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Residents speak out on C-38

Eleven assemble at MPs office to express concerns
Andy Rice

As Conservative MP John Weston, who represents West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, was in Ottawa preparing to enter a marathon vote in the House of Commons on over 800 of the opposition’s amendments to Bill C-38, his constituency office at Powell River Town Centre Mall was a flutter of activity in the final moments of the June 12 work day.

Assembling at 4:45 pm, 11 residents convened to voice their concerns, environmental and otherwise, surrounding Bill C-38, the Conservative government’s sweeping budget implementation bill. C-38 exited the first round of votes unscathed and headed to the senate on Monday, June 18, after MPs voted 157-135 to adopt the legislation at third reading.

Weston’s constituency assistant Paul Galinski stood outside the MP’s office for about 45 minutes listening and taking notes as residents provided a respectful but at times heated discourse on the implications of Bill C-38 on the environment and their concern with the “lack of democratic process” in the hands of the Conservative government.

“I’m ashamed of our government, I really am,” said resident Lesley Thorsell. “There’s no democratic process to the government anymore. It’s about dissecting all the environmental acts that have been put into place.”

If passed, Bill C-38 would bring several changes to fisheries and environmental protection laws as well as expedite the approval process for natural resource development projects. Other provisions of the bill would affect employment insurance, old age security and pensions, government contracting and cross border policing, in addition to hundreds of other proposed changes.

“Let’s make two things clear: we are not in support of the Enbridge [proposed Northern Gateway pipeline] project and we are not in support of Bill C-38,” said Monica Junck, another of the assembled residents.

“We just want [Weston] to represent us in Parliament,” added Thorsell.

The group requested a reply to its concerns from Weston by the end of last week and received one the following day via email.

“I thank people in our riding who care enough about the environment, or other issues, to turn up at my office, even when I’m not there,” wrote Weston. “Their passion and information enable me to do a better job as MP.

“I fight for both the environment and the economy, and cling tenaciously to the conviction that the two need not be adverse to one another,” he added.

Weston has been clear in his support for C-38, describing it as a package that will benefit Canadians both nationally and in his riding. “We must not lose sight of the key portions of the budget that bolster economic stimulation and jobs, at this critical time in the world’s economic history,” he said. “There are elements that, when better understood, will satisfy people who want to see robust protections for our environment and fisheries.

“I have consistently taken concerns of constituents—on the environment, the economy, and other things—to the appropriate ministers,” Weston continued, adding that while in office he has done his best to ensure that fisheries and environment ministers tour the local community, even bringing the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to Powell River for the first time in 12 years.

The residents also requested to meet personally with Weston in July when he returns to Powell River for Sea Fair festivities. At press deadline, a meeting had not yet been scheduled.