The Corporation – The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger


I realized that I wanted to watch ‘The Corporation’ again, and you can as well.

You can click on the ‘Video’ tab at the top of the page to access an assembled list of  other ‘worth your time’ presentations.

Cowichan River Water Quality Advisory Lifted

Nice to read good news from time to time. The concern over drought conditions that threatened our Cowichan River was troubling and Don Bodger’s report is a comfort.

By Don Bodger-Cowichan News Leader

The water quality advisory for recreational use on the lower Cowichan River has been rescinded.

The advisory was put in place Saturday for the area of the Cowichan River downstream from the Allenby Road bridge to the mouth of the river. That’s an approximate six-kilometre stretch.

According to Val Wilson of Island Health Communications, samples of the river taken on Monday demonstrated it had returned to its usual excellent river water quality and considered acceptable for recreational purposes.


Fish caught in the river during the advisory are safe to consume following complete cleaning and cooking, Wilson added.

The Cowichan River has been subjected to drought conditions for the past few months. “As is typical of river systems, the significant rainfall occurring mid-week last week likely caused washing of the land adjacent to the river and its tributaries and through storm water returns that may have carried high concentrations of bacteria into the main river,” Wilson indicated.

“Continuous flows through wastewater treatment plants are frequently tested and are not subject to the same rainfall effect. Testing at the JUB treatment facility continued to demonstrate acceptable water quality and not the cause of the increase in bacteria which was highest upstream from the JUB effluent return to the river.”

Rafe Mair: Why Bill Bennett Needs to Resign

The tradition of responsibility is a concept that has in the past served our parliamentary system well. Strong emphasis on, in the past.

The BC Liberals under Christy Clark are a destructive, negative and corrupt force. I honestly wonder if she will last her full term or will her mishandling of the province result in her stepping down or even dumped well before the BC Liberals will have to face a rejuvenated John Horgan led BC NDP.

Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair

Tradition decrees he take ‘ministerial responsibility’ for Mount Polley mess on his watch.

Mining Minister Bennett: Quitting would send a message about government integrity.

By well-established precedent, Bill Bennett right about now should be typing his letter of resignation to Premier Clark.

Extreme? Not at all. Here’s a bit of history that, trust me, speaks directly to the mining minister’s duty after the catastrophic breach of the tailings pond at Mount Polley mine.

Read the Full Story Here

Alexandra Morton On The Banks of the Hazeltine River. This is Death!

Why Not a Community Investment Fund for the Cowichan Valley?

Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas

Since 2001 the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) has operated an in-house economic development body to help the regional economy prosper and grow.

With an annual budget exceeding $800,000, Economic Development Cowichan (EDC) now employs several staff and oversees a range of activities to expand the agricultural sector, market tourism and attract the film industry.

While some would argue EDC is succeeding on a number of fronts–including building a strong regional brand, producing a number of impressive economic development studies, and hosting events such as the Cowichan agricultural fair—others have long questioned its value.

Critics point to EDC’s difficulties in reporting results, including the number of new businesses attracted to the region.

With the CVRD set to hire a new economic development manager, and municipal and regional elections just around the corner, this is a prime opportunity to re-assess EDC’s role and explore bold approaches to economic development that are already succeeding in other communities.

For starters, EDC could broaden its focus from simply attracting outside investment to also mobilizing capital from within the community.

In Victoria, the Social Planning Council is developing BC’s first community investment fund, which will raise capital from local investors to help support affordable housing projects and create new jobs through investments in social enterprises.

Victoria’s initiative builds on the highly successful community investment funds in Nova Scotia and Alberta, which have allowed community members to direct their retirement savings away from the major financial centres and re-invest them in their local economies.

Why not a community investment fund for the Cowichan Valley, overseen by Economic Development Cowichan?

What better way to empower the region and give regular people greater control over the economy?

EDC could also retool its programs to provide community members with training to start their own businesses – including worker co-operatives and employee-owned companies, as many other municipalities are now doing.

Employee ownership models have a proven track record of creating living wage jobs, lifting people out of poverty, encouraging entrepreneurship, and democratizing the economy – particularly relevant to the Cowichan region where average family incomes are below the provincial norm.

We could do well to take a page from New York City’s book, where Council recently announced a new fund for training programs to incubate a minimum of 28 new worker co-operatives, help another 20 worker co-operatives grow, and create 234 new jobs.

Why not direct a portion of EDC’s resources to training local residents to set up their own firms, structured as worker co-operatives or some other business model with wide societal benefits?

And shifting EDC’s focus to such activities need not involve a spending increase.  It could simply involve reallocating existing resources and leveraging funding from other sources.

With many in the community eager to see local government explore new approaches to economic development, the time for change is now.  Let’s not miss this opportunity.

Rob Douglas writes monthly for the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial and Cowichan Conversations and can be reached at



Alexandra Morton-Mystery Film On Quesnel Lake

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Alexandra Morton and Kevin Logan headed up to Quesnel Lake to investigate what Premier Clark would just as soon you do not see. They have provided a great deal of film and information otherwise not available

The original spin was too quick to say that the water was safe to drink and most everybody knows that.

Christy Clark is so far out of her depth that it is both embarrassing and frightening.

Kevin Logan

Kevin Logan

How often is the water being tested and is it really safe? The response to the disaster has been so inept and incompetent that it leaves you gasping.

Finally the real story is getting out. Thanks to Alexandra and Kevin’s efforts their stories and real information are being picked up by the MSM who for the most part had simply been regurgitating the government talking points.

Alexandra Morton-Marine Biologist

Alexandra Morton-Marine Biologist

Truth is that most commercial news outlets no longer staff newsrooms adequately and without the digging of alternate sources like  Alexandra Morton we would still be in the dark.

This is a disaster for the residents, especially First Nations people, the salmon, environment and quite justly the BC Liberal Government.

By Alexandra Morton
Several people living along Quesnel Lake have asked me what I think the blue, oily – looking film on the lake is.  So today I went looking for it. I found it everywhere and took samples.


It is breaking up and floating among the debris.

Juvenile fish are swimming among the blue film.

And it is collecting along the rocks.
6a0120a56ab882970c01b7c6cdf0c9970bNo one knows what the future holds for Quesnel Lake and the millions of sockeye rearing in it today.

See the full report from Alexandra Morton on her trip to Quesnel Lake following the Mount Polley Mine Disaster. (video)

Liberals refuse to release Mount Polley Mine documents

BC NDP Leader John Horgan

BC NDP Leader John Horgan


BC NDP News Release

Ten days after the tailings pond failure, the B.C. Liberals have still not released the most basic documents about the Mount Polley Mine, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“We have been calling for the full release of documents related to this mine for more than a week, and we’ve seen nothing from the B.C. Liberal government yet,” said New Democrat Leader John Horgan.

Horgan noted that the mines ministry response to a request on behalf of the Official Opposition for a copy of the mine permit was “we are NOT sending out the permit at this time.”

The Opposition subsequently wrote directly to the ministry on Aug. 11, but still no permit has been released publicly.

“How can British Columbians have any confidence in the B.C. Liberal government when they cannot produce even the most basic piece of information about Mount Polley’s operations and tailing pond requirements?” asked Horgan.

Horgan said that the release of these key documents would be a simple first step to allowing the public to begin to understand what happened, and ensure it doesn’t happen at any of British Columbia’s other major mines.

“This is just one more example of how a truly independent investigation of the tailings pond dam failure is critical to the restoration of public confidence in B.C.’s mining industry,” said Horgan.

“We can’t trust the B.C. Liberals to provide even the basics, so we need to take the decision-making away from the government,” said Horgan.

“Without an independent review, we’re never going to regain the public confidence that everything will be done to guarantee that regulations are in place, inspections are vigorous and enforcement is happening to ensure safe, sustainable resource development in B.C.”

Cowichan Valley Election Activity Is Already Underway

Mayor Jon Lefebure

Mayor Jon Lefebure

This fall could actually bring excitement and change to our local government elections.

There is a mayoralty race going on in North Cowichan.

Uncompromising tax miser Councillor John Koury has thrown down the gauntlet and declared his intention to serve as the next Mayor.

Koury has substantial support from the mostly conservative crowd.


Councillor John Koury seeks Mayor’s Chair

But a ‘fight on the right’ has developed as former BC Conservative candidate Damir Wallener has declared his intentions to also seek the mayors position.

Wallener has distanced himself from the hard right crowd and offers more of a red tory posture with a definite green tinge.

An unknown here is whether or not Lefebure might step back in favour of newcomer Damir Wallener who has already been out seeking support all summer.

Damir Wallener campaigning to be North Cowichan Mayor

Damir Wallener campaigning to be North Cowichan Mayor

It might be impossible for Lefebure to see his long time adversary Koury take over as Mayor of North Cowichan. If Lefebure runs, a three way race could see a split on the right allowing him to come up the middle, maybe.

NC Councillor Al Siebring-

North Cowichan Councillor Al Siebring

Where will Councillor Al Siebring-Wallener’s campaign manager in the provincial election-land in this mix?

A non abashed climate change denier he may sit this one out. If he does not and decides to climb on board for another run at a council seat his warm outgoing style could reward him once again, but who will he back for Mayor?

Rob Douglas who almost made the cut last time is back at it and along with Wallener has already been campaigning for a seat at the table.

Rob Douglas taking another run for NC Council

Rob Douglas taking another run for NC Council

Rob would contribute a refreshing contrast to the mix and brings his successes promoting co-ops to the table. Mr. Douglas spearheaded the ‘Seniors Coop’ movement in the valley that is being enthusiastically supported. Co-ops as in cooperation, what a concept.

City of Duncan Mayor Phil Kent

City of Duncan Mayor Phil Kent

Throughout the valley names are surfacing of challengers preparing to enter the fray.

Expect decisions from both incumbents and challengers over the next month as the countdown to November elections is already underway.

Seems fairly quiet at Duncan City Hall, but curious minds are wondering if Mayor Phil Kent wants to sign on for another four years in the chair.

Sharon Jackson-City of Duncan Councillor

Sharon Jackson-City of Duncan Councillor

Will he be challenged if he stays to fight another election?

Duncan council member Sharon Jackson is well positioned to seek the top post but as yet seems content to serve as a councillor. That of course could change as the election draws closer.

BC Premier Christy will allow School Board Elections. Gee thanks for that!

BC Premier Christy will allow School Board Elections. Gee thanks for that!

Next up a look into election issues within the CVRD Electoral Areas .

And as a special concession to the unwashed Ms Premier Christy Clark has deigned to allow democracy to be returned to education matters in Cowichan.

School Board Elections will return in November, and that may be a livelier than usual event this time around.


Bill Dumont Blows the Whistle On CVRD Directors Failure Over Salary Review

Bill Dumont is a professional forester with a keen eye for local government expenditures. The issue of excessive CVRD management salaries has particularly riled him and in this commentary piece he makes that crystal clear.

Bill Dumont-Financial Watchdog

Bill Dumont-Financial Watchdog

Nobody should be surprised that the CVRD board and staff want to carry on as usual with excessive salaries and increases, year after year with no consideration for the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

The Board’s salary review committee never cared one whit about the reality of continually increasing our taxes to support grossly overpaid positions in the CVRD compared to local wages and costs of living where the average Cowichan incomes are less than $40,000 per year.

The CVRD never talked to any taxpayers and never met with anyone from the local private sector on this issue.

The CVRD’s annual wage bill has doubled in the past ten years to $15 million with 55 staff making more than $75,000. Half of those collect more than $100,000 and on top of that employees billed taxpayers on CVRD credit cards more than $247,000 in extra expenses last year.

CVRD Offices

CVRD Offices

The CVRD committee only talked to insiders who have a vested interest to keep salaries increasing every year oblivious to the local economy. There are no positions unfilled in the CVRD because nobody wanted the job.

These insiders always promote the “comparator” model because it allows them to cherry pick the highest paying jurisdictions to base their pay increase recommendations on and ignore our specific community interests and realities.

What is so shocking is that the CVRD politicians did such an amateur job in representing taxpayers on this committee!

Do we really have to pay the guy running the money losing transit system or parks and trails or arena managers more than $100,000 per year or the CAO more than $200,000? We need some genuine public oversight on this whole salary mess in the CVRD!

Director Loren Duncan warns that the taxpayers are watching.

Director Loren Duncan warns that the taxpayers are watching.

Both the federal and provincial governments don’t use this comparator relic because it is so damaging to taxpayers and ignores the very generous benefits and pensions we also pay for. The CVRD continues to use this old system because it works very well for the staff and nails the taxpayer who could only dream of such a compensation package.

What is particularly galling is this CVRD committee also crawled into the public trough itself to add generous benefits to their own Director’s pay packet which totalled $433,000 last year with expenses. I guess they figured that if they are continuing the gravy train for staff they should also hop on and make the taxpayer pick up their benefit costs too.

seal1W.E.(Bill) Dumont
Cobble Hill, B.C.

CVRD Management Finally Agrees to Disclose Comments re: Balme’s Gravel Pit Application To BC Energy & Mines

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

When I initially posted this blog it was as stated below.

I have since learned that the powers that be have finally backed off their earlier unsustainable position denying Cowichan Bay Director Lori Iannidinaro the right to see the contents of the provincial government referral, stating the CVRD position regarding the Balme’s Gravel Application.

They had  denied access and told elected representative Lori Iannidinardo  that she would have to apply through ‘Freedom of Information’ (FOI) if she wanted to see their response and comments!

That is an outrageous affront to our elected officials and the taxpaying public.

What caused them to see the light?

In any case, the questions remain. Who wrote the position and whose positions do they represent?

How did they think that after the conflicted behaviour displayed over their last botched handling of the ‘Gravel  Pit’ effort that they could pull of yet another end run?

The fact that they are providing the content is interesting, but unless it reflects the will of the Board and  is approved by our elected officials, it is just another discredited manouver.

I will leave the original commentary in place as this was the situation at the time of the original posting.

We have seen some pretty amazing stunts from the brain trust at the CVRD but this latest play takes the cake.

Following the elected politician’s refusal to back the Balme’s efforts to move to full processing at their proposed gravel pit on the Cobble Hill-Cowichan Bay border,  the Balme’s have proceeded to apply to Energy & Mines to allow gravel removal.

Local residents are understandably concerned . The Energy & Mines ministry has shown such incompetence over the SIA contaminated site proposal in the Shawnigan Watershed and of course the Grand Daddy of all cockups, the Mount Polley mine disaster in the Cariboo.

In these cases of split jurisdiction the provincial agencies refer to the local government for their input regarding the application.

Cowichan Bay's Lori Ianidinardo illegally denied information.

Cowichan Bay’s Lori Iannidinardo illegally denied information.

Here we have an elected representative being denied the CVRD’s position being forwarded to the province!

Wait a flippin’ minute here. Who the hell is the CVRD if not the elected Directors?

The CVRD Director’s, the majority of whom defeated any notion of processing gravel at the Balme site, may have been bypassed. So the position sent to the ministry is whose then and under what authority?

CVRD Chair Rob Hutchins step up and do your job!

CVRD Chair Rob Hutchins step up and do your job!

Director Lori Iannidinardo has been told that she will have to file an  ’Freedom of Information’ (FOI)  request to access the information that is being sent off in secret. Imagine that!

She has been instructed by staff, so of course the question is who authorized staff, management or otherwise to deny an elected official a position taken allegedly taken by the CVRD Directors.

Has Chair Hutchins, Acting CAO Frank Raimondo and Balme Gravel supporter Director Gerry Giles played a role in this?

Truth is that if the position forwarded, supposedly from the CVRD, is not reflecting the majority decision of the board then this may well be straight out misrepresentation and  not a position taken by the CVRD Directors at all.

The foul odour emanating from the back rooms is only getting worse! Somebody call the cops!

Elections coming in November. It is time to clean house!

Perhaps things are looking up. The controllers were dead wrong, as they have been on these matters below.

Balme Ayr Farms’ right to apply for a ‘Temporary Use Permit’  to process gravel that was clearly contradicted by the shiny new ‘South Cowichan Official Community Plan.

That was preceeded by their insistence that a ‘Garbage Transfer-Recycling Drop Off’ aka ‘Eco Depot’ could be located on farmland off Cameron-Taggart Road. That unexplainable interpretation of the OCP and land -use bylaws was rejected by the BC Supreme Court.

They then topped off their inability to read and comphrehend their own land use bylaws when they refused to slam the proposal to import 5 million tonnes of ‘Contaminated Soil’ into the Shawnigan Watershed by claiming land use authority.

At least now they have recanted, under pressure but still, it is a start!seal1

John Horgan’s Show and Tell — The Importance of Public Education


Crisis in the Cariboo Ignored

Free Gaza-Stop the Killing



NDP MP Alecandfe Boulerice speaks out

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice speaks out

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice speaks out! 

“The deafening sound of missiles and rockets must stop. The civilian population deserve quiet and security. There is only one solution to achieve this for both Palestinians and Israelis: putting an end to the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza and to negotiate in good faith.

It’s about time that the voices of peace be heard again. Canada should be among those voices.”

Noon to 1PM Stand In Vigil-Demonstration Saturday Near the Duncan Train Station

This message is from Harry Berbrayer of Duncan

I’m a Canadian Jew, and lived and studied in Jerusalem for almost three years. My last visit was for most of December 2008, during which time I was in East (which is Palestinian) Jerusalem and in cities and towns in the Israel-occupied West Bank.

I try to work for justice and genuine peace, and for Palestinian self-determination, which requires an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and domination and oppression of Palestinians.

We are against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, and call for an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip (which has been in effect since at least 2007), and an end to the Israeli occupation.

There will be demonstrations on Saturday in Victoria, Nanaimo, Courtenay, Vancouver, and many other cities in Canada.

The ceasefire, or truce, that lasted 3 days has ended (as of 10 p.m. last night, or 8 a.m. today Gaza and Israel time)

Noon to 1PM  Stand In a Vigil-Demonstration Near the Duncan Train Station

Alexandra Morton — More Trouble on Our Coastal Fish Farms

Alexandra Morton-Marine Biologist

Alexandra Morton-Marine Biologist


Last week I returned to Gold River with three dedicated and intrepid friends. We were there to ground truth the statement by the CEO of Grieg Seafood, Morten Vike that the salmon in his pens in beautiful Nootka Sound are “fine.”

After two days and extraordinary effort we got film of what is really going on.

The investigation continues because the fish that are still alive in those farms are being trucked across Vancouver Island and processed on Quadra Island, where the bloodwater can flow over the Fraser sockeye that are now returning to this coast.

I don’t think this level of secrecy is in the interest of British Columbians.

Alexandra Morton

See more includes picures and video. 

Rafe Mair: Mount Polley Mine Proves Liberal “De-Regulation” Doesn’t Work

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Today we are facing matters of tremendous significance from the Ukraine conflict to the Israeli right wing militants genocidal attack on the Palestinian’s.

We are seeing the meltdown horror show in Iraq and Syria is so entrenched in insanity that it almost seems normal.

Back home in BC the predictable disaster at Mount Polley-Imperial Metal mine is unfolding an environmental nightmare of immense proportions.

One common dimension in all these issues is the dismal failure of the MSM to look into the reality of the issues of the day and as a result they are often guilty of spreading propaganda.

I still look to the CBC for a higher standard, but sadly in truth there is little to exempt them from unquestionably trotting out government talking points. The state of much of our MSM is a disgrace.

Kevin Logan’s latest post told the story and told it well. 

Here is Rafe’s assessment and as usual he is right on the money. Logan and Mair get it . Why doesn’t Christy Clark? Why doesn’t the ‘Main Stream Media’?

We have an uphill climb to regain the functioning democracy that was once our Canada.

Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair

The Mount Polley Mine/Imperial Metals disaster is such that one scarcely knows where to start.

Fortunately, the people of British Columbia have a writer like Stephen Hume, who in the Vancouver Sun tells chapter and verse about the failings of the Ministry of Environment’s statutory obligations to regulate.

You know, there must’ve been a date back when that all of the civic dignitaries and the executives of the company and a number of politicians had a glorious day opening the mine and telling everyone how safe it was and how the company’s record was perfect and that in the very unlikely event they missed something, why, there were always those faithful government inspectors to make sure that things were up to snuff.

Read More

Government allowed massive production, toxin increase at Mount Polley Mine before tailings pond disaster

This man made catastrophe is the result of  Mine owners Imperial Metals greed, and unbelievable disregard for the environment, wildlife and people of BC.

The blame  is to be shared with the Christy Clark government and Minister of Energy & Mines Bill Bennett whose callous disregard for regulatory protection contributed to this disaster.

Here is Kevin Logan’s story also carried in the Common Sense Canadian.


Kevin Logan-Cowichan Conversations Contributor

Kevin Logan-Cowichan Conversations Contributor

Mount Polley’s tailing pond breach is the worst environmental disaster in BC History. It will be a BC Day that goes down in infamy and, from the environmental perspective, may be one of the world’s worst mining disasters when all is said and done.

At 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million of slurry, it appears this tailings pond release is one of the largest of its kind in history, anywhere in the world.

Mount Polley owner Imperial Metals, in its most recent report, claimed as much as a seven fold increase, year-over-year, in toxic compounds like arsenic stored in the pond. The full list reads like a who’s who in the world of toxic health concerns, yet the CEO claims he would drink the tailing water, as long as the solids were removed.

This most recent, massive increase in toxic tailings being stored in the now-breached and near-emptied “pond” corresponds with a massive increase in production that has occurred over the last year. The Vancouver Sun reports:

Imperial has increased production at Mount Polley. The company reported in its second-quarter financial report that throughput at the mine’s processing mill was up 23 per cent to 23,404 tonnes of rock per day and meal production totalled 12 million pounds of copper, up 46 per cent, 11,867 ounces of gold, up 24 per cent and 33,813 ounces of silver, up 35 per cent from the same quarter a year ago.

Province allowed production increase, against expert’s warning

All of this was allowed by the province to occur after Brian Olding, an independent consultant, had clearly outlined serious concerns and even offered a remedy by urging the company to apply for permits for up to 3 million cubic feet a year of effluent to be discharged into the wild.

Dead fish found downstream from Mount Polley tailings pond breach (Chris Lyne)

Dead fish downstream from tailings pond breach (Chris Lyne)

A permit for effluent release of 1.4 million cubic ft already existed (permit#11678) but treatment of the effluent before discharge became a stumbling point resulting in delays of safely discharging the excess effluent with the blessing of the local First Nations.

The company then moved for an amendment to increase the volume to 3 million cubic ft., no doubt as a result of ramping up production. Chronological details can be found here. 

This measure of discharging effluent is not ideal but the company was pushing all boundaries and even dealing with overflow, spilling untreated effluent into the environment.

Government deregulation enabled disaster

Something clearly needed to be done as the tailings pond was reaching critical mass, however government allowed for the increased production and only issued warnings to the company - albeit five of them - the most recent just this May.

Kynoch, Bennett

Imperial Metals CEO Brian Kynoch (foreground), with BC Mines Minister Bill Bennett (green shirt) looking on at Aug 5 public meeting in Likely, BC (Chris Lyne)

People on the ground and former employees know they are now living in a disaster zone that many saw coming.

They know they cannot drink the water as the CEO suggests and they know that it is all a result of our current Government’s affinity for simply getting out of the way of industry and their desire to massively exploit our resources.

Everyone also knows, that in the end, the watershed that sustains all living things in the region is in serious jeopardy and the same people immersed in this disaster will see their taxes pay for the clean up for years to come.

All of which makes for the saddest BC day ever.

Duke Point Cited As LNG Shipping Point For Island Fracked Gas

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Several months back Cowichan Conversations contributor Don Maroc posted this story about potential LNG fracking on the island.

Stories in Nanaimo media point to an ambitious future for Duke Point expansion including facilitating the shipment of LNG to Asia.

CC readers please continue forwarding any information that you have on this issue. We must be vigilant.

Thank youseal1

Shawnigan’s Fight Against Contaminated Soil–This is Crazy!”

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Shawnigan resident Sonia Furstenau has been following the South Island Aggregates (SIA) efforts to import 5 million tonnes of contaminated soils to their Stebbings Road property in the Shawnigan Watershed from the outset.

She attended the Ministry of Environment-Environmental Appeal Board hearings and has written this account of the hearings, making them available for Cowichan Conversations readers.

We appreciate her efforts and look forward to reading more of her observations in the future.


Sonia Furstenau

Sonia Furstenau

Two years ago, the people of Shawnigan Lake were informed of a proposed plan to turn a quarry, located on Stebbings road, at the top end of the Shawnigan watershed, into a contaminated soil site.

The proposal would allow South Island Aggregates (SIA), a gravel company, to bring in 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil each year for 50 years and dump it on their site, while still operating as an active quarry.

The contaminants listed in the permit include dioxins, furans, phenols, hydrocarbons, arsenic, lead, chlrorides, and a myriad of other toxins and chemicals known to be harmful to human health.

The people of Shawnigan were united and vocal in their resistance to this plan, but their opposition has been consistently and steadfastly ignored.

In March 2012, the Ministry of Environment issued a draft permit.  More than 300 people took the time to send written submissions that highlighted the potentially negative environmental, health, social, and economic impacts of this proposed site.

The CVRD, the CRD, the Cowichan Tribes, VIHA, and the Provincial Health Minister all added their voices to the opposition.  The Ministry of Environment’s Statutory Decision Maker, Hubert Bunce, found none of these concerns to be compelling.

In August 2013, the Ministry issued the permit.  The CVRD, the Shawnigan Residents Association (SRA), and three Shawnigan area residents, John and Lois Hayes, and Rick Saunders, immediately filed appeals.  Hearings were scheduled for March and a stay was issued, preventing SIA from bringing in contaminated soil until after the hearings.

In December 2013, SIA applied for a variance on the stay, and in February 2014 the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) allowed them to bring in 40 tonnes of contaminated soil before the hearings commenced.  (During the hearings, we learned that in their sworn affidavit, the owners of SIA provided false information to the EAB – they claimed, for example, that their water treatment system was operational. It was not.)

There were twenty days of hearings scheduled for March.  In the end, the hearings lasted 32 days, with additional dates in April, May, June, and July added as it became apparent that the volume of evidence required more time.  The SRA and CVRD brought in numerous expert witnesses including geologists, hydro-geologists, engineers, and a water treatment specialist.

All of the experts agreed that the information presented by SIA’s engineers, Active Earth, was inaccurate, insufficient, and at times wholly misleading.  One expert, on the record, commenting on the proposed site stated, “this is crazy.”

Active Earth, the engineers whose survey and design of the site formed the basis upon which the Ministry of Environment issued the permit, did not testify during the hearings.  Indeed, there were no experts testifying on behalf of SIA to defend the site or the plans.

In their defence, only Marty Block, co-owner, appeared.  During his testimony, it was revealed that the only public support of the project, which came from the Malahat Nation, was agreed to in a confidential agreement between the two parties.

Mr Block lied under oath denying that such an agreement existed, until the document itself was entered into evidence by the SRA lawyers.  In exchange for their support, Malahat was promised a “330 excavator and qualified operator for up to 7 weeks” as well as services of SIA engineers to address drainage issues, road grading and compacting services, and preferential employment for Malahat members at the SIA site.  See Brent at the Focus.

It was also revealed that SIA owed Active Earth $540,000.  This of course raised many questions about the reliability of Active Earth’s reports, given they had considerable financial ties to SIA and a vested interest in the outcome of the permit process.

It is impossible to condense 32 days of hearings, but some of the most pertinent details were highlighted during the closing arguments.

Most importantly, the experts who testified were unanimous in their concerns about the location of this proposed contaminated soil site.  It became glaringly clear that this is indeed a wholly inappropriate site for this type of dump, and that the contaminants would present a clear risk, not just to the environment but to the long-term safety of the drinking water.

It also became clear that in the process of granting this permit, the protocols for selecting a site for contaminated soil were wilfully overlooked and ignored.

Secondly, the Statutory Decision Maker (SDM) for the Ministry of Environment, Hubert Bunce, was derelict in his duties.  Not only did he not once visit the site before issuing the permit in August 2013, he neglected a significant number of his responsibilities as outlined in the Ministry’s SDM Handbook.

Some of the responsibilities that he did not fulfill included ensuring that the process was transparent, consistent, and fair; having in-depth knowledge and specialized expertise; consulting with First Nations (Bunce did not respond to the Cowichan opposition to this proposal); addressing public concerns; verifying the accuracy of information and reliability of the experts; and assessing the current compliance and performance as well as the financial stability of the applicant.  This is only an abbreviated list of the requirements that Bunce did not fulfill.

Finally, as the hearings progressed, we learned of the questionable practices of SIA.  They are currently operating as a quarry under a Ministry of Mines permit, and there have been instances of non-compliance with this permit in the past.

These include possibly blasting below the water table level as well as blasting onto neighbouring CVRD parkland.  And as the lawyer for the Shawnigan Residents Association pointed out in his closing arguments, Marty Block committed perjury several times while under oath at the EAB hearings.  What does that tell about the suitability of this operator to reliably oversee a self-regulating permit?

The evidence against this proposal has been overwhelming.  The notion of putting the drinking water of 12,000 people at risk for the benefit of one business is insane.

The EAB panel has promised to be efficient in its decision-making.  We do not know when the ruling will be issued.  We do know that if they choose to uphold the permit, we will choose to continue to fight it.  The next step is a judicial appeal.

The Shawnigan Lake community is now holding its breath, hoping for the outcome they have fought for so passionately for the last two years.


Canadians deserve more honesty than Prime Minister Harper is willing to give them.


Canadians deserve more honesty than Prime Minister Harper is willing to give them.

He’s too busy defending Big Oil to tackle climate change, or even tell the truth about it.

And that’s what has Dr. Jaccard — and many other Canadian scientists — so upset.

Read his whole essay here

Koch Bros. – They’re The Evil Thing!

Parody of “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” – the classic Coke commercial from the early 70′s, targeting the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

The Ballad of Rivka and Mohammed


Theatre, music, literature, poetry and art can beat tanks, missiles and rockets.


Mount Polley Mine Spill in Cariboo -Environmental Disaster

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

An environmental disaster brings bad news for the Cariboo region following a massive spill from copper and gold mine near Likely, BC.

Here is extensive video coverage from the Cariboo Regional District

Here is a report from CBC News

The Vancouver-based mining company whose tailings pond dam failed Monday, sending five million cubic metres of effluent flowing out into waterways in B.C.’s Central Interior, says the breach has stabilized.

Wastewater from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper and gold mine near Likely, B.C., has contaminated several lakes, creeks and rivers in the Cariboo region, causing officials to evacuate local campgrounds and enact a number of water use and drinking water bans.The Vancouver-based mining company whose tailings pond dam failed Monday, sending five million cubic metres of effluent flowing out into waterways in B.C.’s Central Interior, says the breach has stabilized.

Wastewater from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper and gold mine near Likely, B.C., has contaminated several lakes, creeks and rivers in the Cariboo region, causing officials to evacuate local campgrounds and enact a number of water use and drinking water bans.

Read more here

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Toxic Algae Bloom Leaves 500,000 Without Drinking Water in Ohio

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Water shortages are a serious concern in the Cowichan Valley with record low levels in the Cowichan River threatening salmon survival. Water use regulations restricting use have been kicked into place throughout the valley as we pray for rain.

Yes, it is a challenge and one that promises to become the norm as hotter, drier summers seem to be our new reality. ‘Climate Change’ is delivering altered weather patterns.

So far it seems that we have lucked out compared to the prairies and even Ontario where they have been beleaguered with floods and storms uncommon for what used to be summer weather patterns.

Consider Ohio where authorities are wrestling with a complete shutdown of drinking water due to a toxic algae bloom rendering the water undrinkable. Imagine if this happened in Shawnigan Lake, or Lake Cowichan!

We are fortunate in comparison, so far. If the BC government’s Environmental Appeal Board determines that South Island Aggregates can proceed to import 5 million tonnes of contaminated soil and dump it in their watershed then Shawnigan residents could face the loss of their drinking water, a reality facing Toledo residents.

Maggie just told me that CBC reported that folks in Toledo have been advised that they can drink their water again, but I do not know if I would want to.


Eco Watch writer Codi Yeager-Kozacek reports on the challenges facing residents in Toledo, Ohio.

‘Cowichan Taxbusters’ Should Change Their Name to ‘Confused Taxbusters’

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger of the left persuasion.

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger of the left persuasion.

Seems as the so-called ‘Cowichan Taxbusters’ are beating  up the tight-fisted rightwingers on North Cowichan Council. Now I could find plenty to argue about with my friend Al Siebring  but I had to laugh reading his latest posting.

Yes folks fall elections are now underway. It seems that confusion in the ranks of the ill-informed far right ‘Cowichan Taxbusters’ will provide heartburn to the real tax tightwads Siebring, Koury and Woike. Ripley wouldn’t believe it!

Check out Councilor Al Siebring’s blog for more information and clarity from the right.

Apparently he is not deemed  quite ultra conservative enough for the fire and brimestone crowd.

Send them over here Al and they will singing your praises again in short order ;-)