Steve Harper's environmental assessment of the Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline proposal is an utter sham. Steve says the fate of the pipeline will be decided by science but, after so many years, anyone who puts stock in what Steve says is, well, let's say cognitively impaired.
The fact is that the Harper regime is doing everything in its power to ensure that science doesn't intrude on the assessment travesty. It wouldn't do to thwart its pre-ordained conclusion.
Documents filed with the National Energy Board show the environmental review panel studying the Northern Gateway project asked Fisheries and Oceans Canada for risk assessments for the bodies of water the proposed pipeline will cross. The pipeline is to traverse nearly 1,000 streams and rivers in the upper Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat watersheds.
The department didn't have them.
The department doesn't have them and there's no chance in hell it will have them by the short-fuze deadline Harper has imposed on the hearing process.
Earlier this month, Harper told reporters in Vancouver that "decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project, and that's how we conduct our business."
...But the federal government recently sent letters to 92 habitat staff members within Fisheries and Oceans in B.C., telling them that their positions will be cut. Thirty-two of them will be laid off outright.
The cuts will mean the department in B.C. has half the habitat staff it had a decade ago.
All but five of the province's fisheries field offices will be cut as part of a $79 million — 5.8 per cent — cut to the department's operational budget, including the offices in Prince George and Smithers that would have had the lead in monitoring pipeline effects.
The marine contaminant group that would have been involved in a spill in B.C. has been disbanded and the fisheries and environmental legislation gutted, said Otto Langer, a retired fisheries department scientist.
"He (Harper) says the science will make the decision. Well he's basically disembowelled the science," said Langer. "It's a cruel hoax that they're pulling over on the public."
Harper, the grand corrupter, has obviously done a job on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Even though the DFO hasn't done the studies necessary for the Northern Gateway assessment, it has nonetheless given the project the "all clear."
"Fisheries and Oceans Canada has provided its assessment and is of the view that the risk posed by the project to fish and fish habitat in the freshwater and marine environments can be managed by the proponent through appropriate mitigation and compensation measures," said the email, which echoed the response sent to the panel.
"The Department notes in its submission that the proponent has conducted a reasonable ecological risk assessment and provided useful information on the risks that an oil spill (in either marine or freshwater) would pose to fisheries resources."
Some experts smell a rat.
"It (the response from Fisheries to the panel) implies that the request to the joint review panel will not be answerable until after a decision has been made, until after the project has been approved," said Jeffrey Hutchings, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University.
"This seems, from a science perspective, a rather indefensible position in so far as a key part of the environmental review process is to evaluate the degree to which the pipeline will affect fish habitat."
..."Well, how can you make that judgment when you have not yet conducted a complete review of all proposed crossings?" he said. "Again, from a science perspective, I don't see how it's possible to be able to draw that conclusion."
This is treachery and nothing but treachery that begins in Ottawa in the prime minister's office and reaches all the way to Kitimat, the Douglas Channel, the Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance. But Harper's Potemkin Village environmental assessment isn't fooling the people of British Columbia and we're a force the Great Fixer can't begin to reckon with.