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Conservative salmon adThe Prime Minister has just made an announcement about helping to fix the salmon problem in British Columbia with a flyer that has on its cover a picture of a salmon.

Unfortunately that salmon is a Salmo salar which is the Atlantic Salmon, a true trout, not native to our coast. All seven species (eight if you count the masou or Cherry salmon native only to Asia) are styled Oncorhynchus.

This is not by any means being picky. The Pacific salmon, while part of the great Salmonid family, is very different from the Atlantic salmon, Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) and the char (Salvelinus) and I would argue is the symbol of British Columbia around the world. It is our signature, the product everyone knows us by.

Not everyone that cares about the Latin names of our salmon but most British Columbians know their generic names, where they are found, their size, what they look like, and how they are to eat.The Pacific salmon means lot to British Columbia and to mix it up with something else, especially the Atlantic salmon, is unacceptable.

I know that Mr. Harper and his government don’t know the difference and don’t care. I was at a meeting a few years ago with my Tory MP, John Weston, who laughed that he didn’t know one salmon from another, which might be forgivable were he not a member of Parliament for a Pacific Coast province in which fishing is a very important factor to First Nations, and the rest of the population as well.

I take this error as a slur, deliberate in the sense that indifference to the feelings of others amounts to that.

A slur? Why, you might ask, should the Tory government give a damn about the difference between Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon?

The answer is pretty clear.

Thanks to the Government of Canada and a succession of Eastern Fisheries Ministers who, like John Weston, couldn’t tell a Pacific salmon from a mermaid, we now have a coast full of fish farms nearly all containing Atlantic salmon spreading disease amongst our sacred Pacific salmon.

Moreover, there is a legitimate fear that these Atlantic salmon, which escape in great numbers regularly, will get into our rivers and if they don’t themselves spawn, which is a real worry, will interfere with the ability of the Pacific salmon to use their redds or spawning areas.

With all of that, couldn’t we just put this down to just a little mistake that anyone could make?

Let me ask a question – suppose the president of, say, Tanzania, were to campaign amongst his people with a pamphlet showing on it a picture of a Indian elephant with small ears as opposed to an African elephant with its large ones. And suppose that this came at a time when ignorant ministers, much like our fisheries ministers, were importing Indian elephants into Tanzania? All hell would rightly break out.

Slurs by this government on British Columbians are not new.

When I was a minister traveling a lot to central Canada on Constitutional matters, I was constantly invited to conferences on the subject. I remember one very large conference and on the front wall was a huge bas relief map of Canada. It was beautifully done in wood, obviously very expensive. One little problem – they had left out what were then the Queen Charlotte Islands, now Haida Gwai!

I couldn’t help remarking, on the mic, to the chairman of the conference that they had made what I considered egregious error. He replied “Surely, you British Columbians don’t worry about trivial things like that”.

Much more importantly, I would argue, is the question of LNG tankers on the East Coast being banned while being hugely encouraged on our coast. Prime Minister Harper has made stirring speeches and statements in and out of Parliament going back to 2006 about the dangers of LNG tankers on the East Coast, making it plain that they would not happen. At least twice he dispatched the Canadian ambassador to Washington to make it abundantly clear that we would not tolerate this.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Harper just can’t have enough of these dangerous tankers on the British Columbia coast and indeed, right in Howe Sound, which is the playground for the lower mainland.

To show you the utter indifference of the Harper government to this obvious inexcusable distinction between the two coasts, I wrote to John Weston MP and asked for an explanation, advising him that if he wasn’t prepared to give one, I would write an article assuming Tory favouritism.

I didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply. What the hell, it’s only our coast, our home, our environment, our families and since he has now bought a large house in Ottawa, why should he care?

British Columbians are often accused of being overly sensitive about the attitude of Ottawa. This goes back a long way. Our most famous mayor, Gerry McGeer, back in the 1930s, stated quite accurately “it is only 2500 miles from Vancouver to Ottawa but it’s 25,000 miles from Ottawa to Vancouver”.

When this insensitivity even extends to Tory backbench members of Parliament, as it does to mine, I must conclude the Tories couldn’t care less about my province except when they want votes, in which case last-minute bribes that, had the government been behaving itself throughout, wouldn’t have been necessary, are dropped on the electorate with expectations of humble gratitude to the Eastern master.

Yes, I exaggerate a bit but not much. The Liberals, under Trudeau pere were even worse and you may remember Mr. Trudeau giving the good people of Salmon Arm the finger when they protested some government policy. Their theory of Canada was to gain a majority in Quebec and Ontario and to hell with the rest of the country.

We don’t know what attitude Mr. Mulcair may have except a clue comes over Kinder Morgan. As you know, the NDP leader is tap dancing on the subject in British Columbia because he doesn’t want to interfere with his ambition to make inroads into Alberta.

There is no doubt in my mind that Elizabeth May and her Green candidates understand this problem very well but, alas, they are not going to form the next government.

Having said that, they’d be a far more affective voice for British Columbia than the others.

Thin gruel perhaps but that’s what’s on our plate.

3 Responses to “The Conservative support for Atlantic salmon”

  1. mona helcermanas-Benge says:

    Love this one, Rafe. The fact that it is an Atlantic Salmon has made the national news, CBC today. But not to worry, Harper rides to the rescue with $15 Million “promised” dollars to save the wild salmon in BC. Sad that they won’t be able to tell the difference and will no doubt subsidize the aquaculture industry because that is where you find Atlantic salmon in need of saving.
    Thanks for fighting for the wild BC that brings in all the tourists. With one hand the BC Government exploits the wilderness and its’ magnificent wildlife to make tourist dollars and on the other destroys them to satisfy industry interest. Sad.

  2. Cocoabean says:

    This ignorance is symptomatic of a very longstanding attitude problem.

    I think that it is quite likely that British Columbians’ distaste for the Ottawa/Toronto/central Canada crowd goes a lot deeper than mere professional sports team favouritism would indicate!

    We could easily start with the British Columbia submission to the Rowell-Sirois Commission, if not with Ottawa’s disallowance of anti-oriental legislation or their failure to build a certain railway on time…

  3. Rafe says:

    Cocobean knows his history. When I was BC minister in charge of constitutional affairs, I ran into this history over and over again. British Columbia was consistently misunderstood and lumped in with a generic term “the west”. For those who would like to understand our wonderful province better, especially its unique History, I highly recommend Jean Barman’s “the west be on the west”. It is without doubt a marvelous book that you can tell is marvelous by the fact that it is virtually unknown east of the Rockies.

    The “salmon” issue seems like a small issue but it is not – it demonstrates an ignorance going back to 1871 resulting in egregious mishandling of our salmon by the Feds, an indifference toward our vital symbol (they would be horried if anyone put the BC Maple leaf on the flag) and utter lack of concern about the impact of the Atlanic Salmon on our own.
    It’s one of those apparently minor insults that exposes enormous deepseated resentment.

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