Wednesday, May 29, 2024
May 29, 2024

MLA column: Better Salish Sea management needed


Saanich North and the Islands MLA

I am deeply concerned about the health and wellbeing of the Salish Sea.

The Government of Canada has proven to be incapable of managing our marine environment. It’s unlikely their intention, but Environment Canada, Transport Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are successfully overseeing the demise of the W̱SÁNEĆ territory. Only Parks Canada has shown recently a desire for improvement, transforming episodic consultations into actual relationship building.

One of the first big issues I confronted as a councillor in the District of Central Saanich in 2008 was the multi-jurisdictional swamp that governs the waters around our communities. The province owns the land below the water, and they grant limited power to municipalities to make “land” use decisions. The federal government controls the surface and the water column. First Nations have unrealized inherent rights and jurisdiction. It’s a total mess that often results in finger-pointing and administrative gridlock.

The result of the dysfunctional relationships is evident. The W̱SÁNEĆ territory once bubbled with wild Pacific salmon and herring, and the beaches were alive with shellfish. In about 100 years, federal government policy empowered industrial resource harvesting practices that reduced stocks to near extinction. Provincial government policy enabled industrial logging practices destroying the creeks and streams in the interior of the province. Local governments zoned industrial, commercial, agricultural and residential development choking the rivers and shorelines. The cumulative impact of all the decisions has had devastating consequences for the biodiversity of the Salish Sea.

Federal policy is attempting to minimize the noise of large vessels to protect the endangered KOLȽELOMEĆEN (Southern Resident Killer Whales) who are thankfully also free from the near constant harassment of the whale watchers. However, the federal effort concentrates attention on the other families of KOLȽELOMEĆEN (transient and outside orcas), who aren’t so lucky, they are relentlessly chased and distressed while foraging and raising their young.

The federal government continues to lay waste to the territory, approving the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 container port expansion proposed by the Vancouver-Fraser Port Authority, and also attempting to shift power of anchorage decisions in the Southern Gulf Islands from Transport Canada to the port. Transport Canada’s “consultations” are more appropriately characterized as notifications, with inherent Indigenous rights all but invisible to federal bureaucrats who maintain total control of the information and process as they rush to the approval of their predetermined outcome.

At the same time as Transport Canada is pretending the port will do a better job of managing the movement of large vessels, they are simultaneously demonstrating total incompetence in managing and enforcing their own regulations for mooring buoys for small vessels. As access to stable housing is increasingly difficult, naturally more people are living on boats in the sheltered bays and inlets near the services. Enforcement of mooring buoy and holding tank regulations is non-existent on our coast, leading to a proliferation of pollution and community conflict.

We are not on a good course. The federal government has ignored my pleas, and the pleas of my colleagues of all political stripes from federal, provincial, local and First Nations governments. We receive the minister’s responses reassuring us that all is well. We know that is far from the case, and that we are in desperate need for a new marine management regime on the south coast of British Columbia.

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  1. Adam,

    Start close to home with something more directly in your power to influence. Reduce the number of sailings by BC Ferries! I know that won’t be popular with many of your constituents, but leadership includes doing what is necessary even when it is unpopular.

    Add up the number of ferry sailings per day vs. the number of freighters moving through the Salish Sea and it isn’t even close. In other words it is in our power to reduce the ship traffic in the Salish Sea by half!

    It is up to us to shoulder some inconvenience rather than continue to take the easy way out by blaming everyone else.


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