Canadians should own our responsibility
While enjoying the unusual amount of March sunshine and bemoaning the lack of fresh snow, I read the Pique's feature, "Stuck in the Middle, A personal journey to find compromise on the Alberta-B.C. pipeline debate," (March 31, 2019).
Then I saw that the World Meteorological Office (WMO) had published its 25th annual, State of the Climate (https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/climate/wmo-statement-state-of-global-climate.)
It's difficult to relate to the hard numbers in the report on C02 levels in the atmosphere, which have risen from 357 parts per million (ppm) in 1993 to 405.5ppm in 2018. It's easier for me to picture the impact with the report's fact that 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record. Aside from wondering if next year's spring will come even earlier, what does this have to do with "Stuck in the Middle?"
One of the views we are supposed to consider is from Chris Slubicki's YouTube video, which is "just trying to get a message out there about how bad things are here in Alberta."
How does the plight of Albertans (or British Columbians or all Canadians) fare in comparison to the 62 million people in 2018 alone were affected by floods, hurricanes, wildfires, heatwaves, and other extreme climate events? The costs include thousands of deaths and billions in dollars.
WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas goes on to say, "Extreme weather has continued in early 2019, most recently with Tropical Cyclone Idai, which caused devastating floods and tragic loss of life in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi ... Idai's victims personify why we need the global agenda on sustainable development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction."
Apparently 58 per cent of Canadians think the pipeline delay is a national crisis. Would those who had a choice in growing the oil and gas industry of Canada, or had the "luck" of growing up in Alberta like to poll the people living on the coastal regions of Mozambique on what constitutes a national crisis?
I think "Stuck in the Middle" minimizes our impact in the world because our population is small, and is giving up because "the buyers will simply look to another source."
In my view, Canada has always stood larger than its size and Canadians should own our responsibility for the oilsands and for what it produces no matter where the oil is used.
It's not just about climate change
While I sympathize with Albertans who lost their jobs both in the oil patch and in the office towers in Calgary, I need to put some facts on the table, which did not get mentioned by writer Steven Threndyle (in his cover feature in Pique, "Stuck in the Middle," March 28, 2019).
The job losses in Alberta's oil industry were the result of a global downturn in energy prices and have little to nothing to do with oil pipelines being built or not built through B.C.
The (very recent) oil glut in Alberta (resulting in increased oil shipments by rail) is the result of ever increasing production in the tarsands operations over the past 10 years. Bitumen production increased from approx. 1.2 million barrels per day in 2007 to approx. 2.8 million barrels per day in 2017.
The legitimate question is: Do Albertans think that it is their god-given right to ship bitumen across B.C. lands, rivers and coastal waters without getting agreement from British Columbians as to where, how and how much is acceptable to B.C., considering the inherent environmental spill risks? I think not.
B.C. did not suggest stopping Alberta from shipping bitumen through the existing Trans Mountain (TM) Pipeline. However, B.C. did not agree to having bitumen tankers loaded from the Enbridge Pipeline project negotiating their shipping route through the hazardous waters of the B.C. North Coast. And (B.C. doesn't) agree to a three-fold bitumen tanker increase through the Salish Sea, considering what a major tanker spill would mean to tourism, the way of life of coastal First Nations and wildlife such as the endangered orcas.
For some environmental purists, the conflict between Alberta and B.C. may be about keeping the oil in the ground (or the tarsands) because of the real dangers of global warming. But most realistic people are more concerned about the immediate risk of increased bitumen flow to Burnaby residents, the Burrard Inlet and the rest of the Salish Sea where the tankers would run through.
Unfortunately, the (Liberal Justin) Trudeau government has failed completely on this file. Instead of mediating between the Alberta and B.C. governments it openly sided 100 per cent with Alberta, and even purchased the old pipeline with everybody's tax money, when Kinder Morgan got cold feet.
For instance, a negotiated agreement with B.C. in return for being able to build the TM Pipeline expansion, could be a reduction of bitumen flowing through the pipeline over a number of years to be replaced by more refined products, which have less potential to damage B.C.'s environment.
Finally, I take strong issue with a couple of things: One, the quoting of someone in Mr. Threndyle's article who calls Alberta bitumen de-carbonized heavy oil—compared to "heavily carbonized crude oil" from Mexico and Venezuela. Who are they trying to fool?
Two, unperturbed by any insights about the need to curb Canada's carbon footprint, the Alberta Energy Regulator is forecasting an increase of bitumen production in the oil sands by another 40 per cent to 3.8 million barrels per day by 2027.
So, perhaps they need to build another pipeline through B.C.? I'm sorry, but this is insanity in my books.
One of many Cascadian perspectives
From the look of the cover of the March 28 Pique, I had expected to be reading a relatively balanced and nuanced article about the Trans Mountain Pipeline debate. Unfortunately, Steven Threndyle's five-page article didn't mention the biggest concern that most coastal people have with this project. That being the threat to marine ecosystems from even more tanker traffic. In fact, the words "ocean" and "sea" don't show up once in the article.
I don't expect people born east of the mountains to immediately understand all of the complexity and interplay between ocean and forest that takes place in our bioregion. However, if they have "mined mountains of data" they should at least acknowledge the extreme difficulty in trying to clean up a diluted bitumen spill on a very intricate and dynamic coastline.
Most coastal people's opposition to Trans Mountain stems from an analysis of the risk involved compared to the financial reward received. It doesn't stem from a Keystone XL Pipeline-style foreign-money conspiracy or callousness towards our Albertan neighbours.
Good news and bad news
On March 21, I went to a fishery meeting in Squamish. It was attended by some of my fellow fishermen, guides, biologists, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) managers, and DFO law enforcement. The topic of discussion was Howe Sound and the Squamish River watershed.
There is some good news and, of course, some bad news.
The good news: Glass sea sponges are protected! I think they were discovered back in the 1970s in Howe Sound and just recently have been protected by federal law. It seems that most of the glass-sea-sponge areas have been mapped out and are now protected, which is great news.
The bad news: There are certain species of fish that are endangered to a point that they may become extinct. There are many factors at play, including, overfishing and BC Hydro water-level practices.
The overfishing is DFO's responsibility as it seems that even if the numbers are low they allow sport and commercial fishing to continue. And, when the science clearly points toward conservation versus harvest, DFO still allows a harvest (unless of course the public yells and screams to get the killing stopped).
BC Hydro kills off salmon and trout fry in the Cheakamus River by releasing water and then cutting the release back. This is called ramping up and ramping down, and it causes juvenile fish to get stranded and die. One study showed that 30 per cent of steelhead fry in the Cheakamus were killed by the ramping methods of BC Hydro.
The question was asked, how long did it take to get protection for the glass sea sponges? The answer—a few days or in some cases, just hours. But meanwhile, DFO is continuing to allow overfishing and, along with the provincial government, also allowing BC Hydro to continue killing salmon and trout fry in the Cheakamus River.
One of the DFO managers confirmed that the process to protect endangered fish from becoming extinct can take up to two years. Meanwhile the glass sea sponges get full protection in just days or even hours. How does this make any sense?
Before I left the meeting, I asked the DFO managers if anyone (BC Hydro) had been charged for knowingly operating Daisy Lake dam in a way that was killing fish. I never got an answer, so I guess it's a no.
If you care about our fish, please write your MLA and your MP. If they know we are watching, perhaps we can get something done before it's too late.
Honouring rail travel
We were pleased to see your recent article, "A railway runs through it," (Pique, March 24)which offered a look back at rail travel in the Sea to Sky corridor.
As a company that still operates trains on these tracks, Rocky Mountaineer is proud to honour the history of the line and those who pioneered in constructing it through the stories we share with guests onboard our trains.
The landscapes of this region, especially through Cheakamus Canyon, are some of the most picturesque sections of our various rail journeys through Western Canada.
As we approach the start of our 2019 operating season, the team at Rocky Mountaineer wishes to thank the tourism, business and hotel partners we work with in Whistler.
We greatly appreciate your support and tireless efforts in helping to create seamless and memorable experiences for our guests. Just as we are humbled to follow in the footsteps of the historic Royal Hudson, we are honoured to work with so many incredible partners in Whistler.
Our first train of the 2019 season will arrive in Whistler on April 27, and we look forward to introducing this group of guests, and close to 6,000 more throughout the course of our season, to the history, culture and unparalleled scenery of the region.
President and CEO