Friday, April 29, 2005

STV REFERENDUM PROVIDES HOPE FOR THE FUTURE - Proportional Representation Needed!

Many people in the world today are concerned about the future of the environment that provides a life support system for humanity and all living organisms on the planet Earth. I am one of those people and I find it extremely frustrating to deal with politicians who are out of touch with their constituents. I can not reconcile governance in British Columbia today with true democracy. I want a system that recognize the fact that so many people are aware of the plight of the ecosystems that surround us, have realistic solutions, and are willing to work toward sustainability.

For many decades British Columbia’s politicians have been elected by very slim margins of the popular vote, yet they are represented in the provincial legislature by a massive majority. In the last election 42% of BC voters cast their ballots for candidates opposing the BC Liberal party. However, the last four years has seen 97% of the seats in the legislature controlled by BC Liberals under the firm hand of Premier Gordon Campbell. The current BC electoral system has allowed the ruling parties to govern with absolute power.

This brings to mind the phrase “Absolute power corrupts absolutely!” You may have noticed that after an election in BC the ruling party seems to work on its own agenda with little regard for public opinion. The Premier takes on the dictatorial role that most people associate with military authorities in far-off parts of the world. They become untouchable for four years.

Thankfully the coming election comes with a second ballot sheet in the form of a referendum to decide if BC should embrace electoral reforms. For 11 months, 160 ordinary British Columbians worked hard on the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. They came to a near-unanimous agreement to put forward to BC voters a proven system known as the Single Transferable Vote or STV.

This form of proportional representation shifts some power from party bosses to the voter and individual MLAs. STV works in Ireland where voters have twice endorsed this system through referendums called by politicians who were disgruntled by the power that they had lost. Political bosses hate STV because it shifts control to the voters and holds elected representatives accountable to their electorate, not their party bosses.

In Australia STV is used to elect their senate and New Zealand also uses a form of proportional voting to elect their government. Many European countries use electoral systems that allow for representatives from a wide range of political view points to form governments. This allows for real and meaningful debates that provide the voters with a voice that must be respected in government decisions.

This type of governance increases civility and moderation in politics. Coalition governments have proven to be financial prudent and exceptionally productive. Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister of Canada with a minority government that produced Medicare and old age security which revolutionized public benefits.

The pendulum may swing in BC politics, but there has never been room for alternatives that truly represent the people. By voting Yes in the coming referendum you will help to shift the balance of power so that you might have a say in the future.

Friday, April 15, 2005


This Cedar is a Culturally Modified Tree that lives on hundreds of years after it was bark stripped for weaving and later burnt for a canoe that was never felled.
The remarkably beautiful beaches of Oceanside have been home to people for thousands of years. Based on archeological evidence an estimated 10,000 First Nation’s people lived in the area now named Oceanside, along the east coast of Vancouver Island from Craig Bay to the Little Qualicum River, prior to contact with Russian, Spanish, and English fur traders. Many thousands more people lived to the north and south on the shores of the Strait of Georgia. By 1849, when the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island was created, most of these people had died from the ravages of European diseases.

Midden and other and other remains indicate that this coast was once alive with a civilization that respected the natural environment that surrounded them. They honoured the fact that the existence of human beings depends upon the well being of the natural world that provides all of the abundance that sustains humanity. Communities moved to different locations in conjunction with the seasons and lived in accordance with the laws of nature. What is truly amazing is how few remains of that civilization are left today, a testament to the low impact first nations had upon the planet.

Today that same coastline is broken by concrete and stone breakwaters while high-rise condominium developments, board walks, and boat basins are planned for the near future. How long will it be before a casino is built on the waterfront?

In May 2000 the Nisga'a became the first group of aboriginal people in British Columbia to sign a treaty with the provincial and federal governments. All other First Nations in BC have yet to negotiate and sign a treaty since they were never conquered, nor have they ever ceded their land to the British, the province or the federal government. "Just because they've come here and done a lot of damage, it doesn't mean they own it," said Guujaaw, president of the Haida Nation. "We don't have any place to go, this is our planet here."

On November 18, 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 7-0 that the Government of British Columbia has a moral and legal duty to negotiate with aboriginal groups before permitting logging, mining or other disruptive activities to take place on disputed land. Haida Nation had won their challenge against the American logging giant Weyerhaeuser and responsibility was put squarely on the shoulder of the BC Government to negotiate meaningfully with Haida prior to allowing logging. The BC government ignored this federal court ruling and continued to allow Weyerhaeuser to log at an accelerated rate on Haida Gwaii(Queen Charlotte Islands.)

Haida claim that Weyerhaeuser has violated five of the six provisions they agreed to in a 2002 accord signed by the company, the Haida, and forestry workers. "Weyerhaeuser was going in and grabbing whatever they could on their way out the door," said Guujaaw, president of the Council of the Haida Nation. "We had a contract with them and they broke it."

On March 20, 2005 Haida said; ”Enough is enough” and blockaded all logging roads and log sorts on Haida Gwaii. Forestry workers showed their solidarity with first nations by refusing to cross these blockades. A week later Haida Nation seized several massive barges full of logs worth approximately $50 million from Weyerhaeuser and are now holding them. "We hope we can use this money to get hospitals here ... all our schools are in debt because they've been funded like everywhere else in the province," said Guujaaw, "We will support language and youth programs and help out recreational programs. After all the years and billions of dollars there's been nothing left by that company.”

This action, named Islands Spirit Rising, hopes to make the changes that are critical to a future that respects the land and the people who live on it. Learn more at:

In Port Alberni Hupacasath First Nation Chief Judith Sayers said; “The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Haida case was very clear that consultation must occur where lands could be denuded or damaged.”

Locally and around the province First Nations continue to be ignored by the BC Liberal government, crown land is being sold without their consultation, resources are being extracted before treaties are signed, and rights are being disregarded.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Walking along the coast of the Strait of Georgia I saw a fine film of tiny herring roe mixed in with the seaweed washed up on the shore. This does not compare to the huge mounds of roe that I have witnessed in past years. They remind me of the delicate nature of the marine ecology and the intricate system that develops microscopic organisms into mammals of all shapes and sizes.

Atlantic Salmon, reared in fish farms by the millions along the west coast of British Columbia, lack the pink colour characteristic of fresh wild salmon. A Seattle law firm has filed a class action suit against the largest supermarket chains charging them with misleading consumers because their salmon labels do not indicate why the flesh is pink.

Salmon flesh is pink because they ingest carotenoids in their food. Carotenoids are antioxidants which are as necessary for fish health as vitamins are for human beings. Wild salmon obtain these antioxidants by eating tiny crustaceans, zoo-plankton, and krill.

Salmon farms add colour to the feed by using manufactured chemical synthesis, the same chemical process that produces the billions of vitamins humans consume every day. They are identical to the molecules produced by biological synthesis in nature, but they are created artificially.

Public backlash against farmed Atlantic Salmon has forced fish farmers to start changing their ways. To escape the stigma created by chemically altering the colour of the Atlantic Salmon, fish farms are now demanding more natural ‘feed.’ In the Strait of Georgia the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is increasing the quotas for fishing krill.

As is the case with most ecosystems, there is a foodchain that begins with very small organisms which are eaten by increasingly larger predators. Humans are at the top of the foodchain but often confuse this with being in control. The survival of humanity is dependent upon the entire system of micro organisms developing into creatures that make up our food sources. Scientists agree that all environments provided by the planet Earth are finite. .

A krill is a shrimp-like invertebrate that grows to be 15mm-30mm long, weights approximately 0.57g, has a pink body, big black eyes, and 6 to 8 pairs of legs. Krill live together in large swarms offshore, diving to 150 meters deep during the day and feeding closer to the surface at night. A krill is a phytonic animal, which is a type of animal plankton that feeds on plankton and converts these tiny particles into protein. krill is the food base for whales, seals, squid, and many fish including salmon.

The production of pellets to feed Atlantic Salmon is devastating the Krill populations around the world. Very fine nets are scouring the waters to ‘harvest’ a cornerstone of the ecosystems that provides food for the rich marine life that inhabits the ocean. Taking a significant percentage of organisms out of the base of the marine environment could devastate creatures higher up the foodchain. This is happening locally in the Strait of Georgia.

Local fishermen, First Nations, conservationists, and Scientists have repeatedly voiced concerns about the negative effects of salmon farms on the marine environment and coastal communities. The ecosystem that supports us may not survive the escape of millions of farmed salmon into the wild, the transfer of disease from farms to wild salmon, or the pollution from fish waste. Then there are the threats to human health from the antibiotics and artificial colourants given to farmed fish.

The economic impacts of industrial salmon farming on wild salmon fisheries and sports fishing is astronomical. Large corporate fish farms are largely automated, providing comparably few jobs, and raise 500,000 to 700,000 Atlantic Salmon. Fish farms undercut the price of wild fish and do not come close to generating the capital that the sports fishing industry reels into the local economy.

What can you do? Ask the seafood department at your local grocery store if they have wild salmon and let them know that you refuse to buy farmed salmon. Contact the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Honourable Geoff Regan E-Mail: