Monday, May 31, 2010

Is Harper Leaving BC Exposed to its own Deepwater Horizon Debacle?

An alarming report from The Tyee's Mitchell Anderson claims that the Harper Cons have introduced policies to undercut BC's Oil Spill Prevention Panel, aka the Pacific Regional Advisory Council on Oil Spill Response, while, at the same time, the Tories secretly rewrite the safety regs.

" the time television pictures of an oil-slicked Gulf of Mexico reached British Columbians, the very advisory board mandated to watchdog marine oil safety and communicate with the public had seen many of its veteran experts dismissed, and its resources and responsibilities clipped.

Late last year, Transport Canada unexpectedly replaced five of the seven members, and required incoming members to sign a "Letter of Expectation" that limited their meetings to only two per year "unless pre-approved by the Regional Transport Canada Office."

In previous years, the group met numerous times annually and reportedly had difficulty keeping up with their growing workload.

This leash-shortening, sources say, wasn't the only action by the Harper government that many of the past and present Pacific RAC members found troubling.

The members also wondered why, given their mandate and expertise, they had been denied access to drafts of changes to marine oil safety regulations they've known are in the works in Ottawa.

And this volunteer panel of experts were flummoxed when denied even a modest travel budget to engage communities about increased tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.

In effect, Harper has not only gagged but bound and gagged British Columbia's Oil Spill Prevention Panel just as the Liberal-In-Name-Only government of Greasy Gord Campbell has thrown its support behind offshore oil drilling as well as development of a potentially dangerous tanker port to carry filthy Athabasca Tar Sands oil to Asia.

Pacific RAC veteran Stafford Reid had this to say:

"Here you've got this talented group who's using up their professional time and passionate about protecting the coast and making sure that it's win-win for industry as well as the environment. Yet you've got only two meetings a year and no budget?"

"It [the RAC] appears to be a burr in the saddle for Transport Canada," said Reid, who believes that Ottawa made the move in reaction to the committee becoming more insistent on engaging the public as per their mandate. "It's quite clear that they're not going to give it a budget, they're not going to allow you to have more meetings, and they didn't want to hear anybody howling so they got rid of most of the members."

The long and the short of it is the sooner we turf these provincial conservatives in Liberal clothing and the sooner we put an end to Harper's Tar Sands wet dreams the sooner we on coastal British Columbia can breath easier.

Hey Iggy, there's an issue you can jump in on. Oh wait, sorry, I forgot you're as much of a Tar Sander as Harper. That's okay, we'll just add you to the list with Campbell and Harper.

Read the complete story here.

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