More Fishy Messaging

I’ve been on about the proposed changes in the Fisheries Act, as have several other people of higher intelligence and more importance than me. I cannot emphasize enough that this is a major shift in environmental policy in this country, not just some obscure change in language of some obscure act. It is worth noting that the threatened habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act were added in 1983 by that foreign (Irish?) environmental radical socialist Brian Mulroney.

Not much mention of it in today’s “Penny Smart – Dollar Dumb” budget, but this issue is not going away. The Cons are still messaging what a major inconvenience the Federal Fisheries Act is to all who care to hear, and they are now resorting to printing silly half-truths in local newspapers. I present as evidence a letter written by Conservative MP, former professional voodoo back-cracker, and denier of evolution James Lunny, to the Nanaimo Daily News just a few days ago, the link to which I have provided, but the full text I also offer below:

We need reasonable fisheries regulations
Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Re: ‘Feds should listen to critics’ (Daily News, March 26)

There are very few political issues that stir up more rhetoric than fish management or quota allocation. This article does your readers a disservice by inflating reactionary alarms based on speculation.

As one former minister admitted, managing fish, fish habitat and economic development is a balancing act. Many Canadians are unaware of the unreasonable decisions in the name of “habitat protection.”

For example, in Richelieu, overzealous officials blocked a farmer from draining his flooded property. The farmer was fined $1,000 in 1993 for dewatering his fields simply because a couple of fish found their way in with the flood. Believe it or not, he had to buy a fishing permit in the last flood otherwise he would have been subject to a $100,000 fine.

Abbotsford, which maintains flood control ditches, can’t meet its legal obligations to clear waterways due to DFO rules.

We have many such examples on Vancouver Island. When I was first elected I spent months bringing together land owners, provincial authorities and DFO to resolve a recurrent flooding problem at West Glade Creek that had turned a farmer’s field into a fish habitat and threatened to flood neighbouring Island Scallops’ facilities. The problem was resolved by building a groyne to prevent the mouth of the creek from plugging up with gravel.

The B.C. government has long complained about DFO enforcement policies that make it impossible to clear drainage ditches or clogged streams that threaten to flood properties. The federal government is reviewing fish and fish habitat protection policies to ensure they do not go beyond their intended conservation goals and that they reflect Canadians’ priorities.

Let’s not throw reason under the bus because the government is reviewing policy to improve management outcomes; that is the role of responsible government.

James Lunney, MP Nanaimo-Alberni

The silly half-truths are found in the examples provided.

The Richelieu example is drawn from an expose in one of Canada’s greatest bastion of journalistic integrity, the “Weird News” page of the Toronto Sun. Even then, they had to go back to 1993, 19 years ago, for this example of a Farmer being fined for a violation under the Act. Even then (read the story, you can’t make this stuff up), it wasn’t overzealous officials that triggered the fine, but his farming neighbours complaining he was shredding up fish in his pumps and polluting the watercourse with fish offal!

The Abbotsford example is complete, 100% unadulterated bullshit. According the Minister of Fisheries, they are referring to an article in Abbotsford Times from nine years ago. We can assume is that this was an instance of disagreement between the Province and the Federal government over flood control management, long since dealt with.

I can say with confidence that it was dealt with, because Abbotsford, like every other Municipality with man-made ditches draining the Lower Fraser River flood plain (including Chilliwack, Pitt Meadows, Surrey, Langley and Richmond) have developed ways to efficiently manage their drainage systems while staying in compliance with the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act. I’m not sure what the dispute was in 2003 (the 2003 article is not on the net), but of you look at the Abbotsford City website, you find this guideline used by the City to coordinate their instream works around the appropriate fisheries windows. This is just good environmental practice, with little or no budget implications, and easily managed by professional City Staff. I actually deal with this stuff on a day-by-day basis in my job. Like most Municipalities, the one where I work finds the habitat protection measures of the Fisheries Act are a simple, easy to apply, and effective tool for assuring the health of drainage network and the Fraser River.

The Scallops on West Glade Creek story is a mystery, as there is no mention of it on the internets, nor does Lunney provide any references or details that may allow us to trace the story. It is not mentioned on his website, nor is West Glade Creek easy to find on any map. But again, it sounds like habitat alteration was required to facilitate drainage and to support a local business, and DFO assisted in seeing that the habitat alteration was done in a way that complied with the law. We have no idea what role DFO or the Fisheries Act played in this, but the point is that the habitat alterations were needed, and DFO allowed them to happen. Is this not an example of an envrionmental law working to support both fisheries habitat and businesses?

Finally, there is a very clear process to instream works for drainage and flood control, and if the BC Government has long complained about it, they have been doing so very quietly to us who work in Environment. Actually, the DFO produces a series of Operation Statements, Guidelines and Best Practices, specifically for the unique situation in British Columbia. In fact, the BC Government’s own Riparian Area Regulations extend the exact same protections above the waterline, and are designed to specifically dovetail with the habitat protections under the Fisheries Act. It seems strange that the BC Government would complain about a Federal Law, then extend the exact same protections onto lands not covered by the Federal Law they so loudly disagree with…

So Lunney has no idea what he is talking about. In his defence, he is not there to think, but to parrot the message from the PMO office, as related through the Minister of Fisheries, and sign his name on the bottom. That’s how you get a Senate Seat. This is why the exact same language and underwhelming examples are being trotted out over the signatures of other God-Fearing Harperites, like the Conservative MP for Kelowna has rolled out to demonstrate the importance of this issue to Sportsfishermen. Expect more to come soon.

And, unfortunately, there is probably nothing we can do to stop them.

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