Of course, the prime minister did not kill the North Atlantic right whales. I’m sure he loves all fish and mammals. Somewhere there is probably a selfie of Justin and a fawning whale.
But neither did he put the deaths of these endangered creatures, now down to 500 worldwide, on his personal radar. He should have. It is Canada’s duty under international law to protect endangered species.
But the PM did not speak up, the way he did on a “record-setting” 3.5 kilometre kill-shot by a Canadian soldier in Iraq, where, as everyone knows, we are not involved in combat.
A disturbing narrative is building on this PM’s commitment to protecting Canada’s oceans and fresh waterways. It is beginning to look as credible as a White House briefing.
There are two Trudeaus: Justin of Paris, protector of the environment, and Justin of Houston, champion of dirty oil.
It is Justin of Houston, where he recently delivered a pro-tar sands speech promising three new pipelines to the top bananas of the US oil industry, that seems to be the real Justin.
As David Suzuki noted about Trudeau for this column, “Sadly, he has chosen short-term politics over trying to move onto a serious track to meeting the Paris targets.”
And so it is with marine protection.
Consider the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of protecting precious water resources. Trudeau promised to make 10 per cent of Canada’s coastal waters marine protected areas (MPAs), by 2020. Great idea, right? But what does “protected” mean? It seems about as much as Donald Trump’s professed love of Mexicans and poor people.
A case in point. The Liberal government plans to allow oil and gas exploration in a vast area of a proposed new MPA in the Gulf. The area, known as the Laurentian Channel, is nearly 12,000 square kilometres of ocean at the confluence of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic.
Under the government’s proposal, 80 per cent of that area would be open to oil and gas development, despite being “protected.” The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has produced the weasel words that make this betrayal possible — no doubt with some inspiration from private industry lobbying, which has gone up 10 per cent on Trudeau’s watch.
Here’s how DFO did it. It came up with the idea of two levels of “protection” within the MPA. In one of them, human activities such as oil and gas exploration and submarine cable installation would be prohibited. This is the so-called “core protection zone”.
But such activities would be okay in the other zone — the hilariously dubbed “adaptive management zone.” Think of that United Airlines passenger being “re-accommodated” if you want to experience the full comic effect of DFO’s semantic gymnastics.
DFO says that they have a study which shows that allowing oil and gas exploration in the “adaptive” zone would cause no significant harm to marine life or sensitive areas. I guess they don’t count hearing-impaired whales dolphins, and giant squid.
Besides, DFO’s assessment is less than comforting coming as it does from the same department which destroyed the legendary Northern Cod as a commercial species in Newfoundland. They accomplished that by setting total allowable catches at wipe-out levels for years. That was quite a feat, since the cod fishery had been around for 400 years. As I recall, those deadly quotas were also backed up by “scientific” studies and computer models.
It is ironic that this latest assault on Canada’s east coast ocean environment is coming at a time when Dominic LeBlanc is fisheries minister. The irony is not lost on Nova Scotian Mary Gorman, the wife of a fisherman who has been active for decades in protecting coastal waters in the Gulf. Gorman is co-founder of Save our Seas and Shores along with Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
She told iPolitics that she couldn’t sleep all night after reading about the Trudeau government’s intentions in the proposed MPA, particularly with the son of legendary fisheries minister Romeo LeBlanc at the helm.
“Dominic LeBlanc’s father, Romeo LeBlanc, was a real leader. He implemented the inshore fishing zone for fishermen on Canada’s east coast, a zone that was drafted by my husband for him…. The inshore fishing zone established by Romeo LeBlanc has enabled coastal communities and small boat sustainable fisheries like lobster to survive.
“Shame on Dominic. He’s not the leader or man of integrity his father was.”
This is not the first time the Trudeau government has ignored the environmental hazards of oil and gas exploration in east coast waters, which support 4,000 thousand marine species in an area one-sixth the size of the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this year, Ottawa gave the green light to Corridor Resources to continue its search for oil and gas at the Old Harry site in the Gulf.
In fact, the Trudeau government signed on to extending the company’s exploration license for four more years through the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, even though such an extension was expressly ruled out in the company’s original nine-year license.
No wonder environmentalists are worried. The airguns used in oil exploration can blow 2 kilometre-wide holes in zooplankton populations. No zooplankton, no healthy fish populations, no top predators, no marine mammals. Any surprise there is now a lawsuit against the offshore board’s ruling from four environmental groups? Any wonder that aboriginal groups on the east coast want a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf?
Dominic LeBlanc, the current minister, has defended the decision to allow oil companies into the MPA in the Gulf by insisting that Ottawa’s call was based on “scientific” evidence. What did that scientific evidence amount to? The fact that DFO observed that the creatures that could be impacted were mobile. That’s right, fish can swim. If they were under threat, they could simply swim away. How scientific.
And it’s not just saltwater abdication by the Liberals. A lot of people, including yours truly, were convinced that if Trudeau became PM, Stephen Harper’s ruinous policy of walking away from protecting fresh waterways from harmful developments would be reversed.
Instead, 99 per cent of lakes and rivers left unprotected by Harper remain unprotected under Trudeau. Think about it. There are 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers in Canada. Does protecting 64 of those lakes and 99 of those rivers do it for you?
It doesn’t for the woman who makes Environment minister Catherine McKenna look a star of the silent screen who stumbled into the Talkies when it comes to environmental issues.
“I am so furious,” Green Party leader Elizabeth May told iPolitics. “It is beyond belief. I put it down to internal Transport Canada advice based on their not wanting to revamp resources and capacity…. Appalling.”
What is also appalling is that the Liberals didn’t even allow the Green Party leader to appear before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities during its feckless review of Harper’s treacherous changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
Strange. Few knew more about it than the former environmental lawyer. But then again, the committee only met six times before it fell on its collective face on this crucial issue.
In the appendix of those who submitted written briefs, May was listed as an “individual” – without any mention of her role as federal political party leader or MP. Classy.
But May did record for history what has happened here. In a letter sent to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who is still apparently in space, she said, “The majority report, written by the Liberal members of the committee, proposes to maintain the structure of the damage done by two of Harper’s omnibus budget bills — from 2009 and Fall 2012.”
And therein lies the rub. Trudeau was elected to be the anti-Harper, not an equally horrific sequel.
Author: Michael Harris