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Provincial project threatens Delta bird habitat: MLA Huntington

Indpendent MLA Vicki Huntington used her first speech in the British Columbia legislature to denounce the provincial government's destruction of migratory bird habitat in her constituency.

“There is nothing in the throne speech or the budget that recognizes a moral obligation to the flyway and the wildlife that depends on it,” she said, according to the Hansard transcript of the Sept. 3 speech that listed several reasons she believes voters chose her over Liberal incumbent Wally Oppal. “Without a healthy foreshore and without protected agricultural lands, we will destroy the habitat that supports that flyway.”

The biggest threat to agricultural land in Delta is the province's Gateway highway program that will destroy 1,000 acres, she said. “The finest soil in Canada will become a rail yard, a container-storage facility, a four-lane truck highway, an interchange, a commercial development and a container port.”

Asked about Huntington's comments, Environment Minister Barry Penner said, “The federal government has constitutional authority with respect to migratory birds because they cross boundaries.” He said he believed a Gateway environmental assessment had addressed bird habitat, but that he would have to check.

The Fraser delta is one of the four most important bird habitats in the world and has Canada's largest concentration of birds of prey, Huntington said in her speech.

“The [provincial] government likes to say that we have to balance the economy and the environment,” she said. “Well, Delta South is the balance. We are all that is left of the habitat that supports millions and millions of birds. But no one listens. Instead we build highways and container ports on the most precious land in the province. Where has our morality gone?”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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