Friday, October 5, 2012

The impact of the federal budget on environmental protection in Langley

Earlier this year, the federal government under Harper's Conservatives fundamentally redefined environmental legislation in Canada as part of the budget implementation act. The federal government claimed that it wouldn't impact environmental protection in Canada, but sadly it is already rolling back the clock on conservation in Canada and in Langley.

When looking around Langley and the South of Fraser, there are many green ways through our communities with a good chunk of them being riparian zones or areas around waterways. These corridors provide habitats for a wide range of wildlife and protect our waterways. What many people don't know is that these protected areas were mandated by federal fisheries rules and regulations. It is the federal government that wouldn't allow you to build right on top of a river or in-fill a stream. Most would be surprised to know a vast majority of what keep our environment safe from the effects of urban development is the result of federal fisheries regulation and enforcement. In the City of Langley the protection of the Nicomekl Floodplain is the result of federal fisheries rules.

At last night's City of Langley Parks and Environment Advisory Committee Meeting, I learned how the federal government's budget act is having a direct impact on environmental protection in Langley. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has handed out pink slips to DFO staff in field offices all over the country and the field office that serves Langley, like many others, is being shut down. What does this mean?

For the City of Langley, it means we are losing a valuable resource that is able to provide guidance, enforcement of environmental regulations and go after people that are destroying our environment. It will now be a lot easier for people to pollute or destroy riparian zones and waterways as communities like the City of Langley don't have the resources or the mandate to protect these areas.

This news is disheartening because I learned last night that fish were returning to seemingly random places like a culvert at City Park. And fish are an indicator species for the general well being of our ecosystem and as a result human health.

It has been less than a year since the budget bill became law, and I'm already seeing that it is starting to unravel 30 years of environment progress. It is truly a shame.

1 comment:

Blair said...


While I appreciate your sentiment and feel strongly that the DFO should continue to protect streams, the reality is that protection of streams has been vastly improved in the last 5 years and that is not due to the Fisheries Act but rather to the Riparian Area Regulation of the EMA.

The problem with the Fisheries Act is that it only applies to anadromous fish so if your stream has trout, too bad, but if it is salmon, well it gets protected. I have been involved in trap studies to figure out if fingerlings in a stream were salmon or trout which is just plain ridiculous since the presence of fingerlings should mean protection of the stream.

Ultimately the reason we have depended on the Fisheries Act has been the absence of a reasonable Provincial alternative. However, the BNA clearly said environment was a provincial jurisdiction. The RAR gives municipalities all the tools they need for protection of habitat...we just need municipalities to enforce the rules.