Rafe Mair – the champion of all he surveys

I often think Don Quixote lives on in Canada and the bigger, more prominent and more challenging the target windmill, the happier he seems to be, either leading or joining the charge against it.

I often think Don Quixote lives on in Canada and the bigger, more prominent and more challenging the target windmill, the happier he seems to be, either leading or joining the charge against it.

Now nearing 80, the seemingly tireless crusader I would identify as closest to a real-life reincarnation of Miguel de Cervante’s 17th century champion-in-chivalry and heroics  is BC’s own environmental and always-for-honest-government battler, Rafe Mair.

I have followed Rafe Mair’s often-pugnacious escapades and earnest campaigns for more than 20 years.  I still regularly read his blog, his articles in The Tyee and on the Commonsense Canadian website.

I’ve faced off with him a couple of times in my previous life and more recently. I must say he is very adept at “knife to a gun fight” scenarios.

I don’t have his frenetic energy level, despite being a few years younger. There’s little ambivalence in most people about Mair. Some love him, some hate him. I suspect he prefers being liked, but doesn’t much care one way or the other.

The former BC MLA, lawyer, cabinet minister, broadcaster, radio commentator, writer and avid environmental windmill-tilter and angry-man has added a whole lot of additional issues to his list of targets since he first emerged to oppose situations he did not agree with such as the Kemano Completion Project in BC and the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords nationally.

This week, as I surfed my e-mail, Rafe was again front and centre, urging his website supporters to be active “as our own media” in recirculating his thoughts to their own e-mail friends, because he feels unable to count on the integrity or reliability of BC’s mainstream media to alert British Columbians to the many indiscretions of the federal government, the conspiratorial activities of what he describes freely as “the corrupt B.C. Liberal Government”, or the legion of doomsday scenarios facing this province, this country and the world environment at the hands of big corporations..

An avid angler, Mair is still an ardent supporter of “saving BC rivers”, but for him that challenge has taken on a more serious and multi-national hue as he scraps with the province and its support for proponents of dozens of private run-of-the-river hydro-electric projects which he fears are combining to destroy scores of vital wild salmon habitats as well as hastening the bankruptcy and privatization of BC Hydro, forced by government to buy the power produced by these projects at uneconomically-sustainable prices – and at times when it is not needed.

Mair fully believes that BC waters are endangered by dangerous oil and gas pipeline plans, the existing and the future planned supertanker commercialization of the Douglas Channel, North Coast, Haida Gwaii, Burrard Inlet, Gulf Islands and other waters.

Countless salmon rivers and creeks could be crossed by oil and gas pipelines that will (“it’s a matter of time”, he says) leak and pollute those coastal waters.

It appears that the Auditor-General of B.C. has finally acknowledged what Rafe et al, have known forever, that BC’s environmental assessment process is a sham and I have little doubt that his view is accurate, but equally little confidence in the government’s ability to adjust legislation to improve assessments.


Many other issues remain of deep concern to Mair, including multi-national West Coast fish farming practices and related impacts on wild salmon, gas exploration and fracking of natural gas deposits in the north-east, items of past injustices and inaction – such as the murky events leading up to the mysterious sale of BC Rail – wind power and non-green “green” projects, the continuing HST fiasco where

BC will stand on the Liberals if new premier Christy Clark waits till May, 2013 before going to the people in a new election, Enbridge’s Gateway project, existing oil exports from Vancouver  and so on.

His latest blogging effort, attacking corporations supporting shark fishing for the purpose of de-finning the animals for popular shark-fin soup, an oriental delicacy, demonstrates Mair shows absolutely no signs of slowing down or backing off in pursuing his beliefs: right and good in principle – and supportive of a highly-energetic friend, Anthony Marr, a UBC-educated wildlife preservationist.

Not surprising, I guess, because Marr shows on his own website that there’s a mutual-admiration society between Rafe and himself when he says, under the heading “Oil Spill a Certainty” by Rafe Mair, that Rafe is “ THE most environmentally conscious and passionate broadcaster and public figure in Canada, or the world for that matter, that I’ve had the pleasure to know…”

Anyway, this all boils down to my personal acknowledgment that Rafe Mair does hold some special status as a pre-eminent commentator on matters environmental in British Columbia and his advancing age certainly seems to be a non-factor in his productivity.

That being said, he isn’t necessarily always right – or always wrong, for that matter.

But he remains a highly opinionated, persistent, impatient and powerful fighter for issues he opposes.

In this particular shark-fin instance and in many of his other fights, I support his points of view, but not in everything. Taking on the Asian world for sharks is a big step…