With English Bay as the backdrop, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stood on the sun-drenched pier in West Vancouver's John Lawson Park yesterday to announce his party's plans to protect the marine environment -- but refused to take a clear stance on a big marine environment debate currently raging in the potential swing riding.
"A Liberal government will make protecting our oceans a priority," Trudeau declared.
In his speech, Trudeau outlined a four-point plan: to formalize a moratorium on crude oil tankers off the North Coast, reinstate $40 million cut from ocean science and monitoring, protect five per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10 per cent by 2020, and work with the provinces and aboriginal people to co-manage oceans.
A fifth point in an online news release, which Trudeau omitted from his speech, said the Liberals would re-establish thorough environmental assessments, review Conservative government amendments to the Fisheries Act and modernize safeguards to fish habitats.
Trudeau made no mention at all about the debate in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky Country riding over the proposed $1.7-billion Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish. The plant would produce 2.1 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year and showcase Trudeau ally and B.C. Premier Christy Clark's ambition to build an LNG industry on the west coast.
Opponents worry the LNG terminal at the repurposed pulp and paper mill would affect the water and put Howe Sound at risk of an LNG tanker spill. The project is in the middle of a B.C.-led environmental assessment review process.
Conservative incumbent John Weston is for the project, challengers Ken Melamed (Green) and Larry Koopman (NDP) are against, and Liberal Pam Goldsmith-Jones, the former West Vancouver mayor, is on the fence, apparently still listening to questions and concerns. The council that she led from 2005 to 2011 voted against the project twice in 2014.
Neither the Squamish Nation nor District of Squamish support the project, unless their lengthy lists of conditions are met.
No definitive position
So, this reporter asked, does Trudeau and his Liberal party have a policy on Woodfibre LNG?
"One of the things that I have committed to since the beginning of this campaign is listening to Canadians and working with them to ensure that we're building a better future that understands you can't make a choice between what's good for the environment and what's good for the economy, they need to go together," Trudeau said.
"Mr. Harper, for 10 years, hasn't understood that and hasn't acted on that. That is why the Liberal Party is committed to being a better partner to provinces, better partner to municipalities and more understanding of Canadians' concerns. Before projects get built, they have to acquire social license. Peoples' concerns have to be aired, we have to make sure that we're moving forward in both partnership with indigenous peoples, approval of local communities and a reassurance by Canadians that the highest environmental and scientific standards will be met, and that's what we pledge to do, because ultimately governments don't grant permits, communities grant permission."
Pressed further for his position on Woodfibre LNG, Trudeau answered: "Canada needs to develop its resources in a way that is sustainable and responsible. Canadians that I talk to everywhere know that we need to create good jobs and a strong future while at the same time we are creating strong communities, protecting the environment, our air, our water, our land for future generations. That's why there is a process around projects such as LNG proposals that we are watching and that we are supporting and we are committed to strengthening where necessary."
"So," this reporter asked again, "you have no position?"
Trudeau concluded: "We're going to be having debates in the coming weeks, I look forward to you attending those as well."