Fish Lip Service
Imagine that your government would only protect you if you were proven to be valuable to the economy. Imagine that even if you were valuable to your economy, and therefore legally had the protection of the government, they are careful to point out that they will only protect you, not your home. Would you feel protected?
This is what has happened to the fisheries act under Bill C-38: the government has been careful to clarify which fish they will protect (only those with commercial value), and they’ve removed protection for the habitat of fish. This has all been done for the sake of cutting red tape for development projects, and the government insists that it has not reduced actual protection, just bureaucracy. But how can they single out a few types of fish to protect in the midst of an ecosystem? And how can they expect to protect those fish without protecting the places where those fish live, breathe, eat, and spawn? In this regard, what is true of a fish is also true of you and me: how can we be healthy and safe if our environment, which provides the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the materials for our shelter, clothing, and other consumer goods, is not itself healthy and safe?
Of course, just because the government no longer protects the habitat of fish doesn’t necessarily mean that they are at risk. Development projects still must undergo environmental reviews, even though those have been streamlined significantly (read: sped up). But new legislation actually gives a minister the ability to circumvent the assessment process, if the project is significant enough.
So we have protection of fish, but without protection of streams; and we have (fast) environmental assessments, unless it’s a really big project, in which case it can be skipped. This speaks volumes about the Harper government’s commitment to a growing economy at all costs, as well as its belief that economy and environment are opposed to one another and economy must triumph over environment. These assumptions are simply untrue.
There is a belief, common in our government, that environmentalists are against the economy. What an absurd claim! We have jobs, pay taxes, buy the products we need (and want), give to charity, and volunteer in our communities, just like everyone else. While we may debate over whether continual growth is positive (or even possible), we know we need an economy to survive as a community, as a nation. What environmentalists don’t believe in is a growing economy at all costs.
Protection of the environment is not about being a bleeding-heart animal lover, or coveting our favourite canoeing spots. Economy cannot exist without environment, which is the source of all of our goods and resources. To pay lip service to protection of the environment while allowing major industrial projects to skip even an assessment is disingenuous, and will ultimately cut the legs of our economy (that is, our environment) out from under us.
This post was prepared by Jeff Wheeldon of the South Eastman Transition Initiative.