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Mulroney the Eco-PM?

And other assaults on natural common sense.

By Rafe Mair 24 Apr 2006 | TheTyee.ca

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Today, we're going to do a little law. Nothing heavy duty, but pretty basic and very important.

Suppose I employ you and I fire you without cause. The courts will award you damages. What happens, though, if I don't fire you, but just make life so difficult for you that you quit? The courts will hold that this is "constructive termination" and will likewise award damages just as if I had wrongfully dismissed you.

What's this all in aid of? Simply this: the federal government going back to Mulroney's years and before, the BC government going back to the arrival of the Liberals, have deliberately sabotaged the west coast fishery so that it is in serious peril all up and down the coast.

I can't prove this was deliberate, you say?

Well, it sure as hell amounts to the same thing. It was all I could do to keep my dinner down when Brian Mulroney got an award for being the "greenest" prime minister. Have these bastards got no shame! It was during Mulroney's watch that Kemano II was approved by a DFO that was ordered to do what the minister, Tom Siddon, wanted.

I haven't time nor space to tell all about that, but basically, Kemano II would have lowered the Nechako River to about 20 percent of its natural capacity, thus putting into serious jeopardy the large runs of Sockeye salmon who traverse part of the Nechako en route to spawn. Many will remember how Kemano II was only stopped by courageous ex-DFO people and an outraged public.

Duncan's fishy return

The DFO has remained politicized. It's not that the department doesn't have good men and women, because it has. The problem is that they must do as they are told.

The fish farm issue is a disgrace. In the face of all the science to the contrary, the provincial government without waiting for the legislative committee to investigate and report back, has approved new farms in the Broughton Archipelago and now, for the first time in the mouth of the Skeena, both acts in the face of local voters who voted on it in the last provincial election and the last federal.

The three Liberal MLAs from the area lost their seats and fish farm patsy John Duncan lost his federal seat on the same issue. The new fisheries minister is Loyola Hearn and no prizes for guessing where he's from: Newfoundland and Labrador. And guess who Hearn appointed as a special adviser for the west coast? John Cummins, who has forgotten more about this subject than Hearn will even learn? Of course not, because Cummins knows what he's talking about and isn't afraid to speak out. No, John Duncan, fired by the people for his stance on fish farms is as powerful as if he had been elected and put in cabinet.

Last week, we learned that two million pink salmon - yes, two million - were lost because the DFO didn't properly monitor a gravel operation. The Fraser River Coho are on the road to extinction, yet the fisheries minister, who wouldn't know a Coho from a catfish, will not declare the species endangered. Alcan has never been compelled to build the cold water release into the Nechako, thus putting all those sockeye just as much at risk as they were before the public rose to fight Kemano II.

The coming dam

I have only just scratched the surface but what about my assertion that the governments are deliberately wiping out our salmon? Isn't that a tad irresponsible?

Let me answer the question with a question: what other possibility exists? I invite you to Google the Moran Dam and it will all become clear. This proposed dam was all the rage with the post World War II Liberals, especially Defence Minister Andrew MacNaughton. But it didn't stop there. Bruce Hutchison, in his otherwise marvelous book The Fraser, painted a paradise built with all that power. W.A.C. Bennett in 1967 was all for the idea, but outdoors people made such a fuss about the concomitant loss of salmon that he backed off. When I was in cabinet in the 70s, the cerebral Dr. Patrick McGeer raised the notion until I asked him about the salmon. He looked at me as if I had gone mad. Why, we have fish ladders to get the fish past the dam. Science would, as always, prevail!

"Pat," I asked, "how, pray tell, do you get the fry back down the river?"

He evidently hadn't thought of that. The fact is, as proved by the Grand Coulee on the Columbia, you can't.

The Moran Dam, which would be north of Lytton on the Fraser, is coming, folks. The governments know that they can't build it while there are fish migrating upstream. BUT, once those fish are gone, why not? All the evidence points to deliberate killing off of pesky salmon runs or such neglect that it amounts to the same thing. I'll not likely live to see it, but many of you will, unless the public organizes, which is pretty tough to do because of how the governments have divided the opposition.

I don't want to be right on this issue, but alas, I fear I am.

Postscript on Plecas

Pardon a postscript. I was at the launch of Bob Plecas' book, Bill Bennett: A Mandarin's View. If the rest of his book is as accurate as his part about my leaving government, it's not worth even borrowing, much less buying. Plecas doesn't even understand that upon resignation of an MLA the Premier has six months to call a by-election, not hold one, which, in effect, with the campaign time, gives him about eight months.

Plecas interviewed me on this book and didn't have the decency to put his wrong suppositions to me. If he had asked me, I would have pointed out that there were two stages to my leave-taking, not one. First, in the beginning of January 1981, I resigned my health portfolio, but held my seat because I mistakenly thought I could do a talk show and sit as an MLA. When, some weeks later, it became obvious I couldn't (for one thing, I would miss Friday sittings because they are in the morning when I would be broadcasting) I advised the premier of this, in writing, and he asked me to talk with the late Hugh Harris, his right hand man, which I did and Hugh brokered my leaving the legislature. That was the second stage.

Plecas is supposed to be a smart man, but he's clearly lazy. If he had done me the courtesy of asking about this two-layer resignation, he would have got it right and not made it look as if I didn't know what I was doing. I've found that books that have glaring errors and are written sloppily in one area, probably aren't worth reading, much less buying.

Rafe Mair writes a Monday column for The Tyee. His website is www.rafeonline.com.  [Tyee]

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