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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Ottawa seeking to speed up process for works projects

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Globe and Mail

Ottawa is moving to speed up the process for building roads, bridges and other job-rich public-works projects – pledging to slim down excessive environmental requirements

Apparently his is what the provinces have been asking for – including BC – on the grounds that there is “duplication”.

All of this is utter nonsense of course. The CCEA is a much reduced process already. There is only one process – not two – because they have long been run concurrently and each side has the lead on specific interests. The feds, for example, are the ones who are supposed to be protecting fish habitat, and that can still be a reasonably stringent requirement. But certainly not excessive. And given that the west coast salmon is now facing extinction due to a combination of severe threats including climate change, farmed salmon and over fishing further loss of habitat is not going to help.

The requirements are far from excessive. For example, there is no cumulative impact analysis: each project is assessed as though it is a “stand alone” – though hardly any are. Impacts that are well known – such as induced traffic, or the effect on land use  – are simply not assessed at all. Rather than protect sacred FN sites,  and their irreplaceable archaeological value, the governments simply give the compliant bands more money.

Once again the right wing fails to understand that the environment is not at odds with the economy. If we do not look after our environment better than we have in the past we will not have an economy. Neglecting environmental safeguards meant we lost the east coast fishery, devastated the old growth forests  and have a huge problem  of clean up in the tar sands – which make the long running saga of the Sydney tar ponds look trivial by comparison. The direct impacts on humans in terms of health and loss of food supplies have been high. The future is going to be much poorer just because we think our current rate of economic growth trumps all other concerns. But the harsh reality is that it doesn’t.

Just as clearing land on hillsides for development has an impact on low lying communities, so ignoring measurable environmental impacts and trying to mitigate them costs us hugely. The EAs done for the Gateway project are some of the worst. most slipshod and inadequate. In some cases – such as ignoring the existence of primary school playgrounds adjacent to the SFPR and thus taking the brunt of toxic diesel emissions – there is a case for negligence. Ignoring inconvenient truths has been far too popular with our politicians for far too long, and it doesn’t make them go away. In fact the impacts will be much more severe as a result of them ignoring what we know will happen.

The SFPR is going to have a significant negative impact on Burns Bog as well as on agriculture, and the porfeered mitigation is woefully inadequate. The loss of salmon habitat along the shore of the Fraser may well be moot shortly. Thanks to the deliberately slanted policy that supports fish farms in wild slamon runs the greatest salmon river in the world will soon have no more of this “charismatic mega fauna”.

The sound bites that control right wing politicians minds have very little truth in them. Environmental assessment is far from excessive. The requiremnets are not nearly stringent enough. The same has been shown for the much vaunted superiority of private enterprise. Government is not necessarily wasteful and ineffective, as a simple comparison oh health care systems here and in the US amply demonstrates. The private sector takes very few commercial risks – and it slimited libauility structure means that those wh oplay fast and loose with investors’ money – and local communities and the environment pick up the tab for their casual indifference to “externalities”.

And Canada sets a very low standard when it comes to protecting its citizens and its wild places. We dump mine tailings in pristine lakes. We still export asbestos – and tout its advantages abroad – even though we know it is a killer. Indeed asbestos liability insurance very nearly brought Lloyds of London to its knees as well as having dreadful impacts on human health. We are still cleaning up  from the previous generations neglect of basic rules – like keeping the air breathable and the water drinkable. Will we never learn?

Written by Stephen Rees

January 13, 2009 at 9:33 am

Posted in Environment

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