As with most questionnaires, I find it difficult to give a simplistic answer to Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod’s recent survey, regarding the public’s input on changes to environmental regulations governing the assessment of future resource development.
I recognize all of us have a stake in responsible development. As a pensioner, I have a vested interest in a successful economy because it’s where my savings are that provide my pension. However, I also recognize we live in a world under threat from climate change, ocean pollution and rising energy costs.
I accept your four statements at face value. The problem is there is a great deal underlying legislation that, in my experience, does not translate into responsible development and, in particular, responsible departure when the ore body or the well site runs out.
I’m not very familiar with the oil patch, but the mining industry in the past has been a bit of a horror show taxpayers either pay to clean up, or they’re ignored on the basis of its remoteness from urban centres. For instance, Giant Yellowknife Mines was abandoned by its last owners, leaving taxpayers to find a way to clean up over 200,000 tons of arsenic.
Other mine sites across Canada, numbering, I believe, in the low hundreds are an equal mess, if not as toxic. Does the legislation force companies to carry a bond sufficiently high that if they abandon the cleanup, their money will be used rather than mine?
I have the same fear regarding the oil sands and the tailings ponds on the edge of a drainage basin that flows from Alberta to the Beaufort Sea. How much responsibility in hard numbers attaches to the industry that will ensure those ponds stay contained for the next few hundred years or until a neutralizing formula is found?
You refer to “thousands of small projects with little to no risk to the environment.” I can’t help but wonder, in whose opinion?
If you are ensconced in Ottawa and the small project is in a remote part of Canada where only the wildlife and, possibly, a few First Nations people live that small risk is relative. With the planet under siege from climate change, much of our ecosystem is changing. What constituted small risk when I worked on these kinds of projects 30 years ago is no longer small.
“Streamlining the review process” I find troubling. Admittedly any bureaucracy can overload a process, but streamlining has a connotation of brushing over items that look good politically but could be quite horrendous at a remote site far from prying eyes.
I understand the bottom line for the developer is a critical issue, but I contend the health of our environment is even more critical.
My bottom line is I want to support safe, sane development. I do not want to support anything my grandchildren have to pay for 20-30 years after I depart this life.
Jack Witty is a resident of 108 Mile Ranch.