What Happened To The Trust We Had That Such A Thing Would Not Be Allowed To Happen?
By Mike Archer. Before Mayor Banman is allowed to carry his idea of an Economic Development arm to City Hall which would function at arms length from elected officials and the public, here is a cautionary tale about just what can happen when you remove economic development from direct public scrutiny.
Along with what are defined by Employment Canada as toxic employers – meaning you automatically receive unemployment benefits, even if you quit because they do not live up to the standards expected of them under Canadian law, you can also end up with actual toxic waste facilities without any meaningful participation from the public.
For those who may not be aware, the Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area, managed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations for the Nature Trust of BC, sits right alongside the land Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and her Council fastracked through the approval process for a toxic waste facility.
The boundary of the McGillivray Slough, the property in question, is littered with garbage and covered in black liquid which seeps from the adjacent property through the ground and across the road into the creek which empties into the Fraser River demonstrating just how much the City of Chilliwack gives a damn about ecologically sensitive lands within its boundaries.
Having been allowed to get away with such disrespect for the environment up until now is it any wonder that Mayor Gaetz and her council felt empowered to rush the application for a toxic waste facility through without hearing from some 17 community, native and environmental groups opposed to the dangers inherent in such a foolhardy use of the land.
If Mayor Gaets believes so strongly, as she has repeatedly said through her political career, in the importance of the environment; and, if she is prepared to gather all those environmentalist votes so she can collect a public salary, why has she been so prepared to drop those professed beliefs like a stone and keep the public out of the process on such a ludicrously anti-environmental project.
The word ‘trust’ is inherent and used quite deliberately in the naming and description of the Nature Trust of BC and what it considers to be its purpose:
“The Nature Trust of British Columbia is a leading land conservation organization based in BC.
We acquire ecologically significant land through purchase, donation, covenant and lease. Then we care for this land in order to protect the natural diversity of wildlife and plants, and their critical habitats.
“We are a non-profit, non-advocacy group that seeks a balance between sustaining our environment and sustaining our economy. Collaboration is a hallmark of The Nature Trust’s many years of working with local communities across our province.”
Those who trusted Sharon Gaetz to live up to all of the disingenuous, hypocritical slogans she has used to get elected must be wondering how she managed to fool them so convincingly.
Giving the gravel industry a free ride in environmentally sensitive and protected forests of Chilliwack, the Fraser Valley and many other areas around the province is something Chilliwack mayors and others relying on the environmental vote have done for years while pointing everyone’s attention elsewhere – to an issue which, at best, has questionable roots in reality, and, on which they have no realistic chance of success or failure since they are not even involved in the process.
It is very easy to haul out the defence of the Fraser Valley airshed every time you do something nasty to the environment – like giving away pristine wilderness to the gravel lobby or allowing a toxic waste facility – what’s hard is actually living up to the principles and the meaning of your public statement and commitments when the rubber hits the road.
Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) was supposed to make for better economic development decisions by streamlining the approval process for economic growth. What it seems to have provided instead is a process whereby economic interests which may not run parallel with those of the community as a whole can receive quick approval without ever involving the community in the decision until it is too late.
No wonder Abbotsford mayor Bruce Banman wants to follow Chilliwack’s example by introducing a CEPCO-like shroud of secrecy around the development process so that questions aren’t asked by those footing the bill until after the toxic lunch has been ordered.
If the past is anything to go by, the City of Chilliwack will push right up to the edge of whatever it can get away with rather than act as true stewards of the environment. And those who don’t like it can simply live with the consequences.
Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area
Below are some photos, taken Sunday, Feb 2, along the roadway between the proposed site for the toxic waste facility and the Wildlife Management Area up against which the industrial zone abuts.
As some of the photos clearly show, Chilliwack is prepared to allow garbage to be dumped right up against the line in the sand marking the edge of the protected land.
The black mess oozing from the ground now, and the City of Chilliwack’s lack of any care or remedial action in the face of such obvious seepage, does not bode well for either the protected area or the Fraser River.
Photos by JD Archer