Submitted. John van Dongen, MLA Abbotsford-South, rose in Question Period Wednesday to grill Environment Minister Terry Lake regarding Metro Vancouver’s lack of real and meaningful consultation with the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) as he had previously promised.
Van Dongen reminded the Legislature that in July 2011 the minister made a controversial decision when he approved a solid waste management plan that opened the door for a large garbage-burning incinerator in the Lower Mainland expected to have a serious impact on the Fraser Valley airshed.
Van Dongen stated the minister approved the controversial plan over the strong objections of the citizens of the Fraser Valley, local and regional representatives, himself and even Lake’s own BC Liberal colleague, John Les in Chilliwack who said “the minister’s approval is regrettable and wrong.”
Van Dongen said despite Lake’s assurances, it “is abundantly clear that Metro Vancouver is thumbing their noses at everyone from the minister on down. When is the minister going to face the fact that Metro Vancouver has absolutely no intention of living up to his conditions, especially the requirement for real and meaningful consultation with the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) as the minister promised during the desperate days of the Chilliwack-Hope by-election?”
Minister Lake made a pointed response: “I did not approve any incinerator, waste-to-energy proposal in Metro Vancouver. We were abundantly clear when we approved the solid waste management plan for Metro Vancouver. They were instructed that if they were to consider in-region waste to energy, they would have to consult fully with the FVRD,” adding that “The Premier and I made a commitment, too, that if such a proposal was introduced, it would be subject to a full environmental assessment review.”
Van Dongen questioned Lake further, saying Metro Vancouver has repeatedly defied the minister’s stated requirements, and they have dismissed democratically elected representatives such as Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Abbotsford Councillor Patricia Ross.
“Metro Vancouver recently denied a FVRD seat on a third-party expert review panel that is supposed to discuss scientific and technical issues, “ said van Dongen, adding that last month the chair of the Metro Vancouver waste committee, Malcolm Brodie, summed it up this way: “Whether people like it or not, the (incinerator proposal) decision has been made.”
Van Dongen asked Lake when he would act decisively on “this serious threat to air quality in the Fraser Valley and just say no to a $400 million garbage-burning incinerator by removing that option from Metro Vancouver’s solid waste management plan on the basis of their non-performance on consultation with the FVRD?”
Lake replied: “I’m surprised that the member has adopted the NDP method of environmental assessment, which is just say no before any process occurs at all. We’ve made it very clear that if an in- region, waste-to-energy facility is considered by Metro Vancouver, it will undergo a full B.C. environmental assessment process and full consultation with the Fraser Valley regional district.”
“In this case, I am asking for a decisive “No” from the minister to any proposal for a large garbage incinerator in the Lower Mainland,” said van Dongen. “Metro Vancouver is clearly not fulfilling the FVRD consultation requirements that were promised by the minister. The citizens of the Fraser Valley don’t need hollow reassurances about a process that is clearly not working. They deserve excellent air quality and that should be a good enough reason for the minister to take action.”