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David Suzuki Foundation supports Victoria sewage treatment

September 15, 2016

VANCOUVER — After delays and continuing debate about the best sewage-treatment option for Victoria, the Capital Regional District agreed yesterday to proceed with a revised design for construction of a sewage-treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.

"We support the decision to move ahead. It has been a decade since the provincial government ordered the CRD to build sewage-treatment facilities," said John Werring, senior science and policy adviser with the David Suzuki Foundation. "With this decision to proceed, it's time to stop talking and polluting and start building." The waste water treatment plant will provide tertiary, which includes high level filtering, sewage treatment by 2020.

The CRD was ordered in 2006 to have a sewage-treatment plant running by this year. Following years of public consultation and technical input, the CRD was on its way to meeting that goal with a plan to build a secondary treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. By 2014, the process was derailed by organized opponents who argued that sewage treatment was unnecessary, and the plan and consultation inadequate.

"We're hopeful that yesterday's decision will put this issue to rest in the region. Moving ahead with a sewage-treatment plan backed by strong science is not only the right thing to do, it is essential," Werring said. "Dumping raw sewage into the ocean is simply unacceptable for any forward-thinking community."

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Media contact:
John Werring, Senior Science and Policy Adviser, David Suzuki Foundation
Cell: 604-306-0517

Public transit funding emerging as a key election issue

September 15, 2016

For immediate release

VANCOUVER - The David Suzuki Foundation is encouraged by the recent attention being paid to public transit funding in the lead-up to next year's B.C. provincial election. Today, the B.C. NDP released a statement promising it would increase the provincial share of funds invested in new transit projects from 33 to 40 per cent. This commitment is aligned with recommendations the DSF made in June 2016 as part of our report Breaking Gridlock: B.C.'s transit investment deficit and what can be done to fix it.

First B.C. wild salmon fisheries red-listed due to struggling salmon populations

September 6, 2016

VANCOUVER/HALIFAX — For the first time, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program has ranked four commercial British Columbia salmon fisheries as "avoid", largely because of low population numbers. Today's report includes assessments for chinook and coho salmon commercially caught in B.C. The report identifies 10 fisheries that represent about 99 per cent of the total chinook and coho catch as having "some concerns". Four fisheries responsible for the remaining one per cent of the catch were ranked as "avoid". The rankings provide information to consumers who want to purchase sustainably caught seafood.

"These rankings confirm fears about declining wild salmon populations heard across B.C. this summer," said Jeffery Young, senior science and policy advisor at the David Suzuki Foundation, a SeaChoice member. "I'm sure British Columbians will agree that it's essential for fisheries to do their part to allow declining salmon populations to recover."

Chinook and coho populations are suffering most in the southern part of the province, even though catches have been reduced. B.C. fisheries are also catching salmon stocks listed as threatened or endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act. "It's pretty clear these fisheries are not sustainable when they are targeting threatened or endangered fish," said Susanna Fuller, SeaChoice member from the Ecology Action Centre.

Recreational fisheries were not assessed in this report but also catch these wild salmon. "Making matters worse, recreational fisheries are catching even more of these struggling populations than their commercial counterparts," Young said. "There's a confluence of issues, ranging from too many fishing licences allocated to small areas, challenges connected to hatcheries and fishing that crosses international borders, that make fisheries complex to manage. These unsustainable fisheries are a warning to all commercial and recreational salmon fisheries to take measures now to become more sustainable if they want fish to catch in the future."

Wild salmon face myriad threats, including diseases from open-net aquaculture, ocean warming and acidification related to climate change, and habitat destruction. Low numbers of chinook and coho have big impacts on B.C.'s coastal ecosystems and life, especially southern resident killer whales, which now number 83 and are listed as endangered under Canada's Species at Risk Act. The whales rely on chinook as their primary food source. "This poor assessment has implications for more than just salmon. Killer whales won't survive if we can't protect their food source," Young said.

SeaChoice: Canada's most comprehensive sustainable seafood program focuses on solutions for healthy oceans. SeaChoice is operated by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society. Launched in 2006, SeaChoice helps Canadian businesses and shoppers support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture at all levels of the seafood supply chain. SeaChoice has created easy-to-use, science-based tools to help consumers make the best seafood choices. For more information, visit www.SeaChoice.org.

Media contacts:

Lana Brandt, SeaChoice: 778-833-2954
Jeffery Young, David Suzuki Foundation: 250-208-8714

David Suzuki Foundation news release: B.C. hesitates when it should lead on climate action

August 19, 2016

VANCOUVER — The first phase of the B.C. government's updated climate action plan, released today, fails to put the province on track to meet its emissions targets or commitments under the Paris Agreement.

"B.C. had a chance to show real leadership on climate action, so we are disappointed to see the province hesitate with a partial plan that relies largely on forestry offsets instead of actual reductions," said David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson. "Instead of putting B.C. on track to reduce emissions, this plan prioritizes the incompatible goal of expanding the liquefied natural gas industry."

Jay Ritchlin, the Foundation's director for Western Canada, said, "With the Paris Agreement and the Canadian government setting the tone for bolder climate action, the province has released a plan that is underwhelming and will not get us the emissions reductions we need. While B.C. was once a North American climate leader, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta recently introduced stronger plans that are much closer to meeting climate targets. Jurisdictions that show leadership now in reducing emissions will benefit from job opportunities, not to mention better health and cost savings in years to come."

B.C.'s updated climate action plan doesn't mention or meet legislated 2020 emissions targets, nor does it include a provision to increase the carbon tax, one of the most effective emissions-reduction policies.

"This is a huge missed opportunity for B.C. to take positive steps to shift to clean technology and renewable energy solutions to build a strong and competitive economy," Ritchlin said.

Despite its flaws, the plan contains some publicly supported initiatives that will help cut emissions. Increasing low-carbon fuel standards, a crackdown on methane emissions from shale gas and natural gas production and additional financial incentives for electric and low-carbon vehicles are steps in the right direction. "While some of these initiatives will have an impact on emissions, we're still missing crucial dedicated provincial funding commitments to tackle emissions in transportation, one of the most polluting sectors in British Columbia," Robinson said.

Instead of relying heavily on forestry management, initiatives that would make the action plan stronger include:

  • Legislated greenhouse gas targets for B.C.'s key sectors, including a target for 2030.
  • Increased carbon tax applied to all emissions to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
  • Joining California and other U.S. states to mandate a zero-emissions vehicle standard that requires a percentage of new vehicle sales in the province to be electric or hybrid.
  • Increased provincial transit funding in the 2017 budget to leverage federal funds and/or enable additional revenue tools. B.C.'s current three-year fiscal plan (2016 budget) proposes a decline in provincial transit funding, while the federal government prepares to invest billions in a second funding phase for provinces and regions that are prepared to match the funds. Only 10 per cent of Metro Vancouver's 10-year Transit and Transportation Plan has been funded.
  • Revisions to the building code that require new buildings to meet energy needs through onsite renewable energy within 10 years.

A Climate Leadership Team with representatives from government, academia, business, environmental sectors and First Nations brought forward 32 recommendations, only a fraction of which were included in this first phase of the plan. Nine years ago, B.C. introduced a climate action plan that included North America's first revenue-neutral carbon tax, earning the province accolades and demonstrating that leading climate policy can be accompanied by economic growth. B.C. is now slipping from that leadership position.

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Media contact:
Theresa Beer

35,000 signatures calling for Grassy Narrows mercury cleanup delivered by canoe to Queen's Park

July 7, 2016

Environmental and labour leaders echo calls from Grassy Narrows First Nation for immediate river cleanup

TORONTO, ONTARIO — (Marketwired — July 7, 2016) — Prominent labour and environmental leaders delivered a canoe filled with more than 35,000 letters and petitions calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately commit to clean up Grassy Narrows' mercury-contaminated river.

"Last month Grassy Narrows youth and elders travelled 1,700 kilometers to call on Premier Wynne to clean up the mercury in their river. Today we carry the voices of 35,000 people who echo Grassy Narrows' cry for justice. Clean the river, clean it now," said Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager, David Suzuki Foundation.

The signatures delivered today were collected from petitions and online actions from Leadnow.ca, the David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International, and the Council of Canadians.

"Premier Wynne has said cleaning up the mercury is too risky, but her government has failed to produce any evidence showing the methods proposed by scientists are unsafe. It's time for Ontario to stop making excuses and commit to cleaning the river," said Amara Possian, Leadnow.ca Campaign Manager.
On Monday, the Toronto Star reported that the government could provide no evidence to suggest that a "clean clay suspension" remediation effort would be unsafe, despite repeated comments from the Premier and senior government officials citing concerns about the safety of a cleanup as the reason for the province's inaction.

"Indigenous people deserve to live and work in safe communities. If non-Aboriginal people and families were being poisoned, there is no doubt there would have been action a long time ago. The decades of inaction by successive governments is a stain on Canada's human rights and environmental record," said Marie Clarke Walker, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress.

Decades ago, 9,000 kg of mercury was dumped into the English-Wabigoon River system, which flows into the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The poisoning destroyed a local economy based on fishing, and caused an ongoing health crisis.

"People are dying and getting sick, and scientists tell us it's possible to make the river safe again. So why is it taking so long for the government to commit to a full river clean-up?" said Mark Calzavara, Ontario-Quebec Organizer, Council of Canadians.

"There are 107 MPP elected to Queen's Park. Do you think they would ignore it if people in their home towns were being poisoned?" asked CUPE Ontario Aboriginal Council chair Dawn Bellerose. "How can the Premier apologize for the past while turning a blind eye to the atrocities happening under her own watch? It's time to bring an end to government sanctioned abuses of First Nations people. It is time for Premier Wynne to deliver more than pretty words."

Media Contact: Jolan Bailey — National Organizer, Leadnow.ca — jolan@leadnow.ca — 604-441-6916