Feature Story                                                                                                         Thursday, April 4, 2013


The Emperor Has No Clothes

Harper's Bill C-45 fisheries act under fire from the opposition

Staff/Voice photos


Federal fisheries critic Fin Donnelly speaks Tuesday in Chilliwack about the drastic fishery changes the Harper Conservatives have in store.


ederal NDP fisheries critic Fin Donnelly came fishing for friends in Chilliwack Tuesday—and he got them. Just a couple of dozen showed up at Evergreen Hall, but among the handful of people were some of the most powerful politicians, activists and tribal leaders in the Fraser Valley.


Influential people like Stó:lô elders Ernie Crey and Eddie Gardner and politicians like MLA Gwen O'Mahony and Chilliwack riding NDP candidate Patti MacAhonic.


Other powerhouses at the meeting included long-time activists CRV Ratepayers president Susan Federspiel and Glen Thompson, Cultus Lake Park Board commissioner Owen Skoenberg, Soowahlie elder Larry Commodore and local pipeline activist Sheila Muxlow.


Donnelly has been touring several Lower Mainland municipalities such as Maple Ridge, Surrey and New Westminster, in his capacity as fisheries critic, talking with people about changes to the Navigable Waters Act. And all along the way, he's been making friends and mustering forces against the looming Harper Conservatives' Bill C-45 that he says is bad for Canada, particularly the west coast.


These are more than just simple amendments. Bill C-45 completely restructures everything from the top down and lumps them all into one huge American-styled omnibus bill, making it difficult for the public to review and reporters to write about.


Donnelly told the Voice during a brief interview before the meeting, that his primary focus from what people are telling him is twofold; salmon and habitat protection saddled with a lack of democracy, insinuating the process is based on deception by hiding environmental amendments inside other bills.


"The two big changes that I'm going to be talking about tonight are through budget bills," he said. "They have nothing to do with the budget. They're massive changes to the fisheries act done through the budget bill."


Once Donnelly has assimilated the data, he'll take what he's learned back to Ottawa where he proceed to hammer the Conservatives on the environmental impact and ramifications of the Omnibus Bill.



"It informs my work plan and what I'm doing as western fisheries critic, so that I can ask the minister questions whether its in the House of Commons at Question Period, or at committees."


Donnelly says he has "a lot" of support in his push for land-based salmon farms which was one of the Cohen Commission recommendations.


"I've got a private members Bill to transition the fish farms to closed containment," he said.


"I think that people recognize that we need wild salmon. We need them protected, and all the other industries that relate to that including our tourism, guide outfitters and the recreation sector, they all love our wild salmon and they realize that the farmed salmon plays a role in impacting us."


Donnelly says that some farms have already made the move onto land, but getting all of them to take their operations out of the ocean will require truckloads of money, and that the federal government may provide some infrastructure funding and grants to boost incentive.


"If it requires funds to make that transition for industry, then lets look at that. Look at what the costs are. I believe there is the public will to do that in British Columbia, so we need to go ahead," he said.


He says the fish farms don't want to wreak havoc on the wild salmon population.


"Mostly, what I hear from industry is they just want to know what the rules are. You know most of them want to be good corporate citizens and maintain a good record. They don't want to wreck the environment."


Another concern is the employment that fish farms provide.


"We don't want to lose jobs, we want to make the transition as painless as possible. But we do also want to maintain the health of our wild salmon."


"The Harper government has gone the exact opposite direction. They have attacked fisheries legislation, and other environmental protection measures."


The public are just beginning to realize what the Harper Conservatives are doing in terms of the environment, which in the eyes of many is contrary to what really should be done.


Harper is spinning the fairy tale. All that's needed now are voters to believe it.




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