Just when we thought our prime ministerial jackass had given the West Coast his worst, he pulls another trick on us. This time it's all about giving free licence to poachers besetting our shellfish and fish stocks.
Was a time, pre-Harper, when the Department of Fisheries & Oceans actually attended to things like fisheries and, well, oceans. Not so much any more. It seems Harper didn't want them saying anything unpleasant about his Northern Gateway fantasy - stuff like bitumen spills and tanker accidents and marine habitat stuff. So, in keeping with his responsibility to Canada, he shut them down, laid them off and gutted our fisheries and navigation regulations. He even moved the West Coast oil spill emergency centre to Quebec where it would be, you know, out of the way. And then he shut down all but two of our Coast Guard stations. Neat tricks, eh? But I digress, this is about poachers.
With all those Fisheries & Oceans people no longer around, Harper has decided we can do without fishery enforcement. In lieu of that, he's come up with a new programme, one that'll save the taxpayers money. It's called "self-assessment."
In August, Oceanside residents Eileen Becker and Monica Stuart began lobbying local councils to do something about commercial harvesters, posing as tourists, stripping the area's beaches of geoducks, clams and oysters.
They want the area's local governments to lobby the province to consider making the 17-kilometre-long waterfront Parksville-Qualicum Wildlife Management Area a biological park. In the interim, they want more enforcement of catch quotas and other regulations from DFO.
Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek raised the matter with DFO officials at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver last month.
"It's now self-assessment, not enforcement," he says, noting he's not entirely clear on what "self-assessment" entails.
"DFO is much-weakened," says Westbroek, a commercial fisherman for 35 years and a former Canadian representative to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. "It's not encouraging... They have definitely reduced resources."
When he pressed for an explanation of "self-assessment," he was told it's "an enhanced complaint procedure, not enforcement" based on "observe, record, report."
There, however, the process seems to stop.