The federal Conservative government has decided to withdraw its support for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative (PNCIMA).
This is a process that began in 2009 intended to create a comprehensive plan to manage the environmental and economic needs of the North Coast from the top of the Haida Gwaii to the top of Vancouver Island.
The process has involved planning and negotiations with local, provincial and First Nations governments – Kitimat councillor Bob Corless is one of those local government reps.
The government says it is pulling the plug because it believes PNCIMA has become too heavily influenced by US-funded environmental groups.
The decision was announced in a letter sent on September 1 to the provincial government, three First Nations involved in the process, and environmental group Tides Canada.
The rationale given was the federal government could not support an agreement that would allow $8.3 million from the California-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to help fund the PNCIMA process; funds that would have been administered by Tides Canada.
MP Nathan Cullen says that the Conservatives were looking for any excuse to try to cripple a coastal management plan that could have caused problems for the Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
He said the Tory government has stated its support of the project in the past and voted against Cullen’s House motion to support a potential oil tanker ban off the North Coast of BC, which received unanimous support from the other parties.
Cullen believes the decision comes too close to when the inquiry into the Enbridge pipeline is set to begin for it to be a coincidence.
“I think it’s [the Conservatives] giving in to their friends in the oil patch. It’s going to hurt Canada’s ability to have a clean ocean environment – it’s sabotage. They were looking for a reason to get out and they found one,” he charged.
“It’s clear what this is: letting the industry – oil industry in this case – dictate what happens in this country. It’s a shame.”
Cullen added, “There’s nothing radical in (PNCIMA), all you’re doing is sitting down with stakeholders and deciding how to manage the ocean environment. And for this government to not to support it and then try to scuttle the whole process, it’s the height of ignorance winning the day.”
At this stage it is not clear what the government’s decision will mean for the process.
But since the Federal government has jurisdiction over Canada’s coasts and oceans, any plan to come out of PNCIMA would have to be accepted by them in order to be enforceable.
Whether this means they will no longer accept any plan from the PNCIMA process remains unclear.
The government is promising to have another ocean management plan negotiated by 2012 with co-operation from First Nations and the provincial government, but makes no mention of environmental groups or local governments.