B.C. approves 314 new cutblocks in endangered caribou habitat over last five months

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As more caribou populations flicker out, and pressure mounts on the province to protect the species’ habitat, logging approvals have almost quadrupled since mid-October

The B.C. government approved 314 new logging cutblocks in the critical habitat of southern mountain caribou over the past five months, while simultaneously negotiating conservation plans to protect the highly endangered species, according to maps released Thursday by the Wilderness Committee.

The new cutblocks cover almost 16,000 hectares in total, an area almost eight times the size of the city of Victoria.

The Wilderness Committee discovered a sharp spike in logging approvals in the critical habitat of B.C.’s eight most imperilled caribou herds, where last October the group documented an additional 83 new cutblocks covering an area the equivalent of 11 Stanley Parks in size.

“On the one hand B.C. says it’s protecting caribou while on the other they’re handing out permits to log habitat as fast as they can,” said Charlotte Dawe, the Wilderness Committee’s conservation and policy campaigner.

“It’s as if the B.C. government is holding a clear out sale for logging companies to ‘get it while you can!’ It’s the great caribou con from our very own B.C. government.” MORE

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‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ book sheds light on everyday exposure to toxic chemicals

The new 10th anniversary edition of the book ‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ examines health impacts and calls for stronger regulations against toxic chemicals in Canada and around the world.

“Bruce and I poisoned ourselves so you don’t have to,” joked Rick Smith, speaking at the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxicity of Everyday Life Affects Our Health in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Ten years ago, Smith and co-author Bruce Lourie set out to write a book about the insidious, invisible toxic chemicals found in the products consumers handle every day, from shampoo and shaving cream to non-stick frying pans.

They took an unconventional approach, and decided to become guinea pigs themselves.

Through a dozen experiments, Smith and Lourie examined the impacts of chemicals including Teflon, triclosan, and bisphenol A — better known as BPA — on their own bodies.

They sat in a new car for six hours to measure levels of volatile organic compounds, such as benzene. They slathered themselves in products containing phthalates and parabens. Lourie ate tuna for a day to see if it would lead to higher levels of mercury in his body.

Across the board, Smith and Lourie measured increased toxins in their bodies.

“If we took the science related to these toxic chemicals seriously, this would be a huge societal priority,” said Smith, who is also executive director of the Broadbent Institute, an independent research organization founded by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent that promotes democracy, equality and sustainability. “We’ve created an enormous problem for ourselves that’s at the root of a lot of the diseases our families experience.” MORE

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B.C. audit blames ‘gaps’ in provincial law for growing oilpatch liabilities


Oil and gas infrastructure is seen behind a chain link fence in this undated file photo by Louie Villanueva

The number of abandoned oil wells in British Columbia almost doubled between 2007 and 2018 and funds collected from operators to cover cleanup costs for a growing number of orphaned wells are insufficient, the province’s auditor general said in a report issued on Thursday.

A major reason for that is that the industry’s regulator, the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), lacks the power to compel operators to decommission and restore well sites in a timely way, said Carol Bellringer.

“We found that gaps in the provincial legislation governing the OGC meant operators weren’t required to decommission or restore their inactive well sites unless the OGC explicitly ordered them to do so because of specific safety or environmental issues,” she said.

The provincial government has created a new law that will give the regulator more coercive powers, she said in a phone interview, but the regulations that would allow it to be enforced are still being drafted. MORE

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Morneau set to table high-stakes election year budget as SNC-Lavalin scandal rages on

Seniors, skills training and housing affordability are expected to be the focus of the 2019 spending plan


Finance Minister Bill Morneau will table a federal budget Tuesday. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau tables his federal budget Tuesday — a high-stakes election year spending plan that could be as much about shoring up sliding Liberal support as it is about fiscal policy.

The 2019 budget is expected to help seniors, enhance skills training opportunities and make housing more affordable for millennials and other first-time buyers.

Experts predict it will target key constituencies as the Liberals seek a distraction from the SNC-Lavalin scandal and look toward the fall election.

“I think they will send a strong message to Canadians that they are still in the game, that they want to be re-elected and do things that are quite bold,” said Daniel Béland, political science professor and director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.  “They also need to divert attention away from the SNC-Lavalin story. I suspect a timid budget at this point would be a political mistake.” MORE

‘Livelihoods are at stake’: Senate under pressure to overhaul controversial Bill C-69

Industry lobbying senators for changes to proposed environmental assessment laws


Opponents of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline protest outside a Liberal Party fundraising event in Vancouver, B.C. Industry groups representing virtually every natural resources sector in Canada are warning the government’s environmental assessment overhaul needs a major overhaul. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

The federal Liberal government’s controversial overhaul of environmental assessment legislation has united virtually every major natural resources industry association in opposition — and they’re asking the Senate committee studying Bill C-69 to make some fixes to avoid threatening the viability of key sectors of the economy.

Amid the barrage of criticism, the government itself has recognized it may have to agree to some tweaks to get the legislation — expected to be one of the last major pieces of the Liberal agenda to pass before the fall election — through the Red Chamber.

Speaking last week at an event for Canada’s mining companies — one of the few sectors that has offered support for the elimination of some federal and provincial regulatory duplication in Bill C-69 — Trudeau thanked miners for their “measured” approach to the legislation.

“Quite frankly, [a] number of thoughtful submissions and amendments to that, to improve it, [came] from this industry,” Trudeau said.

Since the Senate began its study of Bill C-69 last month, however, industry representatives from the oil and gas, hydro, nuclear and uranium sectors have appeared before the energy committee with a long list of suggested amendments. Rather than a few tweaks, these industries are proposing major rewrites. MORE