Thursday, December 22, 2016

Saanich News: Concerns remain over sewage plan

by Lana Popham
Reprinted from the Saanich News, December 20 2016

The long journey that our sewage treatment planning has taken in the CRD is all too familiar to most of us. 

The latest chapter began in September when a BC Liberal government Project Board and the CRD created another plan.

This was very similar to an earlier proposal and includes a regional sewage plant in Esquimalt that will treat the sewage, release liquids into the ocean and pump the remaining solids through a pipeline to Hartland Landfill in Saanich.

After this decision was made I received many emails and calls from constituents, most expressing frustration or outrage at different aspects of the plan. A majority of the people who contacted my office live in the Prospect Lake and Willis Point area. Their drinking water is from wells and a top concern I heard was that this plan puts their water supply at risk.

Residents in both communities asked me to help organize a public meeting. They wanted answers to their specific questions and they wanted their concerns addressed. They did not want a repeat of what has happened before: they are “consulted” after decisions have already been made.

I wrote to the Project board on October 6th proposing meeting dates for the end of November. I made it clear that the goal of this public meeting was to have an amicable and efficient Q&A session attended by CRD or Project Board representatives who could speak knowledgeably to the issues under discussion. To that end my Constituency Office was prepared assist in outreach, including collating questions that would be provided in advance of the meeting. We also offered to organize the public meeting and cover the costs.

On October 11th I received a response from the Project Board refusing my offer and informing me that they would be undergoing their own consultation process.

I replied expressing my disappointment that the Board wouldn’t entertain participating in a community meeting moderated by myself as the MLA for Saanich South and attended by the Willis Point Community Association and Prospect Lake District Community Association. I pointed out that affected communities have a reasonable expectation of being updated on plans at the beginning of such a process and that delays create unnecessary anxiety and are inconsistent with the principle of transparency. The community expects the opportunity to offer feedback and input before decisions are made rather than being informed after the fact and being presented with proposals that are in fact finalized.

I reiterated that this meeting was not intended to berate the CRD or rehash the past decade. I asked the Project Board Chair to reconsider her decision but to date I have not received a reply or response to my email. It has been over two months.

As the MLA for an area that will be significantly affected by this project I am troubled by the Project Board’s failure to fully and openly engage with residents and local resident associations. It is a warning sign that we are again advancing a sewage treatment plan that lacks local accountability and a social licence.

I again call on the Project Board to meet publicly with local residents and show good faith by answering their questions and addressing their concerns. I remain ready and willing to help facilitate this process.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

MSP Premiums

Dear Constituents, 

I'm pleased to share the position of the Official Opposition on MSP Premiums: they are not fair and should be eliminated.

It doesn’t make sense that a person making $42,000 a year pays the same amount as a person earning $400,000, or even $4 million. 
MSP premiums do not have any relation to the actual cost of health care and increases to MSP premiums are rising faster than increases in health spending and faster than inflation. 
Since Christy Clark became premier, she has increased MSP fees every single year – fees are up by 24 per cent in the last 5 years alone. 
Recently Christy Clark and her government announced that MSP premiums would stay at the current rate in 2017, cancelling their planned 4 per cent increase. But that doesn’t apply to more than 500,000 B.C. families without children at home that will see one of the largest ever medical services premium tax hikes on January 1st. 
Her ‘freeze’ on MSP for some British Columbians has come as no surprise – 2017 is an election year and she wants you to believe that she’s on your side. The real truth is that over half a million British Columbians will be paying more leaving her government to rake in an extra $46 million a year.  
Christy Clark thinks senior couples living on fixed incomes, and young people who are just starting their professional lives don’t deserve a break. She is not putting British Columbians first – and that is certainly the case when it comes to the unfair Medical Services Plan premiums. 
MSP premiums are another cost to B.C. families, especially those already struggling to make ends meet. The Official Opposition recognizes that the current system only benefits those at the top, and this needs to change.
All British Columbians should be treated fairly and MSP premiums should be eliminated.


Lana Popham
MLA, Saanich South

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Saanich News: Pipeline expansion endangers environment

by Lana Popham
Reprinted* from the Saanich News, December 6 2016

Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberal government have failed to oppose Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project. Their inaction puts B.C.’s coast at risk and is not in the best interests of British Columbians.

I am categorically opposed to this project. It is too risky for the environment and the economy. In this I stand with many people, including B.C. NDP leader John Horgan, the majority of British Columbians and the First Nations over whose land these pipelines will travel.

I am working to empower British Columbians to build a forward-looking economy. One that gains strength from the labour and creativity of our residents and is powered by renewable energy and the sustainable use of our natural resources.

The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion takes us in exactly the opposite direction. It is a project that endangers our environment and our economy, worsens climate change and damages relations with First Nations.

If the B.C. and federal Liberals get their way, this project will lead to a pipeline that crosses more than 500 rivers in the Fraser Valley watershed and increases tanker traffic sevenfold. There would be more than 400 tankers every year passing right by our homes on the south Island. And remember these tankers would be carrying diluted bitumen, an oil so thick, viscous and crude that any major spill would be impossible to fully clean and would cause tremendous damage to wildlife, our life-giving watersheds and natural places like Cordova Bay and Cadboro Bay. This plan would mean that on average every day there would be 890,000 barrels of oil moving past our beaches and coastline. Every day. The ecology of our coast and the Salish Sea as a whole is simply too precious and vulnerable for us to continue down this path.

The small but terribly damaging diesel spill in Bella Bella in October was a reminder that the weather on the open water in the strait can make it impossible to clean up oil spills and that the consequences of even a small spill can be catastrophic for people living nearby.
The economic impact of a major oil spill on the shores of Vancouver or Victoria could be epochal, potentially decimating our tourism industry for years, and putting tens of thousands of people out of work. More than 300,000 jobs in B.C. depend directly on a healthy coast. Vancouver has estimated even trying to clean up a moderate spill would cost more than a billion dollars.

The Liberal’s Kinder Morgan plan is also completely irreconcilable with our climate change commitments. To start with, the diluted bitumen oil this pipeline will bring is from the Alberta tar sands, one of the most polluting sources of energy in Canada. Canada’s emissions have been rising since 2009. Adding new tar sands emissions will only exacerbate the enormous challenge we face with global warming.

Burning all the oil transported from an expanded Kinder Morgan Pipeline would add at least 75-100 million tonnes of climate-changing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere every year! As context, consider that in 2014 B.C. produced greenhouse gas emissions totalling 64 million tonnes.*

This is a moment of truth for us all. Kinder Morgan plans to begin construction of the pipeline this fall. We must demand the B.C. Liberals stop favouring the petro-corporations that line their pockets and start protecting our environment and the long-term interests of all British Columbians.

As the B.C. New Democratic Opposition Leader MLA John Horgan said this week: “British Columbians gave Christy Clark a chance to protect our coast and she chose to put wealthy donors before the well-being of local communities, First Nations and our coastal environment.”*

Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have not stepped up to defend our coast. But the B.C. NDP opposition has, and we will continue to do so. Let’s demand a B.C. government that will defend our coast and advance a vibrant, forward-looking economy with good jobs and incomes.

Lana Popham is the MLA for Saanich South.

Source: *Starred paragraphs were removed from print version for reasons of length but have been reproduced here.