Passing the torch

Briony Penn has emerged as the BC coast’s new environmental champion.

The newly nominated Liberal candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands has been passed the torch by David Anderson who led the campaign to keep oil tankers out of BC’s coastal waters for a generation.
Briony PennIn her nomination speech Ms. Penn promised to “fight hard .. and win” for BC’s coast and the citizens of Saanich and the Gulf Islands.

For many at the nomination meeting it was deja vu.

Back in the 1970s the citizens of British Columbia rose up and demanded that their governments protect their fragile coast from the threat of oil tanker spills.

And the Governments listened.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau imposed a moratorium on oil tanker traveling through north coastal waters. Tankers were prohibited in the treacherous waters of Hecate Straight, Queen Charlotte Sound, Douglas Channel and BC’s spectacular inside passage. The moratorium on oil tankers was later extended to prohibit drilling for oil as well.

Thirty-five years ago David Anderson was one of the leaders of the citizen campaign and he went on to lead the fight to protect BC’s coast in Parliament. Mr. Anderson went on to spend some 20 years as a provincial and federal representative and five years as the Minister of the environment.David Anderson

The governments of eight Prime Ministers, (5 Liberal and 3 Progressive Conservative) respected the moratorium.   That is until Stephen Harper came to power.

Within months of Mr. Harper’s taking power, the thirty-five year old moratorium disappeared, tankers were being allowed to enter the inside passage and seven new oil and gas projects were being fast-tracked that could bring 320 tankers per years into the inside passage.

Unfortunately, Mr. Harper took power right when Mr. Anderson retired. As a result, BC citizens lost our best coastal advocate in Ottawa right when we needed one most.

That changed yesterday in a small elementary school in Cordoba Bay, where Mr. Anderson passed the torch to long-time environment activist Briony Penn as the defender of BC’s fragile coast.

At the meeting Briony was acclaimed as the Liberal Candidate in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding currently held by Conservative Minister of Natural Resources Garry Lunn.

After a rousing speech highlighting the threats of climate change, oil tankers and coastal drilling, Mr Anderson asserted his confidence that Ms. Penn would be a great torchbearer against tankers and for a sustainable economy. He said that “while Mr. Lunn is a nice guy… there hasn’t been a development proposal that he hasn’t saluted for.”

In her remarks Ms. Penn said protecting the coast was one of the main reasons she decided to challenge Garry Lunn, and “I am going to win.”

Minister Lunn’s department has been involved in fast-tracking the seven oil and gas projects being proposed that would require petroleum tankers in BC’s fragile inside passage.

Tankers and coastal oil and gas drilling are shaping up to be one of the main issues in the coming election in coastal BC. The Liberals will run on their strong track record of the moratoriums they put in place in 1972 and have respected ever since.

What will the Conservatives run on? How this will create more jobs in Alberta?

 I can’t wait to see how they will address the following questions:

  • How does building massive infrastructure in BC to facilitate the unsustainable growth of the tar sands address climate change?
  • Why should coastal communities and First Nations put the $1.7 billion fishery at risk for projects that will employ few local people?

Looks like an interesting battle is developing.

Dogwood Initiative will keep you posted.

Comments are closed.

Send this to a friend