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By Brian Burchill, March 1, 2016

Is it time to head to Ottawa to discuss Victoria’s mistaken and expensive risk classification for sewage treatment?

Justin TrudeauCRITICS OF OUR EXISTING sewage treatment system seem to be unaware of, or unwilling to accept, the sound scientific evidence that certain regions of the ocean are sufficiently rich in oxygen and microbes to subject sewage effluent to the same processes of degradation and oxidation that occur in land-based sewage treatment plants. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is one such region of the ocean.

By Ken Wu, January 2016

If the BC government were serious about addressing climate change, it would protect old-growth forests.

Timber-industry rhetoric would have you believe: “To counteract climate change we need to replace our old-growth forests with healthy, fast-growing young trees that quickly sequester carbon.” On an intuitive level, this may seem to make sense—and indeed, it has become the mantra of timber industry ideologues. 

But according to the actual science, is it true? More fundamentally, according to logic, is it sound?

No and no, actually. The reality is that there is a massive net release of carbon from logging and replacing our old-growth forests with second-growth tree plantations. I’ll explain why in a moment.

By Jay Cullen, Chris Garrett, Jack Littlepage, Rob Macdonald, Tim Parsons, Tom Pedersen, Vera Pospelova, Rick Thomson, Diana Varela, Michael Whiticar, December 2015

Marine scientists plead for an evidence-based approach to developing sewage treatment for Victoria.

We thank Focus reader Rick Weatherill for joining the discussion of the marine impacts of Victoria’s wastewater discharges, particularly for raising the important issues of “non-biodegradable plastics, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals such as sunblock.” [See Weatherill’s letter in Focus, November 2015.]

Before discussing these specific wastewater components, we would like to stress that, as marine scientists who also enjoy local waters for recreation and appreciate their value to local commerce, we certainly would not wish society to continue on with practices that can harm the marine environment.

By Cheryl Thomas, October 2015

Halting the decay of our democracy isn’t difficult. It starts with valuing your vote. UPDATED

On September 30, 2015 Cheryl Thomas announced she had resigned her candidacy, stating:

"I want to take this moment to apologize unreservedly for past comments on social media that have come to light. When looking back at them, I understand that they are offensive and have no place in our political discourse. I want to apologize particularly to the Jewish and Muslim communities for these insensitive statements. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have utmost respect for all religions and communities and those past comments do not truly reflect who I am. As someone who has worked in the Middle East and interacted with the various communities, I know firsthand that my comments were inappropriate.

By Jo-Ann Roberts, September 2015

Victorians who want to stop Harper might also want to elect an MP who is free to speak the truth.

Reject fear. This was the battle cry during the frequent protests against Bill C-51 last spring. The slogan cleverly called Stephen Harper on using fear to sell his unconstitutional bill. Fear is central to his electoral strategy. He spreads fear that Justin Trudeau’s inexperience will lead us to ruin; he spreads fear that NDP social policies or Green Party energy policies will destroy the economy and take away your livelihood.

Opposition parties respond by trumpeting hope and change. Yet, the fear of Harper himself is used to put wind in their electoral sails. The most common comment I hear on the doorstep is “I want to stop Harper.” So, if not afraid of terrorism, voters are afraid of Stephen Harper. In this environment, it becomes difficult to squeeze hope, unfettered by fear, in amongst all the doom.

By Ray Grigg, July/August 2015

If Vladimir Putin is politically “troublesome,” Stephan Harper is his environmental equivalent.

The agreement by the G7 nations to completely “decarbonize” their economies by 2100 is a watershed moment that deserves qualified celebration. While the details are sketchy and the language vague, the declaration is nonetheless official recognition by the world’s largest economies that the continued burning of fossil fuels is ecologically unsustainable and must end.

By Elizabeth May, MP

How we can make up for nine years of lost time?

Having worked on the climate issue from 1986, back when it was a future threat, to present times, where it is the stuff of daily headlines, I have to admit that it would be easy to feel discouraged. We have squandered decades that would have allowed humanity to avoid the climate crisis altogether.

Still, I am more optimistic now than I have been in the last nine years. Nine years ago—2006—was also a year that changed everything. 

It was the 2006 election which allowed Stephen Harper to form a minority government—even though cooperation between the Liberals and the NDP would have prevented this. (Conservatives had only 124 seats, the Liberals had 103 and the NDP had 29. Imagine what our country would have been spared had the opposition parties been willing to work together.)

By Murray Rankin, MP, April 2015

Harper’s indifference to climate change could mean Canada will lose the opportunity for clean energy investment and jobs.

In 2010, the House of Commons passed a landmark bill, legislating binding greenhouse gas reductions to meet targets set at Kyoto and establishing Canada as an international leader in arresting climate change. This is no dream––it happened. 

Called “an essential piece of legislation” by Sierra Club Canada, the Climate Change Accountability Act was built on scientific assessments of the emissions reductions needed to hold global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius and avert runaway climate change. Under the bill, Parliament required Canada to reduce emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

By Sonia Théroux, January 2015

Bring disengaged citizens back to the polls.

When I was first approached last May to run Lisa Helps’ campaign for mayor of Victoria, I resolved that the motivation for giving up several months of my life needed to be about more than electing Lisa. I saw there was an opportunity to effect a less tangible but longer-term change: inspiring citizens who have been estranged from the political process to become engaged. I happen to believe that in order to ultimately shift governments to be more inclusive and respectful of the governed, this shift needs to be modelled in the campaigns that elect the governors.

By Andrew Weaver, November 2014

BC's shift from a policy of absolute emission reductions to reducing emission intensity is an illusion of action. What’s needed is a shift in direction to develop clean tech industries.

In the 2007 speech from the throne the BC government launched a climate action plan which included the first ever in North America revenue neutral carbon tax, a program to participate in a regional carbon cap and trade system, and public sector carbon neutrality. At the centre of the policy was a legally binding obligation to reduce provincial greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 30 percent from 2007 levels by 2020 and a reduction target of 80 percent by 2050.

That leadership on climate policy is still heralded as visionary by environmentalists and economists, and in the ensuing years has been cited in other jurisdictions as they format legislation and regulations to deal with the current and future effects of climate change. 

By Andrew Weaver, April 2014

The BC Liberals’ LNG dream needs a reality check.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) development provides British Columbia with a “generational opportunity”—one that will create 100,000 new jobs, add $1 trillion to the provincial GDP and provide for a $100 billion prosperity fund that will be used to eliminate both the provincial debt and the provincial sales tax. Our opportunity is now; we must act quickly and invest immediately—before it’s too late.

If you think this hyperbole sounds too good to be true, I fear you might be right.