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Photo of Jumbo Glacier by Trevor Florence

The Jumbo Ski Resort planned for the Purcell Mountains has been approved by the provincial government, which has put in place legislation for the area to become a municipality.

The setting up of a municipality is so the government will have someone to work with as the various permits are dealt with (which is Liberalese for “approved”).

The irony, nay hypocrisy, of this seems to have been lost in the debate. This is nothing short of gerrymandering, for there already is a municipality to deal with – namely the several communities in the Kootenays which will be affected by this project This is a refinement of gerrymandering.

This technique came about when a Massachusetts governor, Elbridge Gerry, redrew an election district to suit his political needs. It looked like a salamander so the term gerrymandering entered the political lexicon.

At least there were real people living in Gerry’s new bounderies.

The obvious question here is, do people in the vicinity of developments have any say in the matter? They will be just as involved in, say, Nelson, as if the development were inside their city boundaries  – yet they have nothing to say on whether or not the project should be approved.

Well, not quite nothing, as we shall see.

This is eerily similar to the Ashlu River private power project in the mid-2000s. The proposal was to develop a dam on the river and make electricity. One of the main opponents was Tom Rankin, a rancher through whose property the Ashlu flows. Tom went on to form the Save Our Rivers Society, for which Damien Gillis and I worked the 2009 provincial election.

The regional district held public hearings around the district and learned that the various communities massively opposed this project. The Regional District voted down the proposal 8-1, so the Campbell government passed an amendment to the Municial Act, known as Bill 30, eliminating the right of any municipality to deny a private power licence.

Incidentally, it is of interest to know about the Ashlu that environmentalists claimed that it would – forgive the techical term – bugger up the fish runs returning to spawn.

The company stoutly denied this.

It turned out that the environmentalists were spot on – a marvelous salmon river all but gone.

Now, I alluded (above) that the public will have a chance to say their piece. They will – there will be public meetings to find out what environmental safeguards should be put in place.

The public will have no say as to whether or not there should be the development in the first place – thanks to the Campbell/Clark government the project is a “done deal”.

The opposition to this development is not all from tree huggers by any means. In fact, the diminishing grizzly bears will be further diminished by this project as will other wildlife.

Indeed, government scientists have spoken on this:

“The proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort has the potential for substantial and direct cumulative impacts to the Central Purcell Grizzly Bear population.”
– BC Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection, 2004

“…there will be a substantial impact to grizzly bear habitat effectiveness, mortality risk, and most importantly, the fragmentation of grizzly bear distribution…”
– Matt Austin, Large Carnivore Specialist, Biodiversity Branch, Government of B.C

Nothing anyone can say – not even the most prominent scientists in the world can make a difference – the project has been approved and the appropriate municipality set up, all nice and legal-like.

There is an election coming up in May and what the people are entitled to know is whether or not the NDP would restore to local bodies the right to be heard and listened to when large projects with sensitive environmental issues are involved.

Over to you, Mr Dix.

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