“We all understand that this is not about Liberals, New Democrats, Greens and Conservatives,” said John Horgan, Leader of the Opposition at the time. “This is about the public interest. This is about protecting what needs to be protected.”
“You just have to go to the site and stand at the edge where they’re collecting contaminates and look down at the lake,” Horgan said during Question Period as Opposition Leader. “It doesn’t take a physics degree to figure out that’s not going to work for 50 years.”
That was then and this is now following the unpopular Horgan government decision to allow the capping of the contaminated soil on the site in the Shawnigan area. Locals wanted it treated on site or removed for treatment elsewhere.
Green MLA Sonja Fursteneau, who began her political career fighting the dumping of contaminated soil at the South Island Aggregates (SIA) site, is measured in her response but concedes she is “disappointed” by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) order.
Sierra Action, the CVRD director for Shawnigan is more blunt, wondering how, as leader of the opposition, Horgan stood with area residents in protesting putting dirty dirt in a watershed, and now goes against the wishes of the local community.
Disaffected NDP supporters are speaking out against the decision and are demanding answers.
The former president of the Shawnigan Ratepayers Association (SRA) Calvin Cook says the decision creates a ticking time bomb for future generations.
What had been a technical matter on how to make the site safe has turned very political again.
Richard Hughes, former CVRD Cobble Hill director and community activist took to Facebook with the following:
“Will Sonja Furstenau and her fellow Green MLA’s Adam Olsen and leader Andrew Weaver withdraw support of the BC NDP government over this slap in the face to those residents of Shawnigan who depend on water from the Shawnigan Watershed?” he asked.
“What will they do? What should they do? Premier John Horgan is very familiar with this issue in its entirety. Will he step in and reverse this ruling? If not why not?”
For her part Fursteneau is deeply disappointed but is not prepared to withdraw her support of the informal NDP/Green coalition, saying this issue was never part of the supply agreement that has enabled Horgan to govern as premier since 2017.
Fursteneau said she and Shawnigan residents did their best to engage with the Ministry of Environment at a technical level to try to convince officials that it would be best to order the contaminated soil to be either treated on site or to be removed for treatment elsewhere.
With this order from MoE Fursteneau is concerned that trust in government is further eroded, which she said is not good for democracy.
“We need to have trust in government and trust in the process,” she said. “There isn’t trust there (in Shawnigan) now; there isn’t trust in the process; how can I trust now?”
Acton said the MoE order is disappointing and points to a “dark future”.
But, she emphasized, “its not over yet”.
Acton said a community meeting has been called by SRA for August 8 and that the volunteer research group created to oppose the SIA project is being called together to review the MoE order in detail.
Fursteneau said if the order is not rescinded she is “absolutely certain the research group will ensure that the monitoring takes place properly.”
This issue is not going to go away and the politics that this government order drives will heat up once the summer is over. In my opinion, it is not going to go away.
Patrick Hrushowy is a 45 year veteran of journalism, communications consulting, and business background, who just can’t stop writing.