LETTER: SCIENCE SHOWS CURRENT WASTE TREATMENT SUPERB
June 07, 2011
Re: Sewage forum comes too late, Our View, June 1, 2011.
Greater Victoria’s science community both at the University of Victoria and the Capital Regional District, and counterparts across the border, have clearly demonstrated we have a world class natural waste disposal management system that the developed world can only envy.
The carbon footprint of construction, as well as the proposed sewage processing (of which both transported and processed material is 99 per cent water) is so immense and of such negative benefit to community, both environmentally and fiscally, that writing off continued diligent and informative community action as “too late” is irresponsible.
We need more appreciation for the incredible effectiveness of our natural waste disposal system at all levels of community and government.
We need our elected municipal officers to be less complacent and more critical of blanket provincial and federal policies and to represent and support the science rather than political will.
ARESST: Sewage-linked excerpt from news below: "I'm nervous about any community in B.C. right now looking for extra taxes, especially given the mood with HST," Causton said. He said the capital region has two major "asks" on the table right now - $950 million for LRT and about $780 million for sewage treatment. "I don't think people have yet got their heads around the costs of some of these projects," he said.
LIGHT RAIL WILL MEAN MORE TAXES, SAANICH MAYOR SAYS (sewage mention)
There is no Santa Claus when it comes to funding light rail, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard says.
"I just think people need to go into these things with eyes wide open," Leonard said Monday. "I use the phrase, 'There is no Santa Claus.' If you want more of something and want more spending, the government is saying: 'Then you can have more taxes, too."
Leonard was part of a delegation from the Victoria Regional Transit Commission that met last week with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Blair Lekstrom to discuss funding options for a proposed $950-million LRT system between Victoria and Langford.
Municipal officials had suggested that the existing provincial carbon tax could be used to help fund transit projects like LRT, but Lekstrom was clear that any new tax initiatives would be in addition to taxes already levied, Leonard said.
"He made it clear if we wanted an additional gas tax in the region, we would have to be very bold and loud to make it absolutely clear that it was the local commission members that wanted to increase taxes," Leonard said.
"And on the carbon tax, he made it clear what the premier was musing about was an additional carbon tax."
Leonard was referring to an open letter last month in which Premier Christy Clark said she is "open to considering using the carbon tax to support regional initiatives, such as public transit."
"I think it has to be made clear to people that the provincial line, the provincial position, is that if you want gas tax for transit, it is an additional gas tax over and above what they're doing now. If you want a carbon tax, it's an additional carbon tax over and above what they are paying now," Leonard said.
It is estimated that by 2012-13, the existing carbon tax will generate $1.1 billion. The tax brought in $740 million in 2010-2011, and is expected to reap $950 million in 2011-2012 - all of which is supposed to be revenue neutral because of other tax cuts.
Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton, who serves as Victoria Regional Transit chairman, confirmed Leonard's assessment.
And it's a position that makes Causton uneasy.
"I'm nervous about any community in B.C. right now looking for extra taxes, especially given the mood with HST," Causton said. He said the capital region has two major "asks" on the table right now - $950 million for LRT and about $780 million for sewage treatment.
"I don't think people have yet got their heads around the costs of some of these projects," he said.
Meanwhile, some questions are being raised about the selection of light rail - the most expensive of three possible choices - as the preferred option.
LRT was selected through the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project, a partnership among B.C. Transit, local governments and the Ministry of Transportation formed to study alternatives.
Public Eye Online, a blog about B.C. politics, has noted that Pacific Liaicon and Associates Inc. - the consultant that coordinated consultations and provided technical expertise to the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project - is a division of the Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Inc., a company that specializes in the development of rail-based rapid transit projects.
B.C. Transit spokeswoman Joanna Linsangan said the job of selecting and recommending the technology - light rail - was subcontracted to another firm HDR Engineering.
Causton said he had no knowledge about how contractors were selected, but the transit commission is nowhere near awarding contracts for light rail.
"Now that we've agreed where this [an LRT] is going to go, we need from the ministry some dollars committed to making some of the small improvements which you see all over the Lower Mainland. We need to get some of them here between Uptown and McKenzie [Avenue]. Simply building an extra bus lane - a lane that's dedicated to bus in the long term, wouldn't take anything away from LRT," Causton said.
ARESST: Quote from NDP leader Dix below: "Clark is essentially opposed to environmental assessment; we're in favour." However, so far the CRD's NDP MLAs have said nothing about the lack of a serious environmental impact assessment for the sewage project. Terrible that both Liberals and NDP seem to think that the inadequate EIA permitted under the Municipal Sewage Act is sufficient.
When it comes to the big wedge issue - the resource sector versus the environment - the gulf between the Liberals and the New Democrats seems to be growing.
The Liberals are usually pro-development and the NDP usually tilts environment-first. With new leaders on both sides, it looks as if that split is going to get more obvious.
There's usually a middle ground on economy versus environment arguments. Both leaders are headed away from it.
Premier Christy Clark spoke to the Canada West Foundation three weeks ago and made it clear where the resource sector fits in with her "family first" agenda.
It's first and foremost.
Addressing 200 people at a foundation dinner in Vancouver, she said: "It is easy for people to be against things. Easy for people to say: 'You know, we should just cut down fewer trees in B.C. We should just have fewer mines. Maybe we shouldn't have all this oil and gas development .... Maybe we shouldn't be disturbing the Earth.'
"It's pretty easy to say that when you don't understand the connections between that economic opportunity and your family.
"I see the premier's job very much as helping people make that connection. Because public support for economic development is crucial if we want to make sure it keeps happening, and our economy keeps growing."
Clark has already walked the proindustry walk. The first thing she brought up at her initial meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the Prosperity mine in the Chilcotin, which passed a provincial environmental review but flunked the federal one.
She wants the new version of the mine approved and told Harper that.
NDP leader Adrian Dix, whose party raised some resource-industry caution flags during the legislative session, objected to that stand during a debate with Clark last week. He said she favoured destroying a lake and bypassing the First Nation that's involved.
The difference extends to other issues. Clark hasn't committed to the proposed Enbridge pipeline, pending the environmental review. But it's not hard to imagine the Liberals supporting it. She's left herself lots of room to support tanker movement on the coast, a related issue.
Dix was pleased to read one of her old quotes to her: "We've got tankers going up and down the St. Lawrence, for heaven's sake. I don't know why we'd ban them necessarily off the west coast."
Clark took pains to point out the much-discussed moratorium is "solely directed at tankers that are transiting the B.C. coast and not oil tankers that are sailing to or from B.C. ports."
There's also a split of sorts on natural gas drilling. Dix questions the hydraulic fracturing technique now used in unconventional wells.
Clark told the Vancouver dinner: "Every heart operation in this province is paid for by oil and gas out of the northeast .... Boy, you want a health care system, you better be damn happy we're getting oil and gas out of the northeast, because that's what's paying for it."
It's clear Clark will back resource industries over the environment in all but the most extreme circumstances.
And Dix told his party shortly after winning the leadership that a strong environmental policy is critical in the next campaign.
They botched the carbon tax introduction two years ago by opposing it, and have a lot of making up to do with green voters.
This time around, they're going to be as green as green can be.
"Clark is essentially opposed to environmental assessment; we're in
favour," Dix told his party. "She favours the Enbridge pipeline; we're opposed. She favours offshore oil and gas: We're opposed to it."
Whether that's a winning game plan or not, it's the one he's going to execute.
Just So You Know: Three weeks ago at the Liberal convention, Clark hinted at a "bold new plan" that will attract investment and send a signal that B.C. is open for business.
The Vancouver speech provided a few more details. It looks as if it was over-hyped. It's just about focusing the government's economic development programs - which have been housed in 10 different ministries - on areas with the most obvious payoff.
CANADIAN ECOSYSTEMS PROVIDING BILLIONS IN FREE SERVICES
Governments should protect natural systems because of their role in purifying and sustaining the planet, report says
MIKE DE SOUZA,
JUNE 6, 2011
Federal and provincial governments must do more to protect the forests and natural ecosystems that are providing hundreds of billions of dollars in free public services, including flood prevention and water filtration, says a study released Sunday.
The research, produced by Sustainable Prosperity, a thinktank based at the University of Ottawa, was produced jointly with an international study to mark the United Nations' World Environment Day.
"Wetlands purify water, forests prevent erosion and flooding, marine ecosystems provide food," said the report, Advancing the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Canada. "These services, which nature provides for free, can have significant value -some are priceless. And if they are degraded, it may be very costly -or even impossible -to replace them with technological substitutes."
Sustainable Prosperity does research focused on marketbased approaches to building a greener economy, bringing together business, policy and academic leaders together to develop recommendations and policy proposals.
The report, sponsored in part by Environment Canada, said that the federal and provincial governments are starting to introduce more economic tools to encourage protection of ecosystems, but need to do more to ensure that the economy recognizes the true value of Canada's natural capital.
The report highlighted studies that have estimated the value of Ontario's Greenbelt, a protected area around the Toronto region, at $2.6 billion per year. Other studies have estimated Canada's boreal forests provide $703 billion worth of services per year, while natural systems around B.C.'s Lower Mainland are worth $5.4 billion.
"Yet the value of these precious ecosystem services is not counted in market prices, in most cases, with the result that our economic and ecological signals are misaligned," said the report. "A major part of our 'balance sheet' (representing nature's value) is missing, leading us to use nature's resources wastefully and unsustainably, much as a tenant who does not pay for electricity tends to leave the lights on."
It suggested that part of the solution requires governments to eliminate tax incentives and subsidies that encourage businesses to launch new projects in areas that threaten local ecosystems.
In an interview, Stewart Elgie, one of the report's authors, said that subsidies to help the fishing industry pay for fuel costs in regions with dwindling fish stocks is an example of an incentive that should be cancelled.
Elgie, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who is also the chairman of Sustainable Prosperity, said one of the main themes of the report is explaining the link between environmental costs and economic costs of damaging natural ecosystems.