bills
Bill 2 — Flathead Watershed Area
Hon. S. Thomson: I move Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act be read a second time. The Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act will help preserve the environmental values in the Flathead watershed.
In February last year B.C. and Montana signed an agreement committing to introduce legislation on environmental protection, climate action and energy. This agreement was witnessed by representatives of the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the U.S. Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in support of that memorandum of agreement. Introduction of this new legislation directly responds to the commitment made at that time.
Specifically, the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act will prevent registration of new mineral claims and applications for coal tenures by establishing coal and mineral reserves, prohibit Crown land dispositions for mining purposes, prohibit issuance of Mines Act permits, prohibit issuance of oil and gas activities permits for oil and gas exploration and development, and prohibit the disposition of Crown reserves under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act.
At the same time, the act will enable us to continue our excellent management of the Flathead that has maintained the diverse and healthy ecosystems that exist today, which many environmental groups refer to as pristine. Parallel legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate to similarly remove mining and oil and gas as permitable land uses in the Montana North Fork Flathead Basin.
The act will also put in place a framework for future cooperation involving not just British Columbia and Montana but federal governments, First Nations, American tribes and non-government partners.
It will allow us to continue to maintain this unique area in a manner consistent with current recreation, forestry, guide-outfitting and trapping uses.
The act will also allow us to coordinate on climate action to pursue clean, renewable, low-carbon energy that will benefit all citizens on both sides of the border for generations to come.
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand today to move this important piece of legislation, this previous commitment that the province has made, for second reading for the second time.
[D. Black in the chair.]
R. Fleming: I'm pleased to rise this morning and respond to Bill 2, introduced by the minister, and to follow him this morning on a bill that certainly takes some very important steps for the province of British Columbia, for transboundary relations with our neighbours in Montana and Alberta, and that protects an area that has been described and identified by the United Nations as the Crown of the Continent in North America — one of the greatest and best-preserved places for biodiversity on this continent, one of the most important in terms of species protection and a place that will grow in even greater importance in terms of being able to adapt nature to the impacts of climate change that are part of the times we live in today.
These are good first steps. This bill should not be seen as government's last and final act for the Flathead Valley. It should be seen as good first steps. They are obligatory for this government to follow up on what they legally committed to in a memorandum of understanding with other parties in the United States, with the governor of Montana. That's good. It's good for the government to follow through on legal documents that it signs with other governments. That hasn't always been the case in the province of British Columbia under this B.C. Liberal government.
It's also a good first step because the context of the debate this morning should not be lost on anyone. It was less than three years ago that this government was driven and committed to flattening mountaintops in the Flathead Valley, to pushing through coal bed methane projects and development throughout the Flathead Valley, drilling thousands of holes into these pristine mountainsides, putting at risk river valleys and water to contamination. That was part of the B.C. Liberal energy plan. That was the view of government and various members of cabinet.
That was something that was internationally condemned, that was vehemently opposed by all of our neighbours and that was seen as a tragically wrong course of action. It was the plan of this government a very short period of time ago. To see a dramatic turnaround, to see a 180-degree change in the government when it comes to energy-intensive, fossil fuel–driven dirty projects that put at risk the environment of one of the wildest and most pristine places in North America has to be applauded by both sides of the House as something that is very significant indeed.
Whatever the motivation of government…. I would suggest that it was very difficult pressure brought to bear on them internationally. I would think that the announcement coming in the context of following — not preceding, but following — an investigation by UNESCO and the United Nations and what was likely to be a very condemnatory report of the failure of this government to take any steps on the Flathead Valley was probably the most significant motivation for government to do a complete 180-degree U-turn when it came to land use policy in the area.
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Now, as I've said, this should not be seen as the end of what the province of British Columbia needs to do to help the success of the Flathead Valley in maintaining its ecological integrity. It should be seen as what I would characterize as good first steps. It needs to be followed up with further action.
This act will formalize what was committed to in a treaty around suspending the issuance of mining permits for exploration and development in the boundaries identified by the act. It will, similarly, do the same for oil and gas activities.
I think that the title of the bill is misleading. It cannot be seen as a conservation act. This is a moratorium being enshrined in legislation on some specific activities that present unacceptable environmental risk to wildlife and to water that flows into the United States in a national park setting. But it should not be seen as a conservation agreement.
It's interesting, too, that the funds that will allow the extinguishment of claims that have been established here are mostly raised by our neighbours in a foreign government and by private donors. I find that interesting, because if that is a policy direction that this government is establishing through this bill and the MOU that preceded it, I think that's a dangerous road to travel down.
Not all parts of British Columbia that need similar protection…. There have been at least four geoclimatic zones in British Columbia that are seen as very seriously stressed by climate change. Not all of them are ones that are going to have international media attention that mobilizes the proper pressure and brings it to bear on a government that was extremely reluctant to do the right thing. That, I think, is something that is important to put on the record, but it's also something we have to be mindful of.
This government has no comprehensive conservation strategy for lands that are significant in B.C. — significant in terms of their beauty and their abundance of wildlife and their viability, if we take certain steps to preserve them. There isn't anything like that in British Columbia today.
Unfortunately, we have a piecemeal approach. We have one, which I think this bill confirms today, that suggests the bar for consideration is really how many times it gets on CNN and whether the attention of the White House, which in this particular case is focused on the leadership of the province….
There was some urgency, eventually — which was brought by the Prime Minister, the Premier of Alberta and the President of the United States, in conjunction with the Office of the Governor of Montana — that made it untenable for the B.C. Liberal government to hold its previous position, which was to open up to any manner of exploration and development the entire Flathead Valley.
Now, the moratorium is going to offer some degree of protection, and it does satisfy an agreement that we made with Montana in 1909 around commitments to water quality and respect to the waters in Glacier National Park system that President Roosevelt, the first President Roosevelt, established in the United States. Coming 102 years later after that date, as we discussed it this morning, that is a good thing.
But I think at committee stage the opposition and members will want to explore some of the things that are not in this bill and some of the exemptions that are established here.
There is, for example, the allowance for quarrying activities to continue, really, anywhere in the area that we're discussing this morning. While there are some existing quarry operations today, the government chose not to take an approach that would grandfather those activities but to keep the door open to further and potentially much more intensive removal of rock and quarrying activity in the area and the roadbuilding activities that of course go with those.
That could be something that could develop into a very significant industry, with effects similar to some of the things that are now going to be prohibited when Bill 2 becomes law. That is an anomaly, I think, that bears some explanation on behalf of government, and we look forward to hearing what they have to say to that.
But I also think the important thing is that Bill 2, as I have said, is not a conservation act in the true sense of the word. There are some activities that are prohibited, but it is not, for example, a management plan for what has been described as perhaps the most significant area in the continent of North America for wildlife. There is no wildlife plan, for example, to establish and maintain the connectivity between species of ungulate and other range animals that travel between the United States and Canadian jurisdictions.
There is no definition around public enjoyment and recreation in this space in the definition section of this bill. And there is no congruency — and I think this is the most important part — with the special protections and the level of conservation and land use protection that is part of the United States, on the Montana side, and the Alberta national park. That's a question, I think, that has to be squarely put to this government.
We have had a very difficult time, I think — British Columbians — getting the government to do the right thing on the Flathead Valley, to restrict certain activities that were becoming very hot issues south of the border with us. We cannot allow this to be a brief moment of focus that ignores the heavy lifting and the work that needs to happen if we are going to maintain this area as a significant part of the province in terms of biodiversity and in terms of focusing our efforts around adaptation of that area to the ravages of climate change, potentially, in
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the decades to come, where we must prepare for those sorts of contingencies as the natural environment changes in this area.
We need to very clearly move forward in the Flathead Valley and work side by side with our American neighbours, and the Albertans, and work with the federal government to ensure that conservation values and the most important parts and the most at-risk parts of the Flathead Valley gain a level of protection that is befitting and that gives integrity to the areas that were first envisioned by the United States when Waterton Glacier Park was created. That is something that I hope will not slip away with the passage of Bill 2.
It would be wrong for the government to simply think they can get out of the session and move on, when it comes to the Flathead Valley, after Bill 2 enshrines a treaty, a memorandum of understanding that was signed with the U.S. just over a year ago. That would be wrong. The real work comes after the passage of Bill 2, moving forward. The real work comes in responding to all of the points raised by the United Nations, which did an exemplary job examining and studying the ecological significance of this and brought experts from around the world to look at this wonderful part of British Columbia.
That can be done. Perhaps one of the things that government should commit to while Bill 2 is before the House and being debated, which would give some comfort to those that follow the debate and have worked hard to see even the minimal inclusion of what is in this bill, is looking at, for example, working with the federal authorities on a national park feasibility study. That's something that has been discussed for decades.
It is something that would come at no cost to the province of B.C. and would potentially bring tremendous benefits. It's something that would be met with exceeding approval by our neighbours in Alberta and in the United States, and it would be an engagement process that would allow the province of B.C. not to say they have all the answers, not to say they have a preconceived notion of what that would be like. It would be a feasibility study that would engage all stakeholders and users, and be a science-based approach that would do a very thorough job.
We've seen this happen in the South Okanagan, where again we have an ecosystem that's at extreme risk if you look at the grassland and range areas that have been identified as particularly stressed and at threat. There were some tricky issues to work through in that process, and it hasn't been completed yet. It's six years on in the South Okanagan, but you have to look at where they are in 2011 versus 2005 to establish a significant national park potentially in the South Okanagan.
At first, it was bitterly opposed by First Nations interests in the region — that this would potentially alienate land from claims that they justly have with both levels of government. It was bitterly opposed by ranching interests who worried that public lands that they accessed to feed cattle and grazing rights that they had essentially had for decades — that those activities would be restricted…. It was bitterly opposed by recreational users — or mistrusted is probably a better word.
All of those issues have been worked through with Parks Canada, with local governments, with elected representatives in the area. All of them have been worked through so that there are very unique protocols in place to ensure that activities that can continue are done in a way that is of best practice, that mitigate all of the environmental concerns there, that also protect some historic rights and provide employment in the case of First Nations and any of the public benefits that will come from a new inclusion in Canada's wonderful national parks system.
Now, that process, I think, is instructive around the Flathead Valley, and it's certainly what people have been calling for who are familiar with this unique piece of territory. It's certainly something that, as I mentioned, has been welcomed and suggested by our neighbouring states and jurisdictions who have already done the very same thing. It was one of the first national parks to be created in Alberta, and it was a very significant addition in the United States.
British Columbia, as more than just a gesture of good faith, should commit to exactly that kind of exercise. I would call on the minister, after we finish second reading debate and before we get into committee stage, to sit down and re-evaluate those who have been contacting him, and his predecessors, about precisely this issue — to commit to a feasibility study for a national park in an area that could include the lower one-third of the Flathead Valley that is identified in Bill 2.
That's something that I think is critically important — for there to be other objectives coming out of the passage of Bill 2 that are met, not simply a fulfilment of something that the former Premier of British Columbia signed with the governor being put into law, but something that will in fact have a conservation value, secure a protection for that part of the Flathead Valley and integrate, finally — after a century of discussion, since 1909 — our plans, our water quality protection commitments, with what we see on the States side and in Alberta.
I think there is an expectation, rightly so, that governments would treat that in good faith. I think, unfortunately, there is a confusion in the government that that's what this bill represents, judging by the press releases that were issued and then retracted yesterday. But I will take the amended press release that government hastily issued yesterday afternoon as the final and definitive version that acknowledges that this in fact does not fulfil with the UNESCO biosphere inclusion, but this is a bill merely to enshrine the oil and gas and mining activity prohibition in this area.
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Look, government has reasons to believe that conservation agreements can be tailored to specific areas — I mentioned the South Okanagan — and that stakeholder issues can be met. Committing to a national park feasibility study does not mean, for example, that harvesting activities of lumber would be restricted in that area. It does not mean that hunting rights would be compromised, either.
We have experience in British Columbia with the Great Bear rain forest conservation area where unique logging regulations have been established by industry, First Nations, regional district government and the province. Those have been designed in respect to the carrying capacity of the ecosystem in question.
There is every reason to believe that in the Flathead Valley, all the similar stakeholders could be brought together in good faith and discuss all the issues that have in some cases divided people, but that are unresolved. The national park feasibility study is a means to do that in a way that is professional and is a set process that is public and transparent.
I believe the province has everything to gain out of agreeing to such an approach. They agreed to it in the South Okanagan. This is, of course, also the history and pattern of national parks that have been established and are cherished now throughout the history of British Columbia. That's how we have done many magnificent things in B.C. around setting aside areas that needed to be protected.
In this area, the same criteria exist — actually, even more so if one looks at the stirring words that the UN identified in terms of the importance of the Flathead Valley.
They also, I think — UNESCO, in doing their job — were quite explicit in explaining the outstanding universal value of the Flathead Valley to the planet. They were quite explicit in telling British Columbia that they needed to do that work. While they applauded the MOU we signed with Montana, the suggestion was that B.C. needed to work very diligently with the United States to respect requests that have been made to us by the United States about environmental assessment and planning for this area going forward.
As we develop climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, we are going to have to look at some of the other land uses that this bill has not restricted. To take that away from legislative debate and give it a process and something that is fair to the community and all of the concerns involved, I think, is best accomplished through a national park feasibility process. I would urge the minister to make an announcement like that.
He has time in this legislative session to do the follow- up that was first urged to him by stakeholders and by international bodies. He has a chance to do that before this becomes law so that we send out the right signal to those partners who have helped motivate government to get beyond its previous position, its lack of vision and its acceptance of unacceptable potential developments there, like coal bed methane. I think that government is now turning a corner with this bill.
To build on that, I think, requires additional steps. I think the best one, as I've said this morning, is to move towards a discussion with Ottawa and discussion with the neighbouring jurisdictions and commit to having a national park feasibility strategy.
In conclusion on this bill, I think it is important that we have come quite far in three short years with regard to protecting the Flathead Valley from a position by the B.C. Liberal government that offered no protection of such a significant area to something that offers some protection — some significant protection — from very resource-intensive and potentially contaminatory activities that would have affected relations very seriously with Montana and could have produced a cross-border fiasco that is in many ways unfathomable.
We've come a long way. The B.C. Liberals have moved off a ridiculous position that they held for years to something that makes much more sense, something that was broadly urged from without this jurisdiction and from inside the province of British Columbia by a significant part of our population, particularly those who have expertise on why the Flathead Valley is such a special place and why it's worth preserving.
This is an opportunity that was given to the province of British Columbia by historical accident. If the national railway that united this country was just a hundred kilometres different, it would have opened up that valley to industrial development a century and a half ago, which would have forever lost the ecological value it has today.
We need to look at our good fortune in that regard. We need to look beyond just 2010, last year, and fulfilling the bare minimum of a memorandum that was signed with Montana to get us out of a political jam and whatever motivations additionally the B.C. Liberals might like to claim for signing that agreement. We need to look beyond that and look 50 or a hundred years down the road.
We need to look at what advantages we can leverage by working with Ottawa and other jurisdictions in not just having a bare-bones prohibition of some activity but making the Flathead Valley a world-class renowned and respected conservation area that is indeed worthy of the title that was given to it by UNESCO, the UN's agency on world heritage — the crown of the continent.
British Columbia could be a part of that announcement. I would urge the minister to work with his counterparts across the border to make exactly that happen.
B. Bennett: We always say it's an honour to stand up in the House, and I think it is for all members. It's a
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particular honour for me this morning to stand up and speak to this bill, first of all, because the area in question is in my riding of Kootenay East and, secondly, because all of the issues surrounding the use of the Flathead Valley have been very prominent in my political life over the last ten and a half years. In fact, it all started considerably before I even won the nomination to be the B.C. Liberal candidate in the 2001 election.
This is a very important piece of legislation to the people I represent, and I understand that it is also an important piece of legislation to the world more broadly. I am here today, really, to represent the people of Kootenay East, so I'm speaking on their behalf this morning.
I do want to say, in response to the hon. member who spoke before me, that the opposition had zero influence over the creation of this bill, zero influence over what has happened here over the past ten years. The characterization by the hon. member is just incorrect. That's as much as I think I'm prepared to say at this point.
What I want to do, to start, is take the House through the history of the Flathead management and bring people up to date on how we really got here. If you go back to about the year 1999 or the year 2000, when the opposition actually was in government, they made a deal with the local environmental organization at the time to create something called the southern Rocky Mountain conservation area.
That deal was made with one environmental organization — none of the hunting and fishing clubs, not the trappers, not the miners, not the oil and gas people, not the recreators, nobody. Nobody who lived there in the East Kootenay had a part in the deal that was struck by the former government creating this thing called the southern Rocky Mountain management conservation area than one small environmental group that probably at that time had maybe a couple hundred — maybe more than that, maybe 300 or 400 — members. I doubt it, but maybe they had that many members in my riding.
That was a secret deal that got discovered just before the 2001 election. I was not elected yet. At the time, I was approached by several groups within Kootenay East to contact the opposition — at the time that was the B.C. Liberal Party — to find out what their position would be if they were elected as government.
So I did that. I was told by the Leader of the Opposition, to his credit, that if the B.C. Liberals were elected, that they would in fact reverse….
B. Bennett: They would reverse this plan, this nefarious plan by the hypocrites that sit on the other side of the House.
Deputy Speaker: Member, order, please. I would ask the member to withdraw….
B. Bennett: I withdraw.
Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
B. Bennett: I was told by the Leader of the Opposition at the time that if the B.C. Liberals were elected, they would reverse this secret, nefarious plan that the NDP had put into place and that we would start a fulsome public consultation exercise to arrive at a land use plan for the Flathead Valley and the Elk Valley that would represent the views of all of the people in Kootenay East.
Now, I've heard these folks on the other side talk about how they believe in consultation and how they believe in listening to the public. This is the truth. [Applause.]
The Premier used the term "crocodile tears" yesterday. That was a crocodile clap.
This group on the other side of the House made a secret deal with a small special interest group. What happened in 2001 is that I managed to get elected against all odds. Guess what. We put together an exercise under the late Stan Hagen, who was a great man and a great minister. He made several trips to my riding those first couple of years.
We put together an exercise. We called it the southern Rocky Mountain management plan. We had groups from all over the East Kootenay that came in and, on volunteer time, spent hours and hours and hours to help government determine how we should manage the Flathead Valley.
It had never been done before. Never been done before. The opposition didn't do it when they were in government. We did it. I'm proud of that fact. After two years of relentless effort by members of the public, with some guidance by the hon. Stan Hagen and the local MLA, we put together a plan called the southern Rocky Mountain management plan, which still exists today and which is an excellent plan that overlays the Kootenay-Boundary land use plan that is also in existence at a higher level.
That's the background. That's how I came into politics. That's how this Flathead issue all got started.
In 2003 we were hearing from Montana. They were concerned about the fact that it was still possible to stake a mineral claim or a coal claim in the Flathead Valley. I wasn't in cabinet at the time, but government started to work with Montana. In 2003, actually, we entered into an agreement with Montana. It was an agreement to develop an action plan.
We didn't make a lot of progress. In 2007 B.C. offered to change the approach. We still didn't make the kind of progress that I think Montana wanted us to make and, certainly, that B.C. wanted to make. But we kept working at it, and of course today is the culmination of that.
I want to tell you about the first time that I ever went into the Flathead Valley. I got a call from a fellow by the name of Carmen Purdy, who is the president of the
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Kootenay Wildlife Heritage Fund. He's a lifelong conservationist. He's a hunter, a trapper, a snowmobiler. He's hiked just about every mountain and every valley in the East Kootenay. Carmen and a guy by the name of Dave Malenka, who is a retired forester and used to work with Crestbrook Forest Industries, invited me to go to the Flathead Valley with them and have me tour around so that I could see the valley for myself. This was roughly, I guess, in the mid- to late-'90s.
They took me over there, and they showed me the bottom end of the Flathead Valley that — this will probably come as a surprise to most members — had been clearcut in the 1970s.
I know the hon. member who spoke before me mentioned that this is a pristine area, and to some extent, it is. There are areas of the Flathead Valley that are not eroded and that are pristine. There's no question about it. But the bottom part of the valley where the river is actually has been eroded for the last 60 to 70 years.
When I went in there and had a look in the mid '90s, when Mr. Purdy and Dave Malenka took me in there…. Dave Malenka was a forester. When he went in there originally, he actually had to go to Montana and walk up north of the 49th to get in there. There wasn't any road at the time to the bottom end of the valley.
It may come as a surprise to members, but the first pine beetle epidemic in British Columbia was actually in the Flathead Valley in the 1970s. The pine beetle came up from Montana, and there had to be a decision made at the time on how we were going to stop this epidemic from coming in and attacking all of the forests in British Columbia.
There was a gentleman who is still around. I don't know if he's listening today. I hope he is. His name is Ken Sumanik. He was working for the Ministry of Environment at the time, and he had to make the call about what they were going to do to stop this pine beetle epidemic in the Flathead Valley. So he made the call that they were going to clearcut it. So they clearcut the bottom end of the Flathead Valley.
I'm just pointing that out because these are the facts. This is the reality. These are the everyday facts the people in Kootenay East understand to be the reality. It's not the reality that you read about necessarily in the Globe and Mail or the reality that you hear about from the opposition. This is a reality that actually exists there in the valley for the people who live there.
I took the former Environment Minister to the Flathead Valley after I was elected. We went with….
An Hon. Member: From Chilliwack-Hope.
B. Bennett: From Chilliwack-Hope. We actually took a helicopter because I wanted him and the staffers to see the valley from the air. We took two people. One was Ricci Berdusco, who worked for the Mines branch in the East Kootenay for his whole career, was born and raised in the valley — a third-generation Elk Valley boy — and very knowledgable about the Flathead. We took Ricci along, and we also took a lady by the name of Kathy Eichenberger, who still works for the province and is an extremely experienced, qualified individual. She worked with the Ministry of Environment and worked with the environmental assessment office. I'm not sure what she's doing right now, but also very well qualified.
It was interesting. As we flew over the Flathead Valley, both of these longtime public servants who had seen the changes in the Flathead Valley over the past, in their case, 30 to 35 years, said to both myself and the Minister of Environment how much better the riparian areas are today in the Flathead compared to what they were 25 to 30 years ago — how much better they are; not worse. That's the result of more modern logging practices, and it's also a result of the fact that the licensee in the area, Tembec Forest Industries, is a certified operator and a good operator.
We've reduced motorized access in the Flathead Valley considerably. Through the southern Rocky Mountain management plan, we've gotten the groups that use the area for snowmobiling, for quad use and four-wheel-drive truck use to voluntarily agree to not go certain places. We've closed a lot of roads in the Flathead Valley. Yet there is still enough roaded access for people to get there to recreate — to hunt, to fish, to camp, to trap. There are a couple of families — the Mindek family from Elko and a fellow by the name of Bernard Audia, who has been trapping down in the Flathead Valley for decades and decades. He can still get to his trapline.
That's part of what this act does. This act preserves the traditional uses that we have put the Flathead Valley to over the past 50 to 75 years.
I wanted to mention the two rod and gun clubs that have had a major role in the creation of this current policy, leading to this legislation. The Sparwood Rod and Gun Club. Kent Petovello and Kevin Podrasky have worked extremely hard over the years to convince successive governments to impose some level of additional management on the Flathead Valley.
Today the Fernie Rod and Gun Club, which is the largest rod and gun club in the province…. It's a small town — less than 5,000 people. They have the largest rod and gun club in the province, and they also raise the most money for conservation. Kevin Marasco is the president. They've done tremendous work as volunteers to assist government in understanding the Flathead and what the Flathead needs.
I mentioned Tembec Forest Industries. They're an excellent operator. They're certified, as I said. They do log in the Flathead Valley, in certain portions of the Flathead Valley. They're very careful about the way they go about
[ Page 8030 ]
this. There has been logging in the Flathead Valley for the last 50 years.
One of the questions that I have for those who say there shouldn't be any logging in the Flathead Valley, which is what I heard the Environment critic say earlier, is: given that we have managed this valley the same way for the past 50 years; given that we do have large populations of species like grizzly bears, wolverine, lynx, all of the smaller species, the ungulate species; given that everyone agrees that we have this diverse ecosystem in the Flathead Valley after 50 to 75 years of exactly the kind of management that is there today, with logging and recreation, why would you want to change that?
Why would you think that you needed to put a park there? Why would you take the position, as the Environment critic did a few minutes ago, that this is not enough? He said it over and over and over again. He did. It's on the record now. It's too late for him to take it back.
The NDP's position is that this is not enough. Let me say that again. The NDP's position on this bill is that it is not enough and that there should be a national park in the Flathead. I want to thank the Environment critic for saying that here in the House today.
You know, I was Minister of State for Mining. I was Minister of Energy. I'm obviously a big booster, I guess, of the mining industry. My constituents, many of them, are sustained either directly or indirectly by the coal industry. I speak about it in the House on a regular basis. Why would I support removing mining and oil and gas from the Flathead Valley?
Well, it's pretty clear. Over the years after I was elected, I began to understand that the same people who work in the industry…. These are all unionized employees, by the way. The same people who work in the mining industry and all the associated industries also recreate in the Flathead Valley.
They're quite happy having the good jobs they have in the Elk Valley. They're good jobs, and they're quite happy and quite grateful to have those jobs — average wage, over $100,000. But they want a place to recreate where you don't have that intense level of industrial activity. That's what they want.
In the 1980s there was a proposal to start a coal mine in the Flathead, in the Sage Creek–Cabin Creek area. I'm sure the opposition members know where that is. The International Joint Commission got involved, because the International Joint Commission has an opportunity to be involved any time any sort of a project is proposed that's going to impact the environment on either side of the 49th, in that area. They got involved, and the project was essentially turned down.
That was a lesson, I think, for all of us up there. It was certainly a lesson for me. I began to think that whether you believe that you could mine in the Flathead Valley successfully without undue environmental impact or not, it wasn't going to happen. It's my belief that there would never be a mine approved in the Flathead Valley. I believe that.
I went to the then Premier of the province and suggested to him that the thing we ought to do is try to preserve the kind of activity that we had taking place in the Flathead Valley today and that we should do that through an agreement with Montana and that we should back it up with legislation.
Again to his credit, he agreed and took the file forward. We negotiated under the very capable leadership of two ministers responsible for intergovernmental relations, one from North Vancouver and one from the Fraser Valley, both of whom did a lot of good work with Montana. We came up with a deal that would exclude mining and oil and gas activity from the Flathead Valley.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Interestingly, the governor of Montana is a rancher. He's a hunter, like me. He was very enthusiastic about this model for managing the Flathead Valley. He actually, from what I understand, and I don't want to put words in his mouth…. From what I have seen of his public comments and what I've been told of what he said, he very much favours what the government is doing today with this bill and does not support going any further. He does not support getting rid of logging in the Flathead Valley. He does not support getting rid of hunting in the Flathead Valley.
So despite what the hon. member the Environment critic has said, I think B.C. has achieved a very good compromise in this situation.
Now, the opposition clearly is in favour of a national park in the Flathead Valley. I do want to correct one thing the Environment critic said. I think he said that UNESCO had made some sort of recommendations that would lead one to believe there should be a park in the Flathead Valley. From what I have read of their statement, after they were up there in Montana and in B.C., UNESCO actually said that they were satisfied with the management approach that British Columbia was taking.
I don't think it's fair to leave the impression that UNESCO was calling for the creation of a national park. They weren't, and they're not. The NDP is calling for a national park, and some of the environmental organizations are calling for a national park. But UNESCO is not and, to my knowledge, neither is Montana.
I've often wondered how exactly creating a national park in the Flathead Valley is somehow going to be better for the critters that live in that valley. There are lots of grizzly bears and lots of elk and lots of wolverines and good fish in the river, and it is a beautiful, diverse place.
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How would that situation be improved by attracting thousands and thousands of international tourists into the area? I wonder how that's going to make it a better place. I'm still actually waiting for an answer on that one from the folks who do support the idea of a park there.
I also think it's worth saying that this belief some groups have that the best way to manage everything, the best way to protect everything, is to just put a park there…. Just draw some boundaries on a map and say, "There's a park," and so everything is going to be better once you create a park. That assumption underlies a lot of the positions taken by environmental groups. It obviously underlies the position taken by the opposition — that we need a park in the Flathead Valley.
I question it. In my experience, and I've got a lot of experience in the outdoors…. I've spent most of my life in the outdoors. I've lived in some of the most isolated wilderness in Canada, well above the 60th parallel. I've spent lots of time outdoors with wildlife and even in the Flathead Valley.
I drive through Kootenay National Park, frankly, and I don't see anything. I don't see an animal in Kootenay National Park. Why is that? It's a park. It ought to be teeming with wildlife, just like the Flathead Valley, but it's not. Why is that? You want to see Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep? You want to see grizzly bears? You want to see Rocky Mountain elk? You want to see mule deer? Do you want to see whitetail deer? I'm not sure I could show you goats, but I could show you all those other species.
I'll take you up to Fording River mine, and I'll show you all of those species, and I'll show them to you in the Flathead Valley as well. On the edges of the cutblocks — that's where the ungulates feed. That's what they like.
My point is that an integrated type of management is sometimes, not always…. There is a place for parks. I'm not sure if the opposition is familiar with this old expression: "Too much of a good thing." We have over 16 percent of the East Kootenay right now set aside, for no economic activity, in parks. We're happy about that, but that's enough.
Thank you very much to the rest of the world. We'd appreciate it if you'd leave us alone and let us earn a living. You know, 16 percent is probably enough.
Wanting to impose a park on that area for biological reasons doesn't make sense. It does not make any sense, so why would you want to impose a park there?
B. Bennett: Politics, somebody said.
Well, here are the politics of it. The politics of it are this. The people who live in my riding are working people. They're working people. A lot of them belong to unions. They used to vote for the other side of the House. They don't anymore, and they're not going to after today's speech by the Environment critic either.
It's my pleasure and my honour to represent the good people who come from Kootenay East, most of whom do not want a park in the Flathead, most of whom believe in what we're doing with this legislation. I have friends, frankly, in the mining industry who are not happy with my support on this. I'm sorry about that. But there was never going to be a mine in the Flathead Valley, so there's no lost opportunity as far as I'm concerned.
Now, I want to say — and I know I'm getting close here — that any commercial interest that was foreclosed as a result of our decision to stop mining and oil and gas in the Flathead Valley has to be compensated. It's only fair, only just. It has to be compensated, and they will be compensated.
This was the right decision, and it struck the right balance. I hear the word "balance" being used pretty indiscriminately when it comes to environmental issues.
This is the right balance, because you're providing sufficient protection for the valley so that the critters that live there and the ecosystems that exist there can survive quite nicely, thank you very much, but also so that those other critters, the ones that walk on two legs — you remember them; those are the humans — can still continue to use the Flathead Valley the way they've used it, the way their fathers and mothers used it, the way their grandparents used it, the way their great-grandparents used it.
That's what this bill does, and I'm proud of that. I think it is a great success for this government, and it's been my pleasure to talk about it this morning.
WITHDRAWAL OF COMMENTS
Hon. S. Bond: Yesterday in question period I made a comment that was incorrectly attributed to the member for Nanaimo. I sincerely apologize to him and to this House and withdraw that comment.
N. Macdonald: I want to talk about Bill 2, the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act. I think that what you'll see from both sides of the House is an indication that we support this bill. It represents a success of local citizens forcing some degree of protection. I think local residents did good work. There's no question.
The government was encouraging mine and coal bed methane development, but by 2010 Premier Campbell had committed to act by limiting the mining, oil and gas developments in the Flathead.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
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Now, logging, hunting, hiking, camping will all continue, but these have been ongoing activities. It is a spectacular area not only in its setting but also in its flora and in its wildlife. It is not pristine. Actually, few areas in B.C., especially the southern part, are pristine, but it is wild.
This bill, I think most would accept, represents a compromise that is broadly supported in the region. The member for Kootenay East did talk about the amount of time that this issue has been discussed in the area. I think that even if you're in the proximity of the issue, you recognize that what this bill represents is a compromise that has broad support. I think that's important.
In areas that are so far removed from the centre of power, to have a region comfortable with the decision of government on land use issues is really important.
People hunt and guide in the area, and that needed to be considered. Tembec is an important employer, and that needed to be considered.
The watershed does have some guide lodges. There are some roads. There are cutblocks. But it is a watershed, as I've seen, in the southern part of B.C. that is amazingly wild. I do not think that there is a watershed that far south that is as wild as that watershed is.
This bill does not protect from resort development, but to be honest, there is very little private land there. Most of that, I think, Tembec has. I can be pretty sure that local vigilance is going to make sure that there's no inappropriate resort development. Certainly, what has been talked about here would lead us to believe that there wouldn't be resort development there.
The bill exempts quarrying from the restriction. I don't completely understand why that is exempted. I know in the States, on the Montana side, there is quarrying activity, but it will be interesting to hear the explanation for why that was specifically exempted.
The last time that I camped overnight in Flathead was back in the summer of 2007. The member for Kootenay East had anecdotes, and I'll share a few that I have of the region. I was there with Corky Evans. There was a Montana state senator; a Montana governor's assistant; as well as Kootenay residents John Bergenske and Casey Brennan, who were very passionate in their defence of the Flathead.
Any of you and members from this House will know Corky Evans well, but if you get him out on a starry night in the Flathead around a campfire, it is a spectacular evening. I have to say I didn't do much of the talking. If you know Corky Evans, you'll understand why. To sit for hours on end with not only Corky but the others that were there and to sit out in the wilderness by a river around a fire is absolutely spectacular. That's just one memory that I have.
People in the area go in there for their hunting. They go in there for their recreational activity. People feel passionately about the land when they're close to it and have that sort of relationship. It's where parents go with their children to make those sorts of memories. I just emphasize that, because when we look at land use decisions, the thing that we always need to remember is what the local people believe, because they know the land the best, and they care for it the most.
The member for Kootenay East. We have a lot of disagreements, but there are a few things he said that I think should be applied more universally.
First, one of his arguments was that you needed to listen to the local people, that you needed to allow local people to have a say. I just wish the government would apply that to the private river diversion projects that we see, where they try to deliberately impose those without allowing locals to have a voice. I wish they would apply that to other land use decisions, such as the Jumbo Valley.
You know, if that was applied universally, I'd be in favour of it. It's one of the reasons I'm supporting this bill. I do believe that people in that area broadly support this compromise, and I think that is critically important.
I also think that they — local people — bring that passion for the land and their knowledge of the land to the table when they are consulted properly. So land use decisions need to respect the views of locals.
Like I say, we are in the midst of dealing with another land use decision around the Jumbo Valley. If we applied that same standard, I'd be really pleased, because just as the Flathead matters to Kootenay East citizens, the Jumbo matters to Invermere and area residents and beyond — in fact, well beyond. It is of interest to people in all of the Kootenays.
The passion that you see from people in the West Kootenay is every bit as strong as the people in the Kootenays. Many of the issues are the same. People in rural areas understand the need for wilderness for people, and they understand the need for wilderness for animals.
In the Flathead some of the issues that are being dealt with are animal connectivity — you know, making sure there is enough connectivity that we will not lose species.
Those same issues apply in other parts of the Kootenays, including the Jumbo Valley. In one area you're talking about the Flathead as a watershed, but with Jumbo, you're talking about the spine of the Purcells and the need for connectivity there.
Like I say, these issues go long past environmental concerns. The Flathead — let's be honest here — was also a symbol not only in the Kootenays but internationally. I mean, you had the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Canada, you had people far removed, interested in what was happening in the Flathead. UNICEF even was weighing in. These are issues that go
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well beyond local areas, but the most passionate feelings are in local areas.
With the Jumbo Valley, you have the very same passions. What I would like to see is the same sort of result that happened here with the Flathead. Regardless of the pressures that are put on government from big industry and from people that feel that they are connected, I want the government to listen to the people. I think they have done that with the Flathead. They need to do that with Jumbo Valley.
One of the highlights from my time here as an MLA was being invited to participate and witness the Ktunaxa's, the First Nations from the Kootenays, first visit to this Legislature. They came here and issued a declaration saying that the Jumbo Valley was sacred to them. They insisted that it be protected.
They have already taken direct action for infringements in the area, and almost certainly, they have the law of Canada on their side. That needs to be considered when looking at the Jumbo area.
The people of the area, just like in Kootenay East around the Flathead issue, have indicated in every possible way that they are opposed to a land giveaway in the Jumbo Valley. Just as the people in Kootenay East have been respected — and I support that — the same thing needs to happen for the people in my area.
If the member for Kootenay East could be a little bit consistent on that principle, I would be fine. He should keep his nose out of the issue in Invermere. Instead of working the back channels on that, he should respect the people of my area.
In Golden when I was mayor, we had a land use decision on Kicking Horse Resort. I was the mayor. The same proponent that is pushing for Jumbo dealt with me. He wanted to just go ahead with it. But before we did, we had a referendum. We went to the people who were going to be impacted, the people that felt an attachment to the land, and we had a referendum.
In that referendum, I said: "We should support it." I participated. I said: "This is a good idea, and we should do it." But if we had lost that referendum, we would not have gone ahead with it. It would not have happened.
Standing beside me was a former Social Credit MLA, and, at that time, Jim Doyle, an NDP MLA. Regardless of where they were politically, everybody understood that the people decide in these areas. We get to decide. We will not have things imposed on us.
So we had a referendum. The people wanted it. They knew it was a good thing. I think 96 percent voted for it, and it happened. That same proponent that sits in Jumbo — because nobody wants it for 20 years — came up to Golden, and within three years, that resort was up and going, because people wanted it. It made sense. Locals can judge.
The same thing happened in Revelstoke. That is a spectacular resort that has come in the last number of years. Widely supported, a sensible project, and it happens.
We can judge whether it's on the Flathead, where I think a reasonable compromise has taken place that looks after the economy, looks after the environmental interests, looks after the recreational interests. Local people did participate. They broadly support that compromise. It means that we, as legislators, can come here and support it.
I tell you, with the Jumbo Valley decision, if it does not support that same principle, there will be problems. There will be problems from the Ktunaxa, who quite correctly feel that that would infringe on their rights, their legal rights. You will come up against a group of people in the Kootenays that will not have things imposed upon them.
I can tell you that in the time I have been there, the fight against IPPs, against giving away our rivers and taking away our ability to have a say on that…. People in our area have stood up and made sure that did not happen. That initiative was pushed back. When this government tried to impose the HST, against tremendous odds and tremendous resources from the government, people in my area organized themselves and stopped it.
I can tell you that the principle behind these land use decisions is one that people in the area are willing to fight for. They're absolutely willing to fight for. As government thinks through land use decisions, that needs to be borne in mind.
Just as the Flathead has been protected to a certain extent in a compromise that is broadly supported, the same thing will and must happen with the Jumbo Valley. If you listen to the people, then you can't very often go wrong. People in the area accept that government sits far away, but they reject completely that anything should be imposed unfairly on them. I think you'll see that whether it's the Flathead or with Jumbo, that principle applies.
With that, I'd like to thank the House for the opportunity to speak to the bill. We will be supporting it, and we will look for the principle of local decision-making and respect for local people and for land use decisions to be not only applied to this one case, but we hope it's a principle that we can see more broadly applied.
R. Hawes: I, too, rise to support this bill, although I should start by saying I'm still sorry that this bill is here. Let me just explain that.
As our member from Cranbrook explained earlier — Kootenay East — he has worked on this for a long time. He lives in the area. But when this proposal came forward to stop all mining and oil and gas exploration in…. It wasn't to stop mining. It was to stop the potential for mining, stop all exploration, stop all mining claims and put a claims reserve over the area.
I was the Minister of State for Mining at the time, and I spoke pretty extensively about this to the Association for Mineral Exploration, who are absolutely opposed
[ Page 8034 ]
to this. They're opposed to it because their belief is that we should be allowed to at least explore, to develop an inventory of what's available and what our land base contains. Every time we stop that exploration, we leave potential and we leave knowledge behind. So they firmly believe that we should be allowed to at least do some exploration.
I also want to say that I know that mining is not what it was years ago in many people's minds — particularly some of the environmental groups that have been referred to earlier, who seem to push the notion that mining somehow destroys the earth, that mining is so destructive that it would destroy an ecosystem.
Mining has changed a lot. Mining companies today — particularly in British Columbia and particularly with the kind of environmental oversight that the government demands and that the aboriginal community demands — are very responsible in British Columbia. Mining companies actually do a really, really good job of protecting the environment. Not only do they do a good job of protecting the environment, but mining practices have changed to the extent that mining that used to be with an open pit can now be conducted underground with very little impact on the land base.
In the Flathead I don't believe there would have been a mine ever. There are agreements that anything that could impact or potentially impact the watershed there has to have some kind of negotiation between Montana and British Columbia. I don't think there ever would have been a mine there — never.
I know that the member for Kootenay East believes the same thing, and that's one of the reasons that he was very prepared to look at banning mining, because he knew that there was not going to be a mine anyway.
The bottom line is that I think there are a couple of messages sent here. One is that we can't mine in a responsible, environmentally friendly way in British Columbia, so we have to put these protections in place. I don't happen to believe that's true.
At the time this was first proposed, I was very much opposed to the agreement and to stopping, putting a staking reserve, a mineral reserve over that area and to stopping oil and gas. I knew there wasn't going to be any oil and gas happen there. The Environment critic talked about a lot about things like shale gas, a lot of things — the sky was going to fall — and none of that was going to happen. The same thing with coal, you know. There wasn't going to be a coal mine there. So I did oppose it.
Now, I think that it's a pretty good thing that within our government we can have dissent. We had a pretty good dust-up about this. I think that it's a darned good thing that we're allowed to do that — that we can bring opposing views, that we can fight it out. But at the end of the day one side or the other will win in these sorts of differences of opinion, and then we move on.
This is a case where we move on. I put my view on the table, a few of my colleagues did the same thing and, you know, a different viewpoint held sway, so we move on.
That leads us to this bill, which is absolutely necessary to carry through with the agreements that we had made previously that, frankly, I wish we hadn't made, but we did. So I'm supporting the bill.
I want to talk for a minute, though, about what mines are. I heard all of the stuff about we've got to protect the Flathead. Again, my friend from Kootenay East said that if you want to see wildlife, you go and look at a coal mine anywhere in the Elk Valley. I've been there. I have visited all of the mines in the Elk Valley. I have never seen so many sheep. You drive up a road, the coal trucks are driving by, and there are 20 sheep laying on a berm in the sun. The trucks are rumbling by, and they don't move — right? — because maybe innately they know they're safe there. There's no hunting.
Using that as an example, the Elk Valley, Teck's land base there is very immense, the outline of those mines. It is teeming with wildlife, grizzly bears. If you talk to the people who work there, they say how they, from time to time, have watched a bear track down an ungulate or a fawn or whatever. They'll do it right on a hillside right adjacent to the mine, and you can watch all of that stuff. So to say that mining is extremely destructive and that wildlife can't co-exist with mines is just truly poppycock.
I was listening the other day to a radio station, a talk show, and Patrick Moore was on. Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace, hardly someone who has no environmentalist credentials, hardly someone who you would say is a rapacious scarifier of the earth, who wants to destroy everything. He was talking about the Alberta tar sands, the highly destructive horrible things.
Actually, what he said was that he's visited it many times, and from an environmental standpoint, there's absolutely nothing wrong with what's going on in Alberta with the tar sands. He says that in the reclamation areas there are trees growing, there are animals, and it's teeming with wildlife in the areas that have been reclaimed.
Basically, what he says is that if you look at the tar sands, particularly from a satellite — you know, the thousands and thousands of people that will be flying over in satellites — it doesn't look very good. But he said that in the overall size of the area and the terrain, it's but a small pinhead. It's not very much land, and it will be reclaimed.
So in the fullness of time the pit at the tar sands — or in an open-pit mine, a coal mine or any other mine — gets reclaimed. All of the flora and fauna comes back. The animals come back. In the fullness of time it's just a small amount that the mine is open.
But you look at what they do, what a mine does, the jobs it provides. The highest-paid heavy industry in
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British Columbia. It's about $110,000 a year right now — the average mineworker earns annually — and the safest heavy industry in British Columbia.
What mining does for communities is build communities and support families. I think that if you go to the Elk Valley and you visit some of the cities in the Elk Valley and you talk to the people who live there, most of whom are engaged in mining in one form or another…. They work in the mines. But what do they do when they get off work? Well, they go hunting. They go fishing. They go camping. They go out in the bush. They go to the Flathead. They go to other places in the Elk Valley, because these are outdoor people.
One of the reasons that they live there, aside from the fact that they earn a very good living working in one of the coal mines, is they love the outdoors. You know, the people in the East Kootenay are outdoor people.
I know that the Flathead Valley is pristine, but I don't think that mining exploration would have caused any damage to the Flathead Valley. So I did oppose the original agreement. But, like I say, we move on.
In British Columbia what we've tried to do in mining is to open this province up. Some of the members opposite have before, you know, pointed fingers at us and said, "How many mines have been created in the ten years you have been in office," etc. But you know, Madam Speaker, I know that in the year 2000 when the opposition left office, when they were sacked and thrown out, exploration in British Columbia had gone down to…. A meagre $25 million was expended in British Columbia. Last year it was a little over $500 million, and it's climbing.
Frankly, when you talk to the mining industry, they are absolutely terrified that, some time or another, those folks opposite are going to come back into power, and they will be once again driven out of British Columbia. What happens…?
R. Hawes: I love it when they start to bark a bit. It shows they are listening. The unfortunate part is they don't seem to learn. You can listen, but you need to learn too. Unfortunately, they are very short on the learning side over there.
The contradictions that come, just between them. Their opposition critic saying one thing about what should happen in the Flathead and how many of the activities even that are there now are very bad, and his seatmate over there from Columbia River–Revelstoke saying something different — very interesting to hear the contradictions between them.
We in British Columbia promote mining because it is environmentally safe today in British Columbia — an environmentally safe, proper industry that builds great jobs, that brings great investment into British Columbia.
Fortunately, when we do things like isolate areas, we send two messages. One, we don't think that mining is environmentally proper. That's one message that could be sent internationally, and I have a problem with that.
The second message, though, is that we started with saying that 12 percent of the province would be parks, and it's now 14 percent. I think that the member for Kootenay East was quite right when he talked about where you go to look for wildlife isn't necessarily in some of the parks and protected areas. It's other areas, like mines, that are actually teeming with wildlife.
You know, the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke talked about everything should be left to the local community to decide. Why, when he was a mayor, they had a referendum on an issue and, you know: "The locals should decide, and everyone else should keep their nose out of the affairs of the local community." That's what the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke said.
I wonder if those folks opposite understand what aggregate is used for, using that as an example. I think if you said, right across B.C., "Put up your hands, those who want to see an aggregate pit opened in your local area…." Nobody wants them. No one wants them. No one would say: "Oh, please bring an aggregate pit near me."
But if you don't have aggregate, you have a massive problem. You don't get hospitals. You don't get roads. You don't get driveways, new houses — nothing. You don't get repaving. Aggregate's very, very important. If it were left to the local area, aggregate would not happen in British Columbia, but it's a Crown resource. When you have something that's a Crown resource, it belongs to all of the people of British Columbia.
Frankly, when the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke talks, for example, about the Jumbo proposal…. Actually, that area has an interest for all British Columbians, so it shouldn't be left just to the local area. I have every bit as much right to express an opinion on what happens at Jumbo as he does on something that might happen in my riding on Crown land or around Crown land that will affect all people in British Columbia.
For the member opposite to take that very parochial view is kind of symbolic of what happens over there. This is the stuff that destroys economies — you know, when they take special interest. When you say, "Only the locals should decide," that's a form of saying "special interest."
I think the member for Kootenay East made a really good point when he talked about what was going on prior to 2000 in the Flathead, when special interest groups were pushing and the NDP were caving in to it. I think he made a really good point. Special interests dominate what happens over there. Special interests actually drive what goes on over there.
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They constantly point at us because they say we get donations from big business. But the reason that business, mining and all other segments of the free enterprise world support us is because they know we respect the people who make investments in this province. That group respects the B.C. labour federation, which is really their boss.
The bottom line here is, with respect to the Flathead…. I look at the Elk Valley, where there's mining going on. Frankly, I looked at Elkford, kind of in the heart of the mining area. Lots of mining around there. Their municipality's slogan is "Wilderness remains core to what the community is and wants to be." That's what it is. It's wilderness. It's animals, wildlife. It's everything that you want about a pristine area, yet it exists around the mines and the employment that the mines produce.
So I'm very much, now, in favour of this bill. It has to go through because we made an agreement.
As I say, what doesn't happen on the other side is…. Dissent is not welcome over there within the ranks. Why, the member for Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows voiced his opinion on a treaty a little while back, and he was banished from their party. He was not allowed to sit in their caucus because you shouldn't dissent. Everyone has to be in agreement over there.
On this side of the House we welcome dissent. We welcome free arguments among ourselves, and that happens on a frequent basis. We have numbers of our members who have voted in this Legislature against our legislation, because we allow free votes here. We believe in democracy.
On that side of the House — a little different story — it's what the leader says, or you're out. You're banished. You're gone. Frankly, that is not how government should work.
I did not like the first agreement that we made in the Flathead, because I think that mining actually is not a bad activity. I don't think it would have happened with a full-blown mine in the Flathead, but I think it sent a message I didn't think was right.
I was the Minister of State for Mining at the time. Today the agreement has been made. It's water under the bridge. Today this legislation fulfils the agreement that was made. We had our argument. We move on.
I support the legislation because it has to happen. We have an agreement. We must now fulfil it. However, I am very proud to say that I was allowed to have that dissenting voice, that I was allowed to stand up for an industry that I think is absolutely essential to the future of British Columbia. I was allowed to stand up for an industry that provides big…
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members.
R. Hawes: …high-paying jobs for families in British Columbia.
The folks over there — if they were ever, God forbid, to come back — would drive mining out of this province.
R. Hawes: They say: "No, no, we're friends of mining." But talk to them. Go and ask the mining community.
Are they not telling the truth when they say they're absolutely terrified that you'll come back? They are terrified of a return to that socialist horde that drove them out in the first place, drove business out.
My friend from the Okanagan spoke yesterday about a loss of…. I think 50,000 people moved to Alberta during the 1990s. It's a fact.
It's a fact. The moving industry was the only growth industry in British Columbia; let's face it. Now they're all coming back because we actually have a free enterprise government that does respect the investment of others, that does also respect the environment and that respects democracy.
I will be voting for this bill. I know they will over there, as well.
R. Hawes: Yeah, the Environment critic. I'm not sure what he's doing, because there's a lot of stuff left in the Flathead that he thinks shouldn't happen. But then again, he lives in Victoria, and as the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke says, he shouldn't stick his nose into other people's business. Somehow this should be a local decision, I guess. I think, if I gathered the gist of the diatribe that he gave earlier, that's sort of what he was saying.
Anyway, with that, I've said my little bit about mining and the great things it does for this province and why we should all make sure that this free enterprise party remains the government of choice. I believe it will. I believe that the people of British Columbia will always understand a return to the 1990s and the dark side would hurt their children, would hurt their grandchildren and would really, really hurt progress in our great province.
Deputy Speaker: I thank the member, but I remind all members to direct their comments through the Chair.
D. Donaldson: I rise to voice my support for Bill 2, the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act, and I want to acknowledge that it is a follow-through by this government on a commitment made in the February 2010 throne speech.
It took 20 months, and a large part of that is because this government didn't see fit to recall this Legislature
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to do the work that needs to be done. But I want to acknowledge they followed through on a throne speech commitment. We look forward to seeing any kind of movement on the commitments in the throne speech we witnessed this week. Hopefully, it won't take 20 months to see some of the action.
Congratulations to the local groups that made this action and this bill possible. We know that at least seven out of ten Kootenay residents were in favour of ensuring that the Flathead continues in a manner that's sustainable into the future.
I first hiked into the area when I was 16 years old. I actually was hiking in Waterton National Park, which is right on the border and borders the Flathead area. It's a beautiful area. I spent many years, over a decade, in the Rockies working. I know the kind of attributes that the Flathead brings. I spent those years working in national parks, for national parks, on back-country facilities, on trails and maintenance. So I was able to see the wildlife firsthand.
Unlike the East Kootenay MLA who didn't get out of his car when he drove through Kootenay National Park, I actually hiked the trails and was able to see the amount of wildlife that national parks contain. I have a background in biology, as well, and I understand how important it is, the connectivity that's required to keep those wildlife populations intact — "connectivity" meaning large areas that are able to sustain the wildlife that's needed and the wildlife in those areas. So the connectivity between the Waterton National Park, between Glacier National Park and between the Flathead is very important.
This area has been recognized by science-based groups for its importance. They've described the Flathead as "perhaps the single-most important basin for carnivores in the Rocky Mountains." Because wolves, grizzlies, wolverines, marten and lynx move across the international border, this is "a landscape that must be managed as one integral ecological unit."
So the science is there that this is an important area. By prohibiting the activities that this bill prohibits in the mining and oil and gas sectors, I have to believe that the government did the science and therefore has come to the realization that these activities would not be compatible with maintaining the wildlife populations.
In fact, the MLA for Kootenay East has been on the record as saying that government policies on managing the Flathead must be based on science. So it makes one conclude, then, that the science must have been done before this decision to put this bill forward was made. It must mean the government acknowledges that an activity such as coal bed methane extraction, for instance, can cause damage. Otherwise, why would they prohibit that activity?
If we are to believe that the science was done and the government came to the conclusion that coal bed methane activities in areas such as the Flathead would cause irreparable damage and, therefore, this bill is needed, then we have to look at the issue of consistency — consistency, or lack of it, from this government.
Consistency is important because if people are going to trust the government, they have to see consistency. Consistency, as well, is important for investment for the business community. If the science was there for the damage that coal bed methane activities would cause in the Flathead, what about an area in my constituency called the Sacred Headwaters, which is the birthplace of the Stikine, the Skeena and the Nass rivers?
Now, this area has been up for coal bed methane exploration and development. This government, in their wisdom, granted Shell a tenure to that area in 2004. Right now there's an order-in-council to set aside those activities till December of 2012, about a year from now. The government set aside those activities to have a look at what kind of impact coal bed methane exploration and development could have in the Sacred Headwaters.
Well, they haven't done much work in that regard, but if we're to believe, for consistency's sake, that the science was done by this government to prove that coal bed methane activities would be damaging in the Flathead, then I urge the government to take the same approach and prohibit that kind of activity in the Sacred Headwaters.
The Sacred Headwaters is home to an enormous amount of ecological values — wildlife populations unheard of in the rest of the continent and, in fact, special in the world. There are fisheries values. There are wildlife values. There are values that people in that area depend on for their livelihoods, not only for food but also for activities such as guide-outfitting.
If coal bed methane activities are not good for the Flathead — this government has come to the conclusion that that's the case by putting this bill forward — then they shouldn't be good for the Sacred Headwaters as well — the same kind of values. I urge the government to be consistent, take the stance and say that there should not be any coal bed methane activities, exploration or development, in the Sacred Headwaters as well. It's just a matter of consistency.
If the decisions that we see here today that brought this bill forward are based on science, then it also brings to mind: why hasn't the government acted on the recommendations of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture that came about and were tabled here in the Legislature four years ago in 2007?
The science says that open-net fish farms are a threat to wild salmon populations. It's a very important part of how we survive in the northwest — the wild salmon populations — again, not only from a food aspect but from an economic aspect as well. The sport fishery alone in that regard is worth $25 million to the northwest.
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That's the science, hon. Speaker. If you're going to be consistent and if you're going to say that you're going to make decisions based on science, which the member for Kootenay East has said and which this government obviously has followed through on by saying that coal bed methane development wouldn't be good in the Flathead, then apply that elsewhere. Elsewhere would be to say that the recommendations of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture that were brought to this Legislature seven years ago should be implemented, and this government has done nothing to implement them — again, no consistency.
I also want to talk about one other example around science. Science also shows the devastation that spills from oil pipelines and from oil supertanker traffic can cause to aquatic ecosystems. That's not in dispute. Spills are irreparable damage when it comes to wild salmon and to other aquatic ecosystems.
If that's the science and this government believes in acting on the science, why won't the government speak out about the Enbridge pipeline and the Enbridge plans to build a pipeline from the tar sands in Alberta across all the northern part of B.C. to the port of Kitimat?
The one excuse they have in saying that we can't come out against the Enbridge pipeline is because it's involved in a process. Well, the process right now is a National Energy Board process. There are three members on that panel, two from Ontario and one from Alberta. There's not even a B.C. representative on that panel — again, no consistency in the government approach.
The science is there on the devastating impact of oil spills. If you're going to say that you're going to govern by science, and that is the reason why you're not allowing certain activities in the Flathead, then be consistent and say no to Enbridge as well, because the science is there on what oil spills can do to the environment.
This is inconsistency bordering on chaos, especially when it comes to this government's supposedly new willingness to listen. We saw in the jobs plan and heard in the throne speech about mining. In fact, it wasn't mentioned in the throne speech. It was mentioned in the jobs plan — this government's objective to have eight new mines opened by 2015. That's just a little over four years from now.
You would think that if you had that kind of objective, you would have consulted with experts, with people interested in the mining topic, not only to come up with those numbers but to ensure that we would have the processes in place for that kind of objective to happen.
Yesterday it was a privilege of mine to meet with the group called the First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. They came to the Legislature. They are a widespread group of many incredible First Nations women's leaders, and they informed myself and our aboriginal affairs critic that they were never consulted on the idea of eight new mines opening in the next four years — never consulted.
They're holding a symposium tonight at the University of Victoria. It's called "Future of Mining in British Columbia: Cooperation, not Conflict." So you can see that this group, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining, is trying to find a way forward — cooperation, not conflict — and yet they're having difficulty. They have not heard from this government about a confirmation of even having a government representative come to this symposium — again, inconsistency bordering on chaos.
Having in a jobs plan the idea of eight new mines opening by 2015 but doing nothing to back that up, not laying the groundwork that's necessary…. That groundwork is especially around social licence with First Nations on whose territories most of the new mines that are proposed will be opening up on. So First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining were not consulted about this great goal.
Again, another group that I've been in touch with is the B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council. They wrote a letter to the Premier on September 26. They were not consulted about the B.C. jobs plan, Canada Starts Here — not consulted. This is a jobs plan that has mines and development of new mines as one of its cornerstones, and yet the First Nations Energy and Mining Council in this province wasn't even consulted before those figures were put out.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
They were also not consulted about the aboriginal business investment council, which was another cornerstone of the jobs plan. So you have an organization in the province, a well-known organization, B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council, who is not consulted on an investment plan and not consulted on the jobs plan around mines.
They have some very worthwhile proposals that they put in the letter to the Premier. They have a proposal about the development of impact benefit agreements and exploration agreement modules. Those are very important for development of mines and ensuring benefits come to local communities.
A very good part of that proposal is about seeking assistance to negotiate mining agreements for communities. The ability of communities in rural areas, First Nations communities, to actually conduct successful negotiations with mining and mining companies is going to be critical if we hope to open new mines. So they had that suggestion, and that was never discussed with them.
They requested some resources to do environmental assessment reforms, which we all know is well past due. The environmental assessment regulations were gutted by this province, and if something isn't done about them,
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it's not going to be easy sailing when it comes to trying to create the kind of development that we need in rural areas in order to have the jobs that this government talks about. Again, no consultation. Chaos.
Jobs plan on one side; no consultation on the other. What that creates is no ability for the people to trust the government when it says it's going to do something and when it says it's going to have a new willingness to listen.
The jobs plan, therefore, is a failure, and it's a disservice to people in my rural areas, for sure, because we need the kind of development that could take place. We need a balance between that and more local initiatives, called community economic development. But it's not just a failure on the social licence side.
This government has also been a failure on consultation with industry, and especially around the Flathead. I'm quoting Gavin Dirom who is the CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration for B.C. He said he's been appalled by the lack of due process around the Flathead. "It's disappointing to see a lack of due process and transparency," says the CEO of the Association of Mineral Exploration B.C. He also said the government had little or no dialogue with miners before the decision was made.
Here's a government that has no consultation with First Nations around social licence on the mining side, and they have no consultation with the mining industry on the industrial activity side, and especially in relation to the Flathead decision. So how can anybody trust this government?
I want to wrap up today by saying congratulations to the local people in the Kootenays who fought and continue to fight for the Flathead. This bill, Bill 2, is a result of your efforts, so congratulations to you.
But again, how can anybody trust this government when they say one thing and do another? They say science will apply, and then they only apply it in certain circumstances in the Flathead, but they won't use the same science to apply to the situation of coal bed methane development in the Sacred Headwaters or the recommendations of the select standing committee on aquaculture around open-net fish farms or around the devastating impacts of the proposed Enbridge pipeline.
They say they have a new willingness to listen. Then they ignore First Nations organizations like the First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining and the B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council. They ignore them.
They say they have a new willingness to listen, and then they ignore industry. Industry was not consulted around the Flathead, around the Flathead deal when it comes to mining.
So how can we trust the government? We can't trust their jobs plan. We can't trust that they're going to govern in any coherent manner for the next 18 months. That is what the process leading to this bill, Bill 2, demonstrates.
Thank you very much for the time, hon. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Does the member adjourn debate?
D. Donaldson: Yes, I adjourn debate on Bill 2.
D. Donaldson moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:56 a.m.
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