“This is not ‘their’ election…it is ours. ‘They’ do not get to choose what this election is about,WE do!” ~ Rick Mercer

I haven’t blogged much about the federal election because quite frankly, unless you are a political nut like so many of us are, the reality is that not many people pay attention until right before they vote… and far more Canadians do not pay attention at all… as evidenced by the number of registered voters who did not even bother to vote…. http://lailayuile.com/2015/08/11/the-only-way-to-change-it-is-to-vote-people-are-responsible-paul-wellstone/

Imagine that! Not even knowing an election is about to happen? Or knowing who is running our country? Think it isn’t possible? Well watch this!! https://www.facebook.com/everythingmtl/videos/1061443130541460/?pnref=story

Wow. I know that might be a reality check for a lot of you, but this IS the reality of many Canadians very absorbed in making ends meet, going to school, picking kids up from daycare, trying to get by on pensions, etc. etc.

But this election has been hijacked by some power-hungry strategists and brokers who have a lot on the line. And you know what? Their issues- while contentious-really have no bearing on the everyday lives of the majority of Canadians. Seriously.
And Rick Mercer gets that. In less time than it takes me to think about a blog post headline, he reminds Canadians what this election is all about.

Over the next week, culminating in an inspiring post on Friday, I’ll have a number of posts on the issues of Election 2015 for you, along with a look at some red herrings and a trip down memory lane of our current governments record.

Please, share your thoughts, criticisms and wisdom as Canadians.

Forest fire prevention and mitigation in BC: At what point does inaction become negligence?

“There were at least 21 fires that started in British Columbia on Sunday. There were 36 Saturday. There were 32 Friday. There are 178 burning right now.

A haze blankets the majority of people in B.C., as winds bring smoke from fires in Pemberton to people in Vancouver and Victoria. The Metro Vancouver Air Quality Health Index went to 10+, or “Very High Risk” on Sunday night.

READ MORE: Air quality advisory issued for Metro Vancouver and Sunshine Coast

And undoubtedly, there will be more fires to come in the days and weeks ahead…”

Source: http://globalnews.ca/news/2092023/fires-raging-across-b-c-as-concern-for-the-summer-deepens/

Our forests, our lives

2013-09-01 022

The vast and varied forests of British Columbia, are without question one of our greatest resources. In its heyday, the forest industry in our province provided a revenue source that sustained entire communities through logging, sawmills and pulpmills. In fact most of my family and friends up north have worked in the forestry industry via one or another of these sectors.


The impact of the massive pine beetle kill was sizable,but once most of the salvaged ( and marketable) wood was harvested, sawmills began to close in many areas. It was also discovered back in 2012 that our forests had been badly mismanaged – the Forest Practices Board concurred with forester Anthony Britneff’s assessment that cut forests had not been satisfactorily restocked via tree-planting. What do these two things have in connection?

It takes a long time to re-grow a logged area to a size that can be harvested again -and this didn’t take into account the often unchecked logging that takes place on privately owned land. Between the vast amounts of beetle kill in BC and the failure to replant trees to a level and standard we needed to, every single remaining forest in our province becomes that much more valuable/

The need for protection of our forests for either wood harvest or simply as a wild habitat for our animals, becomes clear.

The amazing stands of douglas fir  and majestic ceders or redwoods are magnets for those who call nature their church,who find solace and reverence in forests thick and tall. Those trees provide much needed stability along lakes and streams, preventing run-off that makes clear water silty, clogging gills of fish and aquatic wildlife.The need for conservation, is clear.

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Wildfire prevention and mitigation

Every time a forest fire is ignited, at best we lose valuable forest, at worst, we lose homes, and at times, lives. The costs to both communities and the province, is often staggering. So it makes sense that in a province with vast tracts of forest that in many areas merge with homes and communities, prevention efforts and mitigation is absolutely essential.

For more than a decade, the location and methods used to build forest communities was a massive concern- ” How BC was built to burn” ran in the Tyee in 2004, identifying major issues and safety concerns of many BC communities like Barriere and Whistler. http://thetyee.ca/News/2004/04/30/How_BC_Was_Built_to_Burn/

Of great interest in this article, is the Filmon Firestorm Report of 2003. I’ve linked to it separately here, because the link in the Tyee article is no longer working. http://bcwildfire.ca/History/ReportsandReviews/2003/FirestormReport.pdf


Pages 69 through 76 contain 41 recommendations based on his findings -some the province was advised to implement immediately, some would take time, but all were to be treated with urgency. While I can determine fire departments acted on the recommendations under their jurisdictions, I cannot determine if the province has completed their response.

His final thoughts included the following:

We believe that governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to implement risk reduction policies and legislation while the devastation of Firestorm 2003 is fresh in the public’s mind and the costs and consequences of various choices are well understood.

Another area of clear consensus was that concentration of resources and effort on issues that anticipate, prevent and prepare for disasters is a better investment than on expenditures made in coping with disasters. Consequently, we have made many recommendations to invest in preparedness, education and training.

There was also a firm recognition that many subdivisions in the interface were not designed to mitigate wildfire risks, nor were the dwellings constructed to reduce wildfire hazards.

We believe that local governments and individual homeowners have recognized the risks and are now prepared to follow the best information available to correct for past inaction. We believe they will accept strong direction and leadership on this issue.

The topic of fuel load reduction through prescribed burns is perhaps the best example of a strong consensus on what formerly had been a very controversial and divisive debate. Simply put, almost everyone who gave advice to the Review Team agreed that it was better to accept short-term inconvenience and irritation in favour of long-term reduction in hazard and cost.

Filmon was correct. We have had a trend of hotter,longer dryer fire seasons.  And with some predicting the current drought like conditions will continue through the next winter and into 2016, it’s reason for immediate review to see how many of these recommendations were implemented with urgency as Filmon dictated.

What’s happened since the report was issued? 

Despite this report, concerns were raised yet again in 2011 on what it would take to keep BC forest communities safe. http://www.policynote.ca/on-the-forest-fire-front-line-one-ecologists-take-on-what-it-will-take-to-safeguard-communities/

And sadly, just last week Robert Gray revealed a startling fact in this Times Columnist column: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/robert-w-gray-wildfires-cost-far-more-than-we-think-1.1988299

Knowing that wildfires have an even greater economic impact on annual provincial and local government budgets than originally estimated should compel the province to invest more in proactive wildfire-hazard mitigation. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

In 2014, the province didn’t invest any money in wildfire-hazard mitigation through investment in the Union of B.C. Municipalities Strategic Wildfire Prevention Program Initiative. It did, however, invest over $70 million in flood mitigation.

Since 2002, the province has invested over $2 billion in earthquake mitigation. In the 11 years since the 2003 fire season and the release of the Filmon Report, the province has invested only $100 million in wildfire-hazard mitigation, yet the cost of suppression alone over that same period has been $2.2 billion. Investments in hazard mitigation are only a fraction of the total amount being spent on fighting fires plus the damage caused by those fires — a pattern that runs counter to sensible cost-benefit risk-management practices.

It’s true no one can point a finger at any politician for this weather, or the drought we are experiencing. Nor can you lay blame for the rampant stupidity that leads to so many fire starts across the province.

But when reports commissioned by the government, make recommendation to the government to prevent similar situations in the future-a dire warning by any standard of commensense- are not fully implemented or funded, who takes the responsibility?


Who is in charge of legislating forest policy, forest management, removing fuel loads that feed fires?  The province of BC is.

In April of 2014, a full decade after the Filmon report was commissioned, Glen Sanders- a former firefighter and fire chief, took a look at the lessons learned- or not- by government and found the results lacking. http://www.abcfp.ca/publications_forms/documents/BCFORPRO-2014-2_Sanders.pdf

“I am dubious about the lessons learned by government, however, and many of the missteps identified in the Filmon Report will be repeated when the next firestorm strikes.

A wise person once said, “The worst mistake a person can make is to think that those in charge actually know what they are doing.” 

In a recent post, I reflected on how hindsight is only 20/20 if one applies the lessons learned to future actions and decisions. 

And if fire and forestry experts are concerned, I’m also concerned the government did not learn an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Did the government ensure every single one of the recommendations they were responsible for completing in Filmons report were undertaken? I don’t have that answer yet.

I hope we don’t have to wait for yet another firestorm report, to find out.

* For up-to date positions and details of reported wild fires in British Columbia, see this link: http://bcwildfire.ca/situation/

* Air quality reports/advisories can be found here: http://www.bcairquality.ca/index.html

In an update to this post that received thousands of views in the last few days, Coulson has reportedly signed a new contract with the province of BC.

The Mars Bombers will be back in service as early as Thursday.  http://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/311789601.html

And further to this, the contract will be under and existing helicopter contract with Coulson. http://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/311838091.html

( Some media outlets reporting the ministry is still in talks- check your local news to see what develops)

Hindsight is only helpful if you apply the lesson learned to future actions.

It was a day like any other day of my childhood summers; quick breakfast,clothes on and then running out the door to do the morning rounds of the yard.Checking to see where all the salamanders and toads had settled for the night was always the first thing on my mind,since I found both creatures so interesting.

Next up was a stop in the garden to quickly raid the raspberries or pea patch if it was the season-quickly because if mom caught us eating the goods meant to freeze for fall there would be trouble! Our garden wasn’t for looks,it was for necessity.

As I headed off to the edge of the garden to go down to the creek, I stopped  to pull the green bits out of some Indian Paintbrush growing in the ditch, sucking what little nectar a butterfly would find hard to release, with relish.

I loved our road.

At that time there were only a few homes besides ours,all on acreage and surrounded by lovely forests full of kinnickinnick, huckleberries, and native plants I’d weave into vines to make crowns for my hair. Free time in summer was spent looking for agates on the road, riding bikes all over and for me, playing at the creek.

It was on the far bank of the creek where I was exploring that I saw it. A flower unlike anything I had ever seen before anywhere in the forests around our house, or camping in the bush. To a young girl growing up in an area like this, it seemed alien and exotic in comparison to the daisies and Indian paintbrush so common elsewhere.


I sat there for a while, completely in awe. I looked around and could see no others. Where did this flower come from? How did it get here? So many questions for a young girl with no answers.

And then I picked it.

It was wilting even before I could get it home to a glass of water and completely limp shortly afterwards. I had killed it.

I recall very clearly going back and searching the forest floor all around the creek banks on both sides, then going around the forest in the back yard in my desperation to find another, but there were none. I was devastated in the knowledge of what I had willingly, without thought,done.

And for the rest of my years growing up in my childhood home, I never saw another flower like it. Even as an adult visiting home I have looked,although the creek is all but gone now and there are more homes in place of the forests of my youth- to no avail.

I know now, it was a native orchid often found in boreal forests and sub-alpine/alpine meadows in the province, called Calypso Bulbosa, or the Fairy Slipper orchid. I’ve seen them hiking in Whistler and around Manning Park but apparently I picked the only one that somehow found its way to the creek by my yard.

And even as a woman in my forties, I’ll never forget the feeling of regret of my action. I can’t go back and unpick that flower, but I can apply what I learned  in this stark lesson elsewhere. Sadly, I don’t often see that need to reflect in government.

They say hindsight is 20/20- and perhaps it is, but it only serves a purpose if you learn and act accordingly. Otherwise it’s about as useful as smoke in the wind.

For example, the housing and affordability crisis in Vancouver. While it’s still making the news, it’s anything but a new problem. Looking back there have been signs and complaints years for years but to what result? Not much until it now-again-makes the news and politicians muse solutions,spurred only act when public outrage reaches a level that can’t be ignored.

In Delta, farmland is once again under threat of expropriation in a time when drought and climate change is threatening crops elsewhere,creating higher prices in supermarket for many products. Looking back, this isn’t new either, yet I can foresee the day when politicians look back and go:”What the hell were we thinking??” Once that land is gone, it’s gone. Do we want to risk our food security at a local level?

Surrey is still, rampantly deforesting to build and there are stories popping up now of new homes on ALR land approved without due process. The pressures of phenomenal growth without keeping pace with vital social infrastructure is starting to show in ongoing issues around the city. Roads are in crumbles in many areas, yet this has been known and allowed willingly to fester for years. Playing catch-up is never a fun game when it comes to a community.

Forest fires this year already a massive concern, but has the province learned anything from past events? Have forest communities been built differently, more safely? Is scrub being removed, controlled burns being conducted,and are crews sent out early and aggressively enough? According to some people I’ve talked to, no. Communities need to be asking why.

It’s as much about learning from our past, as it is, taking care of the basics. I don’t like the words, shoulda, woulda, coulda….Sometimes you have to take a break, look at what you know and where you have been, so you can figure out the best way forward, for everyone.

Because although I believe it is never too late to change course and head in the right direction, it’s equally true that sometimes you only get one opportunity to really get it right. 

And do you really want to take that chance?

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Civil society depends on all of us deciding we’re all going to abide by the same laws.” ~ Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark is in the limelight again, after a recent interview with Mike Smyth where she decried the parents who allowed their children to cross the Kinder Morgan pipeline during the protests- you can hear Mike speaking about this interview with Jon McComb here: https://soundcloud.com/cknwnewstalk980/the-jon-mccomb-show-december-2-christy-clark-gives-parenting-advice

Here is Mike’s Province story today: http://www.theprovince.com/life/Smyth+Premier+Clark+slams+parents+Kinder+Morgan+child+protesters/10431555/story.html

“They’re 11 years old, for heaven’s sakes,” Clark railed in an interview. “Teaching your kids that it’s OK for them to break the law when they’re 11 years old isn’t OK. I think we all as parents would ask ourselves, ‘What kind of message are we sending to our kids?’”


I think most of us would say, ‘If my child broke the law, purposefully or not, there would be some punishment for that’ — whether or not I thought they were doing it for a greater cause.

“Civil society depends on all of us deciding we’re all going to abide by the same laws.”

In both links, Mike mentions the incident last year when she ran a stale red light, with her son…and a reporter in the car : http://lailayuile.com/2013/04/27/i-guess-the-message-from-our-premier-is-its-ok-to-do-it-as-long-as-you-dont-get-caught/

“At times, the two seem more like sidekicks — siblings even — than they do  mother and son. And especially so the morning when the two were on their way to  Hamish’s goalie clinic.

“Let’s see you go through this red light,” Hamish challenged as they pulled  up that morning, at 5:15 a.m., to an abandoned Vancouver intersection.

“I might. Don’t test me,” Clark replies.

“Yeah. Go ahead.”

“Should I?”

“There’s no one.”

“Would you go through? You shouldn’t because that would be breaking the law,”  she says.

And with that the car has already sailed underneath the stale red stoplight  and through the empty intersection.

“You always do that,” says Hamish.


After receiving harsh criticism for that well-publicized moment-former reporter Jonathan Fowlie was in the car at the time – the premier eventually apologized. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/christy-clark-admits-she-shouldn-t-have-run-red-light-1.1338794 

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark is apologizing after running a red light with her son and a newspaper reporter in the car.

According to an article published in the Vancouver Sun, Clark ran the light while driving her 11-year-old son to a hockey practice at 5:30 a.m. PT.

The reporter who was in the car quotes her son encouraging his mom to run the light.

Clark apologized Sunday after the article was published.

“I shouldn’t have done it, and I certainly shouldn’t have done it with my son in the car,” she said. “But you know, I work hard to be a great parent, and I’m not a perfect parent.”

The article also quotes Clark’s son saying she “always does that,” but Clark says that’s simply not true.

This is a tough one for many – peaceful protest and civil disobedience has been an essential part of democracy and throughout history has been instrumental for important changes like a woman’s right to vote, and the civil rights movement. I fully support peaceful protest and civil disobedience has resulted in positive changes to forest policy here in our own province, thanks to the War in the Woods. ( Interesting note: those protests began in response to the decision to allow clear-cut old growth logging by the NDP government of the time)

But I digress: There are two separate issues here.

First, the issue of  parents allowing or encouraging their children to break the law: in making the decision to cross the Kinder Morgan protest line, my hope would be parents would have had long discussions on this background and what the implications would be across the board. Some children at 11 may fully understand this, and many may not. That decision should be each parents judgement call and consideration, in full awareness of the consequences. While these events ended without harm or repercussions, that may not be the case in every protest or event.

While the premier can express her personal opinion on parents allowing their children to protest, that is all it is- her opinion. The motive for doing so would appear to be a vast difference from the motive for running a red light at the urging of your son, with a reporter in the car. To many that action exemplified willful disregard for the law in spirit and motive, regardless of the difference in penalty or how minor the infraction. Both are parenting issues.

However,a second and separate issue for me is this statement made by the premier in that same interview: “Civil society depends on all of us deciding we’re all going to abide by the same laws.”

I agree. A civil and just society does depend on the majority of society  respecting and upholding the word of the law. In occasions where the law is unjust or the cause is worthy, then society must undertake to make change and often civil disobedience is the chosen and effective path to longstanding change, as demonstrated in the historical examples given above.

For the premier though, it’s a bit rich to opine on society abiding by the same laws while her government – and persons connected to the Liberal party itself –  have undergone RCMP investigations, scrutiny and in two cases, charges.    And while the RCMP found nothing criminal took place in the case of Speaker of the House Linda Reids extraordinary expenses, the RCMP and the Ontario Police have remained silent on what their review of the RCMP ruling found. Why? ( I see no more recent news on this issue)


Her statement opens the door for other discussions about right and wrong, about the ethics and morals society largely operates by- and which government must as well. Because of this, her statement also opens the door to the manner in which her own government has conducted business which without a doubt, often laughs in the face of abiding by laws, or rules. In fact, there are many examples  where circumventing the rules appears to have become the new government past-time.

The Province editorial board recently commended the NDP for calling for Advanced Education Ministers resignation after the embarrassing revelations of his direct involvement in improper payments to which he allegedly covered up.

Premier Clarks response? She commended his excellent work,accepted his apology for his involvement, which took place when he was an RCMP officer and before he was elected!

Let’s not forget the horrific aftermath of the Health ministry firings that ruined many lives, and may have driven one man to commit suicide: 

“In the two years since the Ministry of Health fired eight workers amid allegations of breach of privacy and conflict of interest involving personal health records, the province has steadily retreated. Most of the workers have been reinstated or have settled claims for wrongful dismissal, and pharmaceutical research contracts have been restored. The government acknowledges it found no evidence that any medical data were accessed or used for purposes other than health research. The Premier has already said she expects the review will show her government was heavy-handed and unfair to many of the people involved.

But the government hasn’t explained why it went after those workers. Labour lawyer Marcia McNeil’s report was expected to shed some light on the scandal, which led one of the fired researchers, Roderick MacIsaac, to suicide. The coroner’s report noted he had experienced significant personal stress over his dismissal and its impact on his academic future, chronicled in a document found on his home computer.”

Both the government and premier Clark have come under fire by a senior official who said the probe into this debacle ” is tainted by conflict and crafted to protect the Premier’s office from judgment.”

Despite the continuing questions on the NDP’s identity crisis and recent support of flawed Liberal legislation, Opposition leader John Horgan brought all these points home in a feature printed online today: http://thelinkpaper.ca/?p=42661

I could go on, there are many more examples as the Liberals have endured many scandals,probes and investigations.( Feel free to add your own example in the comments below, but they must be supported with media reports and links, not simply conjecture.)

Indeed it’s true Premier Clark, that civil society depends on society deciding to abide by the laws, rules and ethics that govern us all – and that includes you. Politicians who live in glass houses, should never be quick to pick up stones.

Why exactly, is the Mars Bomber sitting idle?

As a northern girl born and raised just north of Prince George, I can tell you firsthand how important first response to a wildfire situation is, just as many British Columbians are saying now. Once a fire is reported and the decision is made that it’s a situation that must be handled, the earlier crews and/or aircraft can tackle the blaze, the more cost-effective it is, and the safer it is for all involved.

The Mars Bomber has for many years, been one part of an effective arsenal of fire -fighting in the province of BC, but last year the decision was made to stop their direct-award contract, and the Mars are sitting idle on Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island – much to the confusion of many who have seen the plane in action.  The Mars is capable of a large payload of water and, in some situations, can knock back a fire with incredible effectiveness, yet it sits after years of service to the province.
From the link above:

” Despite it’s world-renowned ability to scoop up and drop 27,200 litres of water at time and a 53-year legacy of dowsing forest fires across North America, this year the provincial government opted not to renew its contract with Coulson Flying Tankers, the Hawaii Mars’ owner.

Instead the province looked to Abbotsford-based Conair for aerial fire suppression, gaining the services of four smaller turbinepowered aircraft instead of the massive Hawaii Mars.

Early into the forest fire season, it appears the situation in B.C. will be particularly serious this year.

Halfway through July, 624 fires have been documented by the Wildfire Management Branch, encompassing 105,697 hectares. The spread of forest fires this summer has already eclipsed the 2013 total of 18,259 hectares, and appears to be approaching the average burn total of 141,000.T

he cost of fighting these blazes is yet to be released, but as a relatively calm season drained $122.2 million of provincial funds, the 2014 forest firefighting costs should be enormous.

According to Coulson Group of Companies CEO Wayne Coulson, the Mars bomber’s firefighting contract in 2013 amounted to $750,000, yet this year the province decided to go with Conair’s smaller, more modern aircraft for $1.8 million.

After the deal was made Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource operations cited the bomber’s “operational limitations” with respect to performing multiple drop patterns in B.C.’s mountainous terrain.

The decision to with the Abbotsford company was made while considering the “more cost-effective, efficient options available due to advances in airplane technology,” Thomson said. But the price disparity between the two options warrants a more detailed explanation of why the government chose the costlier contract.”

Hmmm.. who would be best suited to offer a knowledgeable perspective on the governments choice to go with the costlier contract to Conair?

How about someone with first-hand, government experience, who joined Conair in the spring of 2013 after a 36 year career with the British Columbia Forest Service, all in the forest fire domain with 26 years specifically in airtanker operations. Jeff was the head of British Columbia’s Airtanker Program from 1996 to 2013.”  http://conair.ca/conair_team/jeff-berry

With Jeff’s direct and long experience within the BC Forest service, he might be able to lend some perspective on why the Mars sits idle…

Incidentally, and I am sure, purely coincidental… it was the spring of 2013 when the owner of the Coulson group came out strongly against the  BC Liberals prior to the election, and the poor Liberal forest policies that impacted small communities all over the province.



While Conair has donated exclusively to the BC Liberals since 2005, with one donation in the spring to the BCNDP when it appeared they may win the last election: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=conair&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=2014/07/21&DateFrom=2005/01/01&DFYear=2005&DFMonth=01&DFDay=01&DTYear=2014&DTMonth=07&DTDay=21

Conair Group president and CEO Barry Marsden also received the Order Of BC : http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/05/30/Lib-Donors-Get-Order-of-BC/#sthash.l3oXx69s.dpuf

Some backstory on the Mars contract and service: http://www.avtimes.net/news/local/bomber-a-heroic-giant-1.621281



No… this did not come from The Onion.  

But seriously…no joking now… considering the recent release of the public accounts I just blogged about... that show that under Christy Clark,Queen of LNG fantasies:

“For a government that sought re-election on the promise, blazoned on the side of the campaign bus, of a “Debt-Free B.C.,” the public accounts released this week provide a sobering reality check.

Total provincial debt as of March 31, the end of the last financial year: $60.693 billion.

Total provincial debt inherited by Christy Clark when she took the oath of office as premier in mid-March 2011: $45.154 billion.

Increase: $15.539 billion, or 34 per cent.”


So, just so I have this correct… humour me now…

The Christy Clark BC Jobs Plan is a dismal failure… http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/reality-check-b-c-s-jobs-plan-1.1401889

The public debt, as shown above, has grown…

And Christy Clark still wants you to invest in a responsible government???

Please tell me that I am not alone in seeing the hypocrisy in this donation request for the 2017 election… or in wondering how much support Premier Christy Clark really has among her own caucus?


… and I haven’t even started on why this is so just so, so wrong, on so many levels… least of which is the lack of attention this government has given to what really matters: Education.


Why a truly independent investigation is needed into the Babine Forest Products tragic explosion – courtesy of Blog Borg Collective.


Documents available in the public, BC legislative library today, as revealed by Blog Borg Collective, show details of the Babine Lake mills explosion accident investigation – bringing even greater questions and increasing the need for a fully independent investigation into the lack of charges in this horrific tragedy.

The Investigator asks: Was this a preventable incident and states that it was, in that:

-There was knowledge that the dust collection system was under-sized

-An electrical upgrade to accommodate this was challenging to Babine but there were no reductions in production while an upgrade was planned and production increased

-Four of the components required for a wood dust explosion were not controlled —containment, ignition, dust as fuel and dispersion of dust. (The fifth component is oxygen.)

-There was considerable investment in upgrading production capability and improving the dust management system by opening floors, pressurizing the MCC panels and improving the waste conveyor system

-Some work had been done on the sawmill dust collection system and extra cleanup efforts were made following the February 23rd, 2011 explosion and fire

-Moving the collection ducting from trim saws and edgers to the bandsaw and debarkers meant some areas had no dust collection

-No adequate actions were taken to reduce or control the levels of airborne wood dust even though this was the root cause of the violation cited in December 2011

-Effective action should have been taken to control airborne dispersion of dust and excessive accumulation on floors and surfaces

IIR Conclusions

: The report concludes that all of the elements for a wood dust explosion were present and addresses:

-The concentration of dispersed wood dust in the air

-Friction within the motor-reducer V-belt guard as an ignition source

-Ineffective wood dust control measures

-Ineffective inspection and maintenance of a solid guard at the motor reducer assembly’s location

– Conditions of the wood and the effect of weather

-Waste conveyor configurations that increased airborne wood dust; and a volume of coarser wood dust and debris that exceeded the capacity of the waste conveyor system

-Inadequate supervision of clean-up and maintenance staff



Blast from the past: July 21,2009: ‘Debate rages on over Enbridge Northern Gateway Project’

With the news of the National Energy Boards joint review panel recommendation of approval of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal, it might be hard for many to imagine that so many people have been worried about this for years… and in my archives, the Enbridge tags go back far longer than I like to see.

I was reminded of this older post, and thought it might be worth it to bring it forward once again, to remind everyone what is at risk with this project, and what we have to lose.

Originally posted at: http://lailayuile.com/2009/07/21/debate-rages-on-over-enbridge-northern-gateway-project/

As I sat and watched the CBC documentary, ‘Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez’, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before a disaster like this hit our beautiful B.C. coastline. That is, if the Northern Gateway project goes ahead in northern B.C., resulting in oil-supertankers zig-zagging their way along-side it.

The focus of intense scrutiny from both residents in the area and environmentalists alike, the project centers around the  construction of two pipelines that  will, when built, originate in the Edmonton area ,cross northern B.C. and will end in the port community of Kitimat. This is where Enbridge will construct a new  port terminal, complete with two berths to accommodate oil tankers.  Residents and environmentalists are worried about the likelihood of oil spills along  both of the pipelines and the coastal waters of British Columbia –  frankly, so am I.

I’ve written about this issue previously HERE and HERE– covering both the political and environmental angles of it. Although the NDP brought this project and the likelihood of oil tanker traffic along our coast up as an election issue,( oil tanker traffic has not been allowed along the BC coast for years, but Gordon Campbell plans to change all that)  I’ve heard nothing since their defeat – a shame on all counts. The issue has certainly become no less important  nor has it gone away.

This is why the timing of an email I received from a Kitimat resident was so relevant to what I learned from the Exxon Valdez documentary. But first, let’s take a look at the statistics.

Contrary to information given by those who support the project, oil spills at sea are not uncommon events at all. In fact, they  actually happen all the time – they are just not highly publicized unless it is such a disastrous event that it merits the fleeting attention of the press. A good majority of spills happen at sea, and nevereven merit a mention, and some go entirely unreported. The documentary mentioned above covers all of this in complete detail, and is a must see for anyone who cares about this coastline.

According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, there were 13 reported spills in 2007, and 3 of them were over 700 tonnes, which is considered to be a large spill.

It is accurate to say that with the number of oil tankers predicted to be travelling the coast of BC carrying condensate and oil back and forth from the pipeline, it is not a matter of  ” if a spill happens”, but rather “when it happens”.  And unlike spills at open sea, a spill among the islands and channels of the B.C coastline would have devastating and long-lasting  consequences for years to come.

Nearly twenty years after the EXXON spill, there is still oil to be found in the area, not to mention the economic and personal costs inflicted on the residents that have never disappeared.

For example, the bankruptcies that occurred when several fisheries tanked as a result of oil contamination that affected the fish runs.

A class action court case that took so long children grew into adults while it continued on, because Exxon vowed they would do everything they could to NOT pay that judgement.

And the suicides – let us not forget those. Wonderful and vital members of the town of Cordova, Alaska who lost much during the years following the spill – including all hope – and could no longer bear the stress and strain of life after EXXON.  There is no compensation for them, or their families because how can you attach a monetary value to a life.

In the end, the ocean and the town and the people in it were nothing more than a big bill to Exxon, a bill they didn’t even want to pay, because to pay the judgment meant losing money out of their operating capital that could be busy making them more money. Despite telling the people of Cordova they would make it right, and do whatever it took to make that happen, in the end it was not anything good or noble that made them pay- it was the highest court of law in the United States of America.

Is this what the residents of B.C. want? I can’t answer that question, because in my experience, very few people  even know this project is happening, let along being supported fully by the B.C. government.

It is that lack of knowledge , and the lack of attention being paid to this by most local media, that infuriates me. How can someone object to something that they have no knowledge of?  This is just what the Campbell government wants, and does best – keep silent, don’t answer any questions, and keep the people in the dark.

You will hear  the premier speaking often about opening up the Asia Pacific Gateway, but has anyone heard the premier speak about how  his government plans to handle an oil spill along the B.C coast that he promotes every where he travels? Supernatural BC alright – I wonder what will happen when boaters and coastal residents wake up and see the tankers along the coast…or worse yet, the stench of crude oil as it laps upon their beautiful seaside retreats – some of them perhaps, Liberal vacation homes.

It is the effort to inform the public  combined with a fierce love for this province that drives the residents opposed to this project up north to soldier on, people like Murrey Minchin.

I received this letter to the editor he sent to the Northern Sentinal newspaper in Kitimat, on July 16th – Mr. Minchin will advise me if it is indeed published, as many publications in the north have developed a reputation for not printing letters that are in opposition to the project. I have inserted the link to the Enbridge webpage where the amount of oilspills they have had can be found, on page 34

 ‘Dear Editor,
I’d like to respond to the article, ‘Gateway is a proposal, not a project: Harris’, in the July 8th, 2009 Northern Sentinel. In it, your reporter writes, “As for safety, Harris hoped the project will make the environment they work in” (then Harris is quoted as saying) “safer than without the project”.
When Mr Harris says things will be, “safer than without the project”, he’s probably referring to the aids to navigation on Douglas Channel that are part of the proposal. I can’t imagine even he believes two 1,170 km pipelines, one carrying 193,000 barrels (over 30 million litres) of condensate a day east to Alberta, and the other carrying 525,000 barrels (over 83 million litres) of oil a day west to Kitimat, or having supertankers zig-zagging their way down Douglas Channel can make the environments Enbridge works in, “safer than without the project”.
I’m guessing Enbridge didn’t hire Roger Harris as vice president of Communications and Aboriginal Partnerships for his in-depth knowledge of constructing oil pipelines and oil ports, or his expertise in their operation. My hunch is he was hired to draw on his many years in politics and be Enbridge’s spin doctor; to apply soft focus filters over the wrinkles in Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project. Spin doctors hide things like important details, or uncomfortable truths. They don’t give clear answers or reference their sources. I hope I’m wrong with this assumption, so I’m inviting Mr Harris to give some clear, concise answers to the following questions, and ask him to reply to them here in the Northern Sentinel for all to see.
1) How much time does it take a tethered tug to stop a fully loaded 1,148 foot long supertanker that’s carrying 2,050,000 barrels (over 325 million litres) of oil traveling at six knots, which has lost power?
2) If the powerless supertanker above was drifting at six knots while traveling with a six knot outgoing tide (or twelve knots relative to the shore, islands, shoals, etc), what distance would the tug and supertanker travel before the tug could stop it, then pull it backwards fast enough to gain directional control?
3) The almost 40 year old Pacific Northern Gas underground pipeline has been ruptured once in the Copper River valley and once in the Howson Range by landslides. How much oil would spill into the Copper River if the pipeline is hit by another 1.4 million cubic meter landslide, as happened in the Copper River valley 15.5 kilometers from the Skeena River on June 8, 2002?  Given there are to be ten pumping stations on the pipeline, isn’t there a possibility that 10% of the 525,000 barrels of oil (that would be 52,500 barrels, or over 8 million litres) would spill into the Copper, then Skeena Rivers? 
4) According to the Enbridge website their Canadian and US pipelines spilled 13,777 barrels (over 2 million litres) of oil in 2007. This was east of the Rocky Mountains on comparatively flat terrain. Do you, Mr Harris, believe the Copper and Skeena Rivers as well as Douglas Channel and all its connecting waterways are, “safer than without the project”? If not, why?
5) Why won’t Enbridge agree to have a full public enquiry held in Kitimat, requiring sworn testimony on all aspects of the Northern Gateway project?
My hope is Mr Harris will answer these questions clearly and with definitive numbers, but my fear is they’ll be spin doctored out of harms way. That would mean one of two things; either Enbridge is hiding facts which they know would cause massive environmental harm, or they haven’t bothered to research things fully. Both are unacceptable!
Murray Minchin
Kitimat, BC “
I have emailed the Northern Gateway office to ask if Roger Harris would like to answer Mr. Minchins questions and will post his reply if he chooses to respond.


Now take an hour to watch the documentary of the real legacy of Exxon Valdez, one that lasted far longer than any sign of black sludge on the beach. And you decide whether or not you want to risk the future of the province on a pipeline that ships bitumen overseas to provide jobs for some other country.

Silence is the ultimate weapon of power. -Charles de Gaulle

Just this last summer, I discovered one of the few remaining gems in B.C., one I happily admit I will only share the location of with my trusted friends.

2013-09-01 022What more could you possibly want from this province? Stunning hills and mountains, unadulterated natural,see- yourself- in- the- mirror- pristine lakes filled with whatever nature intended to be there…and all to yourself.

No clearcuts visible ( a rarity in the province of BC, as those who travel here know!) No invasive species dumped in the lake and surrounding areas from wannabe pet owners tired of turtles/koi/carp/bunnies and whatever else has been deemed a socially acceptable pet fad.

In short, a bit of heaven here on earth, or at least what I would want heaven to look like,coming from a woman who was born and raised in the northern interior.

Sad thing is, Christy do-anything-to-make- even- a- tiny-buck-for-this-debt-ridden-province- Clark, is putting this and many more locations like this at risk to not only balance the budget for 2014, but actually make it look like there is hope for the years beyond that.

And…the BC NDP sure as hell are not doing anything to change that.

More on that tomorrow.

For now, appreciate what we have… while we actually have it.