Federal Tories absent from Mount Polley issue

Victoria Times Colonist

Re: “Trust eroded in mining spill,” editorial, Aug. 14.

I appreciated the thought-provoking editorial on the erosion of public trust in environmental assessments and resource regulation in the wake of the Mount Polley disaster. It is vital for the public to be able to trust governments to protect us and our environment.

There is an aspect of the Mount Polley issue that has not received adequate attention. Where has the federal government been? As a member of Parliament, I search in vain for evidence of an adequate federal response to this disaster. After all, it is the federal government that regulates fisheries, fish habitat and the quality of fish-bearing waters. It is the federal government that has jurisdiction over navigation: everything from tankers to canoes, on every ocean, lake, river and stream in Canada. It is the federal government that sets standards for safe drinking water. And it is the federal government that regulates the release of toxic substances into the air, land and water.

It’s at times like this that the shortsightedness of the Conservative government’s fiscal management is most painfully apparent. Departments such as Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans have suffered budget cuts that have gutted key programs — including a marine toxicology program in B.C. — eviscerating, by choice, the federal government’s capacity to carry out meaningful environmental assessments.

Restoring public trust in resource projects takes more than faith in governments’ priorities. It requires a federal government with effective leadership, strong laws, the scientific capacity to conduct meaningful environmental assessments and a willingness to enforce its laws. To date, the federal government seems to be missing in action.

Murray Rankin

Member of Parliament