'Enough is enough': B.C. Green Leader calls on environment minister to resign

Jeff Lawrence, CTV Vancouver Island 
Thursday, October 27, 2016

The leader of the B.C. Green Party says Environment Minister Mary Polak should resign for her failure to handle environmental threats including the recent diesel fuel spill near Bella Bella.

“What I’m going to say today is something that I have not done before and I’m not doing lightly,” Andrew Weaver announced at the B.C. Legislature Thursday. “Today after a sequence of events, the last being the diesel spill, I’m calling on the Minister of Environment Mary Polak to resign effective immediately.”

Weaver, who is also MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, said he’s never witnessed a government use “such outrageous rhetoric” to describe its efforts to protect the environment and now lacks confidence in Polak to do her job.

He called attention to two ongoing lawsuits launched over environmental issues – including MiningWatch Canada’s legal action against the government over the collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam, and Shawnigan Lake residents’ suit over an unwanted contaminated soil dumpbuilt above the community’s watershed – and said a spill of more than 90,000 litres of diesel off the coast of Bella Bella is the last straw.

The Heiltsuk First Nation has criticized the federal government’s response to the spill, and even B.C. Premier Christy Clark has said Ottawa hasn’t done enough to provide adequate spill response on the B.C. coast.

Polak has been quiet on the Bella Bella spill – the response to which is a federal responsibility – but did call on Ottawa to create an improved spill-response plan for B.C. waters in June.

Weaver previously said the provincial government needs to take more of “an active stake” when it comes to how the spill affects local First Nations.

“This government is standing like deer looking in headlights with no response, no comment, apart from blaming others,” said Weaver. “We’ve got a climate policy that this government stands up and trumpets as leadership. It’s not a leadership plan.”

He called on the government to replace Polak with “a minister who will stand up for the people of B.C. and the water and environment that we all rely on.”

Sonia Furstenau, Shawnigan Lake Area Director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said that her community has spent millions in an ongoing fight against the contaminated soil facility, and said other municipalities across B.C. are contacting her seeking advice on how to wage their own environmental battles against the government.

“It’s absolutely reprehensible that communities are already looking at putting money aside for legal fees, because they understand that they’ll probably be forced to do what we’ve done in Shawnigan, which has had to spend $2-million to fight our own government to protect our drinking water,” she said.

“There is a failure of policy of water protection in this province, and we’re seeing it play out in real time in Shawnigan. I stand with Andrew and say it’s time for the minister to either do her job or step down if she won’t do it.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Environment said it would release a response to Weaver’s statement later Thursday.


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