He just can’t stop.
Stephen Harper has been stalking around Vancouver Island playing his carefully prepared political role.
In Campbell River last Friday, he spun his latest tall tale.
Voice measured and expression grave, Stephen Harper announced that he was going to spend $15 million to improve wild salmon habitat.
Stephen Harper helping wild salmon.
Harper helping wild Stephen salmon.
Salmon Harper helping Stephen wild.
Wild salmon Harper helping Stephen.
Sigh….it’s simply impossible to put those five words in the same sentence and make sense, no matter what order they’re in.
Stephen Harper’s record on protecting environmental values is rather like Attila the Hun’s history of winning over enemies with great cooking and polite banter.
The Right Honourable Stephen Joseph Harper simply does not do things like protect nature.
And when you think about it, why should this son of a career accountant at Imperial Oil act otherwise? He’s an urban boy, who buys his food in supermarkets, thinks “organic” means covered with dirt, sees the human economy in a tiny sacrosanct bubble, and absolutely loathes having better-informed and quick-minded Green Party leader Elizabeth May tell him how colossally wrong he is about everything ecological – such as the hard and fundamental reality that the “economy” and the “environment” are utterly interdependent.
No politician in modern Canadian history has been more deliberately destructive of environmental laws, institutions and policies, more indifferent to habitat protection, or more inclined to place financial profit ahead of natural values than Stephen Harper.
The most egregious example of this, directly related to salmon, is his decision, last year, to approve expanded open net-cage fish farms off the BC coast directly in the path of major wild salmon migrations, and ease regulations on ocean pollution from those farms– flying directly in the face of his own federal Royal Commission chaired by Judge Bruce Cohen.
The Cohen Commission emphatically said, in 2012, after spending $24 million of taxpayers’ money on lengthy hearings from an array of experts, that sockeye salmon were in danger, and fish farms were most likely contributing to that danger, and called for a moratorium on new construction.
(By the way, when you go to the government portal ostensibly leading to the Cohen Commission report, you can’t actually access it. Try it.)
The Harper government, three and a half years later, still hasn’t formally responded to the findings of the Commission.
But that’s just one anti-salmon action (or inaction) on the part of the prime minister.
What about Stephen Harper’s outlandish, internationally condemned “war on science,” especially science about the environment – and most especially science at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?
- Destroying a large proportion of 600,000 pieces of documentation on fisheries science and history, and closing seven out of nine DFO offices – something that one commentator called a “knowledge massacre.”
- Silencing scientists who research man-made climate change, which has caused the hottest year since records were kept in the last century, and is heating up rivers and streams and decimating wild salmon stocks, with no federal mitigative measures in place.
- Cutting DFO budgets and staff three times, wiping out the world-renowned ocean contaminants research program at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, BC (hint: Elizabeth May's riding).
- Chopping another dozen or so programs such as the Environmental Emergency Response Program, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the Smokestacks Emissions Monitoring Team, the Canadian Environmental Network, the Action Plan on Clean Water, the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters (where salmon spawn and grow), and the esteemed and productive National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.
This is simply political slaughter.
Stephen Harper’s “new” plan to spend a paltry $15 million on salmon habitat is meaningless, set against the hundreds of millions of dollars he’s cut from pre-existing programs working to do just this, over the last several years.
And who will this initiative he’s so chuffed about be partnered with?
The $15 million will be going to the Pacific Salmon Foundation, a granting organization that over nearly 30 years has spent about $10 million to fund volunteer activities and research designed to protect salmon. Many of the projects have indeed been exemplary local initiatives run by volunteers and community-based workers.
The foundation, on the other hand, is also the kind of corporate-affiliated organization that Stephen Harper likes, because while it’s supported by a few private foundations and small businesses, it's also backed by large business donors like the Royal Bank, CN Railways, Seaspan and BC Hydro, as well as corporate-dominated and highly politicized federal agencies like Genome BC and Port Metro Vancouver – the former working closely with the aquaculture industry, and the latter actively involved with enhancing fossil fuel transshipments – scarcely initiatives directed at protecting salmon habitat.
And what Stephen Harper connection would be complete without at least one large-scale corporation with a questionable environmental and social justice record? (In this case mining company GoldCorp.)
Stephen Harper is so good at making up stories now that he can’t distinguish fact from fancy. And as the election campaign rolls along, week after week after record-breaking week, we will probably hear lots more of them.
But pretending that he will protect wild salmon habitat is simply malign deception.
Don’t forget to vote in Canada's 2015 federal election on October 19th, and help bring an end to this sort of nonsense.
As this article was being written, Stephen Harper was doing one of his favourite things — quietly destroying yet another science library – not to do with fisheries this time, but focused on growing food on land. The library of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Research Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta, established in 1906 to “address issues related to sustainable crop production systems under dry land and irrigated conditions, environmental issues associated with a semi-arid climate, and beef production systems” has been trashed, with most of its materials “discarded in a dumpster outside the building or sent to recycling.”
RIP Canadian science.