Since the establishment of Canada's Oceans Act in 1997, successive federal governments have made bold commitments to protect Canada's ocean environments through the establishment of integrated marine use plans and marine protected areas. Well, we're still waiting.
After years of failing to provide federal agencies with enough money to do this work, the federal government has decided to pull out of a creative new funding arrangement with philanthropic organizations that would have enabled a comprehensive integrated oceans planning process and the establishment of marine protected areas in Canada's Pacific coastal waters.
The Federal Government has truly kicked a gift horse in the mouth. If they don't want to accept a generous offer from sources outside of government, then they should put money on the table. We are now calling on government to do just that, and invite you to do the same. You can tell Prime Minister Harper you want the funding reinstated by signing our on-line petition.
For years, the David Suzuki Foundation has worked with environmental organizations, First Nations, and industries to encourage the government to establish a comprehensive marine use plan for Canada's Pacific North Coast. This starts with providing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with funding to establish marine protected areas in important ecosystems on the British Columbia central and north coast, an area called the Pacific Coast Integrated Management Area — PNCIMA.
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For four years, we proposed a budget allocation and every year the federal government failed to invest the money to do the job. At this point, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation made a creative and generous offer: If the big hurdle was a lack of funding for scientific analysis and process, they could fill that gap.
The Moore Foundation offered over eight million dollars to be managed by a joint steering committee, including federal agencies, the provincial government, and First Nations. It was a robust and independent funding model, and in January 2011 all three levels of government agreed. The process of developing an integrated oceans plan for Canada's North Pacific finally had the resources it needed.
Over the past year, a lot of great collaborative work was done to establish the building blocks of a good plan. Stakeholders were provided with funding to accommodate their participation and people were hired to facilitate the process.
Sounds good, right? It was, until the Federal government decided to scuttle the agreement a few short weeks ago. The Feds openly caved to pressure from the B.C. Chamber of Shipping and others who feared that a comprehensive ocean management plan would affect their commercial interests. Specifically, they worried that it might prevent them from running oil tankers from a proposed pipeline from Alberta's Tar Sands to the Pacific Coast. Under the guise that it was inappropriate to accept money from a US foundation for a Canadian initiative, they pulled out from the funding agreement. This decision has fundamentally crippled the opportunity to establish a comprehensive, participatory, well-researched, marine use plan.
Our oceans provide us with so much. The least we can do is make sure they are well managed and that key areas are protected so that future generations can benefit from the bounty as we have. Hopefully Mr. Harper and his government will begin to understand this soon.