Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Can we learn from our mistakes?

Today is the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in human history. At the same time, the B.C. government is continuing to push a plan that would see tankers filled with Alberta’s dirty tar sand oil traveling past our beautiful wilderness, and travelling B.C. waters. We all know how dangerous these waters can be. An accident is inevitable and the repercussions would be catastrophic.

On March 24, 1989, the ExxonMobil tanker, the Exxon Valdez, struck a reef and in less than six hours it released more than forty million litres of crude oil into the pristine waters off Alaska’s shore. The oil eventually covered more than 3400 sq kilometres of ocean with devastating consequences. There was mass mortality of mammals and seabirds, including twenty two Orca whales, an estimated two hundred thousand seabirds and untold millions of fish. More than two thousand kilometres of coastline were contaminated with oil. Even today, tens of thousands of litres of oil remain on the shoreline and many animals – including Cormorants, Harbor seals and Pacific Herring – have not recovered.

The B.C. government is refusing to support a moratorium on oil tanker traffic in coastal waters like the Hectate Strait or our own inland passage. We all know how dangerous the coastal BC waters can be. It was just four years ago that the BC Ferry Queen of the North went down. Human error is inevitable and if oil tankers travel our waters it is just a matter of time before there is an accident – and that could result in millions of litres of oil washing up on our shores.

And yet, the government is pushing for the creation of a massive pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, just north of Vancouver Island. From there, the oil would be loaded onto tankers and begin their perilous journey.

All the First Nations in the area are unanimously opposed: the potential for a catastrophic accident is simply too great. Oil would be moved across pristine rainforest ecosystems, over one thousand streams and rivers. Most of the land endangered is traditional First Nations land. And then the oil would have to be moved through fragile ocean waterways.

To get a sense of what an accident would look like try to imagine hundreds of litres of oil washing up on Cordova Bay or Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Imagine the cost of cleaning this up. Imagine the impact on tourism and wildlife, on our health and on our quality of life.

To make matters worse, the BC government is cheer-leading a plan that is all about using Alberta’s tar sand oil. This is the stuff that Al Gore calls the ‘dirtiest possible alternative’ for producing fuel. The proposed pipeline would increase tar sands oil production by thirty percent. Tar sands oil creates three to four times more greenhouse gas emissions than regular oil.

The plan makes a mockery of the government’s climate change goals. At a time when we desperately need to control emissions and slow down global warming, this could not be a more irresponsible choice.

Please join me in letting the government know that you are opposed to this plan. Contact Premier Cambell at or (250) 387-1715.

You can also find out more information and contact Enbridge directly by visiting this website:


Friday, March 19, 2010

B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s new bike clothes

Georgia Straight, March 18, 2010
By Lana Popham

We all know the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the self-absorbed emperor who foolishly believes he is wearing a suit made of cloth that is visible only to those who are intelligent and upstanding. He can’t see the cloth himself, but pretends otherwise so as to not lose face. As he parades naked through the town, a child calls out “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” and the obvious truth is revealed.

I was reminded of this story recently while watching a video clip from 2008 on the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Web site. Premier Gordon Campbell is dressed in his finest cycling outfit and proudly announcing $31 million for cycling infrastructure.

The video is still featured on the government’s site, and the press release of $31 million is still trumpeted as news. Their promise is exciting:

Cyclists throughout British Columbia will benefit from new, safe and high-quality cycling trails, bike lanes, bike lockers and more, thanks to Bike BC, a $31-million program for cycling infrastructure.

Bike BC is one of the largest investments the Province has ever made in building and improving cycling infrastructure in communities across the province. This will enhance cycling as an option for people to commute, run errands or spend their leisure time.

The program is a strategic investment to build important cycling corridors of regional and provincial significance and will be awarded province wide over the next three years. Some possible projects are new bike trails and cycling lanes, improvements to existing cycling infrastructure, and providing for bike lockers and other equipment that makes cycling a safer and more convenient option for travelers.

Cycling is a key component of the Province’s strategy for encouraging healthy living and addressing climate change, in conjunction with the Climate Action Plan and the Provincial Transit Plan.

This was an exciting moment for cyclists, cycling advocacy groups, people who support green transportation, and people who believe fighting climate change should be a priority. And it was a moment of relief: the government promised three years of support for initiatives that could address so many things for so many people.

But it was not to be.

No matter how long they continue to try and take credit for this progressive step, the fact is it is a step that was never taken.

The $31 million was cancelled just as surely as the cycling infrastructure was never completed. In fact, funding for cycling support was cut in the budget this month by more than 66 percent. Another broken promise.

And to add insult to injury, the HST will create a seven-percent increase in the cost of bikes, bike gear, and bike repairs. For 30 years there was a PST exemption for these expenses, with successive governments recognizing the health and environmental benefits of cycling. With the imposition of the HST, this government is creating a new disincentive to cycling.

So here is the problem for the government. And believe me it’s a big problem. They have disappointed and deceived a very potent constituency in British Columbia. This is a group who is not necessarily defined by their political stripes, by their age, by their income level, or by any other demographic. This is a group that spans the political spectrum and the province, and they are frustrated and bewildered by this flip flop. It’s three years until the next election—and these people are going to remember.

I think everybody understands our province is going through a period of economic turmoil. We get that. What we don’t understand is how a government can change its values. Values should not be affected by the economy.

In the case of this government, they have gone from touting cycling as key component of the province’s strategy for encouraging healthy living and addressing climate change, to creating a new tax and pretending it’s to fund healthcare.

So it is left for me to say it: the bike clothes are gone and this premier isn’t wearing anything at all.

Lana Popham is a avid cyclist and the MLA for Saanich South on Vancouver Island. Her Web site is bringing together cyclists who want the B.C. government to be bike-friendly again.

Original article:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CrossRoads: Transportation Forum on Wednesday March 31

Dear Friends,

A few months ago, I attended an event in Vancouver and heard Gordon Price, the Director of the City Program at SFU. He is very knowledgeable and an amazing communicator. I think his contributions could help us make better transportation decisions.

Please join me for keynote address by Gordon Price and a panel discussion with local experts for an evening of thoughtful discussion.

The event takes place at UVIC in the Human and Social Development Building, A240. (Click here for a map.)

I hope to see you soon!



PS. The poster with all the details is below. I would be grateful if you could help circulate the event info. The event is free and open to the public.

Click here to download a poster.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Update: A Week in the House!

Dear Saanich South,

Hello everyone! As you know, the BC Legislature resumed sitting just over a week ago and I've been going full-out on your behalf. It is a privilege, thank you!

A few brief updates...

More than 5000 cyclists are now supporting my efforts to "make the BC government bike-friendly again". We had a fantastic rally. In the process, we've exposed an inconvenient truth: the BC government is undermining its own green initiatives with decisions such as the recent one to raise taxes on bikes, bike gear, and bike repairs by 7%. Visit my website or watch this three minute /A\ Channel news report about it.

Our government is currently giving tax breaks to the most polluting forms of transportation and raising taxes on the most environmentally friendly forms of transportation! They've got it backwards.

Safe Roads in Saanich
There was another serious accident at Sayward and the Pat Bay Highway on Tuesday. Ironically, the day before it happened I spoke up in the Legislature and demanded the government prioritize improvements for this intersection. It is one of the most dangerous on the Vancouver Island and a government-commissioned report has highly recommended low-cost improvements be made immediately. Here is a short Hansard clip of what I said in the House. (All of the following clips are from Hansard and many not work on all browsers.)

In the last week I also rose in the Legislature to speak about the very problematic decision to cut funding for intensive therapy for children with autism. Early Intensive Behaviour Therapy (EIBI) is proven to produce significant results, allowing children to experience a tremendous improvement in the quality of their life. It also saves us millions in long-term care costs and leads to millions of dollars in economic value as autistic children are better able to contribute meaningfully to society. I join with many in working to persuade Minister Polak to reconsider this decision. In the Legislature, I spoke about one constituent in a particular, Hollie Davis, and her wonderful son Cooper. A short video clip is here.

As a farmer, this subject is incredibly important to me. I was very frustrated that in the Budget presented this week the government decided to again slash funding from agricultural supports. Our BC Orchards are facing extinction, unable to compete with products dumped in from nearby states or driven in from thousands of kilometres away. Our cattleman are asked to work in near impossible business conditions and under a deeply flawed regulatory regime. And the current government is walking away.

Buy BC! For example, now is the time for great local apples and squash. In a few months, the fresh local strawberries and so much more will be here. (Just hold on, the wait will make you enjoy them even more!)

As you know, it is my guiding political principle. I was proud of the speech made this week by my colleague, Bob Simpson, MLA for Cariboo North, and the Opposition Critic for the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. In a short paragraph he concluded his Response to the Budget with a clear expression of what sustainability means and why it is so important. Click here to watch that video clip.

Hope you are well. Please keep in touch.

Lana Popham

PS. Now I'm off to Vancouver to work all weekend!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bike Rally Follow-up

Thanks to everyone who helped make the bike rally on Wednesday such a sucesss. The weather was superb and the crowd was even better! Here are a few videos of the event, made by people in the crowd: pedal power!

(If you are on facebook and the videos don't show up, click here.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bike Rally Update!


The bike rally is this Wednesday at noon at the Legislature. Here is one last update for you.

The petition has spiked again and is now at over 4600! Thanks to everyone for helping make this so successful.

If you are still collecting hard-copies, make sure to email ( or fax (250.479.4176) them in by 12 pm on Tuesday March 2. That is the deadline for the petition. I will present it to the Legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

Almost 300 people have RSVP’d on Facebook so we are expecting a great turnout. Rain or shine! We’ve got a super line-up of speakers. This is an important moment to celebrate cycling and to let the government know what we think of their plan to hike taxes on bikes. Don’t miss it!

(If you are in Nanaimo, there is a connected event happening this Wednesday at 4pm at the corner of Comox and Terminal. Details on Facebook.)

Do you want to attend Question Period? I’ve reserved twelve seats for people who want to stick around for QP. It is definitely something worth experiencing and it should be quite charged as the Budget is being introduced tomorrow. Email me by Tuesday at 3 pm if you want a ticket. I’ll need your full name and you’ll need to bring ID and be ready to go by 1:30 pm on Wednesday. (QP starts around 2 pm.)

A few people have asked me why I am pushing on this issue so hard when there are many other equally good reasons to oppose the HST.

It is true that for me and many people, the first objection is one of principle: the current government promised during the recent election campaign that they would not introduce an HST. Once in power they quickly announced it as fait accompli. We must call them on this broken promise.

But this HST is also an assault on green initiatives. As an environmentalist, that is something that I have to speak out about. The bike issue is simply an excellent example of what is wrong with the HST. Also, I`m an avid cyclist myself so this issue is close to my heart. Further, this effort fits in very well with the larger anti-HST campaign. Finally, many people in Saanich South brought this issue to me and asked me to act on it.

For almost thirty years, bikes (and bike expenses like repairs, helmets and locks) have been PST exempt. Why? Because successive governments, agreed it made no sense to tax such a healthy and environmentally-friendly form of transportation.

In fact, it was Hugh Curtis, a Socred Finance Minister who first made this decision. In a Budget Speech in 1981, he said that cycling would be PST exempt because “it is consistent with a healthier, quieter and more energy-efficient society.”

This rationale has only become stronger over time as we’ve learned more about the benefits of healthy living and the importance of reducing our carbon emissions. The more we can encourage people to ride bikes rather than drive cars, the better it is for everyone. It means less traffic congestion, less wear and tear on our roads and potentially lower health-care costs.

I wonder if the B.C. government can explain how jacking up the price of a bike is going to help make B.C. more sustainable or encourage people to make healthy lifestyle choices. How does this possibly advance B.C.’s Climate Action Plan? 

A government that increases taxes on green transportation is traveling in the wrong direction. 

I am of the view that we need to create incentives for green transportation and disincentives for more polluting forms of transportation. Standing up for cyclists as an Opposition MLA is one way that I can help keep the pressure on.

What is Next?
The drive to stop the HST is just ramping up. The campaign is at the forefront and I will be supporting their efforts.

In terms of cycling, my petition and the rally are just the beginning. In the process of organizing these efforts, I’ve created a new BC network with thousands of cyclists and hundreds of bike stores and cycling coalitions.

We are a potent province-wide constituency that includes people from all walks of life and a range of political views.

I won’t stop until we are successful in making the BC government bike-friendly again. 

Squeaky wheels get the grease!

Thanks so much for your support,


Lana Popham, MLA Saanich South

Visit for more info.