On July 1, 2003, I interviewed Stuart Smith, the River Impacts Co-ordinator for the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C. Smith has been representing paddlers on IPP issues, and was intimately involved with the Rutherford microhydro project and IPP proposals on the Ashlu and Ryan.
In discussing his concerns about the surge in interest in developing run of the river in this region, he said, "I dont often have the opportunity to say it, but the local government is being very helpful. They recognize that some of what is being said by (IPP project) proponents is not true. Local government is listening, they are doing a fantastic job of dealing with this, trying to take into account locals concerns. They are breaking ground every day, with their decisions and policy development....
"Actually, it turns out to be a little frightening for local government. Theyve taken a stance on the Ryan and delayed the next reading on the Ashlu. They are walking on ice a little, and if the province gets enough pressure from the developers that the local government are holding them up, then the same thing will happen as with the fish farming industry the provincial government will step in and say these projects no longer require local zoning. It is a real concern that if the SLRD pushes too hard to hear local input and concerns, then the province will just ram some legislation through that will prevent them having any say."
Well, Smith's crystal ball gazing was pretty spot on. On Nov. 4, the Minister for State Deregulation introduced Bill 75 into the house, The Significant Projects Streamlining Act. That's doublespeak for "B.C.'s Up For Sale."
The kinds of projects that could be deemed "significant" include: run of the river, mining developments, Olympic-related projects, nuclear reactors (and Atomic Energy Canada aims to build 20 new nuclear reactors across the country in the next two decades, according to an Oct 2 2003 article in the Ottawa Citizen), or nuclear waste dumping sites.
This means that the province will fast-track such projects, sign off on them, and enable them to bypass any of the typical mechanisms and processes. Any Minister can ORDER local government to treat the project as having complied with all their approvals, whether they have or not. Typically, the order will come because the proponent has not met local government requirements, and that's why they've gone to their pals in Victoria in the first place.
Granted, the established processes involve a lot of red tape, and can be cumbersome for the proponent. That's democracy. Public consultation can be inefficient. The most efficient type of government, after all, is a dictatorship. Then you don't have to worry about all that fiddly environmental review, public consultation, due process rubbish.