Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

November 28, 2011

Government agencies failing to protect wild salmon

Recent reports of the presence of the deadly ISA virus in B.C. wild salmon seem to have alarmed everyone except those meant to be taking care of the wild salmon.

Rather than taking immediate measures to determine the extent of this threat, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency leaped to discredit the findings and assure international markets that all is well in Canadian waters. Unfortunately, their claim rests on inconclusive evidence and degraded samples.

Instead of launching an emergency investigation into this potential disaster, the federal government has announced a million dollar grant to the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance for international advertising. It appears that the health of B.C. waters, and the wild salmon is not the priority of the federal government after all.

October 5, 2011

Reflections on the Cohen Inquiry into Decline of Fraser River Sockeye

Fraser River Sockeye - photo by Michelle Young
Hearings for the Cohen Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River have come to an end after a year – and what a year it was.  This Inquiry was struck by the federal government following the 2009 collapse of Fraser River Sockeye. The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference are broad, with Justice Cohen being asked to investigate a host of possible threats which may have contributed to the collapse, including but not limited to “environmental changes along the Fraser River, marine environmental conditions, aquaculture, predators, diseases, water temperature and other factors that may have affected the ability of sockeye salmon to reach traditional spawning grounds or reach the ocean”.

For more than 20 years, Georgia Strait Alliance has tackled a wide range of issues affecting wild salmon and their habitat, but I must admit that I was both relieved and surprised to see aquaculture listed by the federal government in the Inquiry’s terms of reference. I was surprised given the frequent denial by industry and government of any possible impacts of sea lice from net-cage salmon farming on Fraser River sockeye. This denial seems to be based solely on the fact that Fraser River sockeye are much larger than juvenile pink and chum salmon (the weight of scientific evidence clearly demonstrates negative impact of sea lice from salmon farms on juvenile pink and chum) by the time they reach the Wild Salmon Narrows. This argument ignores that sea lice can weaken the immune system, leave juvenile salmon more susceptible to predation, and act as a vector for disease.

We are going to have to wait until mid 2012 for Justice Cohen’s recommendations. Whether his recommendations will be strong enough to protect wild salmon, or if they will be implemented is yet to be seen. However, the real value of the Cohen Inquiry is the information that has come to light during the hearings, including the lack of research being done on the impacts of fish farms on wild salmon as well as the very cozy relationship between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the BC aquaculture industry.  Here are some interesting pieces of information I’ve taken away from the Inquiry:
  • Dr. Josh Korman revealed that salmon farms suffer, on average, 30 high-risk fish heath incidences per year among the approximately 60 to 80 farms active at any given time. That is an alarmingly high incidence of diseases diagnosed on salmon farms every year, despite assurances by the industry that their farming practices are sound.
  • Marine anemia was found on salmon farms in BC as early as 1988 (referenced in a DFO document from Dr. Michael Kent who was researching Plasmecytoid Leukemia or marine anemia), just before Fraser River sockeye went into sharp decline.
  • The Conville Bay site located along the Wild Salmon Narrows migration route had an outbreak of marine anemia in 2006 and those farmed fish were left in their net-cages until after the 2007 sockeye migration reached the farm; these are the same juvenile sockeye that failed to return to the Fraser River to spawn in 2009.
  • The “Discovery Island Modeling Progress Report” prepared for Justice Cohen shows that a disease outbreak at the Brent Island salmon farm at the west end of Okisollo Channel in the Wild Salmon Narrows would disperse throughout the channel within a week, potentially spreading the disease to several other farms and to wild salmon.
  • The province only audited 5 dead fish per farm, a sample size ridiculously low enough that even if a disease was present on a farm, it could easily go undetected. A scientifically defensible sample size would be 60 or more fish.
  • Sixty percent of diagnosis made on dead farmed fish audited by the provincial government (which they were responsible for prior to December 2010) were not definitively diagnosed but rather classified as “open”. As such, they were not included in the provincial fish health audit reports, so the average of 30 high-risk fish health incidences per year could be much, much higher if we actually knew what these fish were dying of. 
Discovery Island Virus Modeling
So many questions!  What are these mysterious diseases on salmon farms that were not being diagnosed? Symptoms in the disease databases include those of Infectious Salmon Anemia virus and marine anemia. Are these undiagnosed disease symptoms on farmed salmon related to the research Dr. Kristi Miller is doing into pre-spawn mortality of Fraser River sockeye? Dr. Miller has until recently been denied access to test farmed salmon for her as yet unidentified pre-spawn mortality virus which has similar symptoms to marine anemia. Interestingly enough, just one week before Dr. Miller took the stand, the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association offered to provide samples of their fish. If the sample fish are eventually provided, will these tests come soon enough to inform the Inquiry? Or will they happen at all as funding to Dr. Miller’s lab has been cut by DFO?

It is clear that there is significant risk to wild salmon from diseases and sea lice from salmon farms. We must find the answers to these many outstanding questions, however the risk to wild salmon is too great to just keep waiting. Under the precautionary principle, net-cage salmon farms should be removed.  We can’t allow the denial tactic of continually planting seeds of doubt to be a reason to do nothing when so much is at stake.

GSA has had standing in the Cohen Inquiry as part of the Conservation Coalition examining the impacts on wild salmon from a number of threats. Right now we are in the process of drafting recommendations to Justice Cohen with our coalition partners, and these recommendations will be available on our website soon (learn how to make your submission here). You can bet they will include that DFO no longer be responsible for both the promotion of salmon aquaculture and the protection of wild salmon, a conflicting mandate. We will also ask that Justice Cohen recommend to Prime Minister Harper that net-cage salmon farms be removed from our oceans. If this industry wants to continue to operate in BC, their only option is closed containment.

August 17, 2011

Reflections from Kelly & Heather, GSA's Summer Outreach Team

A Reflection on Summer Outreach 2011
by Community Outreach Team - Heather & Kelly

This summer the Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) had a late start to its outreach program, but Kelly and I still managed to attend over fifteen events! We had an extremely busy July, attending events in Victoria, Salt Spring, Nanaimo, Courtenay and even made it to the mainland(Vancouver and Delta). The position, Community Outreach Coordinator at GSA meant more than just a Co-op placement. This summer I saw myself as a Steward of the Strait and a member of the GSA family. I have developed a better sense of local issues happening along the Georgia Strait, within our communities and an environmental awareness. I grew up along the Georgia Strait and this summer provided me the time and resources to make an effort to protect the body of water I have grown to love and appreciate.

Attending events was definitely the highlight for me this summer. I met amazing people who live and play along the Georgia Strait and listened their stories and concerns. At events I connected with people in my community that care about the same environmental issues and the Georgia Strait. When I first entered into the position of Community Outreach Coordinator in early June, I thought of it as a job position and a role I was supposed to play within an organization. I was surprised and delighted to discover that my outlook changed quickly because I found a position that I really feel passionate about. GSA is a close-knit family, all very supportive and encouraging of each other. I have made friendships this summer that I hope will last a lifetime. GSA is an outstanding organization that looks after the Georgia Strait, its employees and the communities we live in along the Georgia Strait.

I am a fourth year Business student at the University of Victoria and throughout this work term I have discovered things about myself that have become extremely important to me in continuing my education and career. Working at GSA has been a good example of effective organizational structure and I have discovered that a career in business doesn’t just mean reaping profits and wasting resources. It is crucial that a business incorporates environmental standards and environmental precautions when appropriate. I have always thought that as a business person, you have to make choices and take precautions to protect the environment. After this summer I wish to work in a career finding sustainable solutions and helping others. I hope to have an organization of my own one day that is structured similar to GSA and that I can be as welcoming, supportive and inspiring as the employees at GSA.

Over the past couple of months I have had the privilege of meeting people all over the Georgia Strait that are passionate about the future of the marine environment and the communities along it. As a student studying planning, many people ask how my education transcends to my job as a summer Community Outreach Coordinator. First, there is the simple answer that planners plan for the future and GSA’s mission is to advocate and preserve the marine environment for future generations. However, this is not the only area where my experience with GSA has broadened understanding of what it means to be a planner. Planners are responsible for incorporating the wants and needs of the public in an effort to develop priorities which are used to help guide a community in how it develops and changes over time.

My role this summer was to ask people about their issues, concerns, and places that they love around the Georgia Strait, as well as educate the public on specific concerns and programs that GSA advocates for. With this job I was continuously challenged with particular questions where I lacked the specific knowledge to answer, but was given the opportunity to help and advise people with information they could use. In this process, I found people were truly surprised that a non-profit organization actually hired two students to engage the public and ask them what their priorities and concerns were with regard to the marine environment.

Typically planners are required to inform the public about any changes which may occur to the built environment or to a town’s official community plan. What my experience with GSA has taught me is that the standard mediums planners use to inform the public, usually a single local newspaper, is no longer sufficient with regard to informing the public about changes which may impact their community and the environment around them. Municipal offices and government bodies need to take greater initiative and learn from organizations like GSA, who not only invest in classic forms of public engagement, but also harness new mediums for public consultation, such as social networking i.e. Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging.

My job with GSA this summer has taught me many things that cannot be summed up in a simple reflection blog. My time with GSA has given me is a new found appreciation for the importance of public engagement and responsibility, that individuals have to stay informed about the public’s concerns and vision of the future.

All photos by Heather Coupland.

August 4, 2011

A Personal Story to Inspire Change

A Personal Story to Inspire Change

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy

While I have only been with the Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) for a short time, I have been inspired by what individual people can do and how like minded people can change the way we think and live. At a recent staff meeting, I was truly enlightened by GSA’s mission “to protect and restore the marine environment and promote the sustainability of Georgia Strait, its adjoining waters and communities.” Those who work and volunteer for GSA do so because they believe that they can positively change the way people live, and protect the marine environment in our community. As a summer student, I have personally experienced how advocacy, education, and outreach are useful tools for connecting people with issues around the Georgia Strait and the health of the marine environment.

Having the role of a community outreach coordinator, I am given the opportunity to attend events and festivals in different communities along the Georgia Strait. At these events, I discuss people’s concerns, ideas and things they love about the Georgia Strait, in an effort to connect people and further develop our community map. At these events, I meet people who have been directly impacted by issues that GSA is deeply connected to and concerned with, for example open-net salmon aquaculture.

The negative impacts of open-net salmon farming have been recognizably linked to a variety of serious environmental issues, such as the limited growth and development of wild salmon. Additionally, open-net salmon farming is thought to have an impact on coastal tourism, and the ability of individuals to maintain recreational fishing as a viable business. Recently, I met a person who shared a truly wearisome story about the loss of his business as a recreational fishing guide.

This gentleman, who we will call Garry, expressed his early success as fishing guide and his love of taking people from around the world out on his boat to fish for wild salmon. Garry shared how he and his family built and ran a fishing lodge on one of the small islands north of Nanaimo, and throughout the summer months took tourists to catch wild, native salmon. Currently, however Garry is no longer able to keep his lodge going or continue to work as a recreational fishing guide. Garry attributes the decrease of the recreational fishing industry to the increase in open-net salmon farms and notes that as the number of farms has increased in the Georgia Strait, the number of wild, mature and lice free salmon have become almost impossible to find.

Garry’s story is truly disheartening, but unfortunately is not the only one I have heard. For this reason I want others to look at the big picture regarding open-net salmon farming. Although many see it as a profitable and viable business that supports local economies- ask these two simple questions: What about local businesses that are being displaced by open-net salmon farming and how can open-net salmon farming stay sustainable ? Garry’s story serves as a message for others to protect the marine environment, but also that preserving and maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem is essential in sustaining the livelihoods of various people living along the Georgia Strait.

I hope others will continue to stop and think about where the salmon they are consuming comes from, and make a personal effort to support the campaign for the immediate transition of all open-net salmon farms to a closed-containment system. For further information and to voice your concerns, please add to our community map or visit our website and learn what you can do. Also, to further expand our engagement with those who care and live along the Georgia Strait, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook to add and share your ideas, comments and concerns.

Kelly Sims

July 25, 2011

GUEST BLOG - Georgia Strait Alliance receives grants for programs and capacity

By Cheryl Onciul - Fundraising Assistant

As one of the newest members of the Georgia Strait Alliance team, I am really excited to share some of the highlights of my 5 months as GSA’s Fundraising Assistant. In my work, I share GSA’s stories and plans, in the hope that like-minded Foundations and businesses will want to partner with us.

It was a busy spring, but well worth all the work as we have received news of exciting grants in recent weeks, notably from a couple of Canadian leaders in Corporate Social Responsibility, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Vancity.

MEC’s Vancouver store recently approved a $2000 grant through their Urban Sustainability Grant Program for the expansion of our Clean Marine BC (CMBC) - Marina Eco-rating Program. The grant will help GSA promote the program and inspire more facilities to join the program, focusing on boating facilities in the Lower Mainland. Our voluntary program encourages marinas and other boating facilities to adopt environmental best practices, making positive impacts on waste, energy consumption and transportation.

MEC also awarded a $20,000 Capacity Building grant which supports the investment in tools and training that will increase GSA’s capacity to better engage supporters and members. With these funds, we are engaging Groundwire to install, provide training and integrate the Salesforce database program into our organization. This database and engagement program is a key technical part of our overall strategic planning process but the bottom line is it will help us stay connected with you, keep you updated on the latest happenings, and help us to empower more concerned citizens like you to become engaged in the pursuit of our shared vision for the region – a healthy Georgia Strait!

We are also very excited to let you know that GSA is among 15 organizations selected to receive a 2011 enviroFund award from Vancity for our Connecting Communities to a Healthy Strait program. In January of this year, we launched our online map, and these funds will help us to ramp it up as a way to connect with you on issues of concern in the Strait, as well as bringing these issues to the attention of local decision makers. With Vancity’s support, we will also be able to continue growing the map, adding more useful information and improving its reliability. The project also includes the development of our “Georgia Strait Protection Principles”. The Principles will be created with your input and aim to support the incorporation of marine habitat protection and restoration issues and values into urban planning and development.

It has been an exciting few months for me here at Georgia Strait Alliance, and a rewarding time. I remember the day I first met GSA’s Executive Director, Christianne Wilhelmson and Board Member Frank Tester. It was my job interview, and I was asked “what do you think would be the easiest part of working with Georgia Strait Alliance?” My response was “convincing funders to support GSA’s work.” It turns out, I was right. There was little doubt in my mind that in joining the Georgia Strait Alliance as a contractor, I would be joining a winning team. GSA’s programs are really making a difference to the health of the Strait. The programs are based on science, involve the people who most stand to benefit from them - residents of the region, are cost-effective, achieve measurable results, are collaborative, stand on a firm foundation of past successes, and are responsive to the changing needs of communities and the environment. It has been a real pleasure to share some of GSA’s stories with a few funders over the past few months. I look forward to continuing to do so, and hopefully to sharing a story or two with you too!

June 19, 2011

The changing face of community

It’s a conversation that I’ve had more times than I can count, in particular with friends of my generation (babies of the mid to late 1960s). Usually it’s drenched in frustration and a certain sadness and it’s this: we talk about the feeling that what we lack in our lives is a sense of community, of feeling connected to others who share common values, and who are an important part of our day to day lives. However, thanks to some amazing experiences over the last few weeks, I’ve discovered that contrary to what I believed, I am part of some very powerful communities, and that what I thought I lacked, I have.

Less than two weeks ago, though it somehow seems like many months, I left Vancouver to join more than 50 other participants in the Social Change Institute at Hollyhock, a gathering of social change leaders from around the continent and world. Though I had seen the workshop’s agenda and had a sense of what was going to occur, as always seems to happen when I spend time at Hollyhock, the experience was completely different than what I imagined - and exactly what I needed.

It was an amazing 5 days – connecting with some of the most passionate, committed and breathtakingly creative people I’ve ever met. My brain was buzzing as I absorbed so much information, and spent time connecting with many of the participants. But it wasn’t until our last morning together that I realized what I had really come here to find. On that morning, a fellow participant rose to share a song, a beautiful operatic piece sung in French. As I listened to her stunning voice, I also listened to the words, and my heart burst. French is my first language, as it is for my mother, and was for her parents, and 12 other generations of my grandfather’s family who first arrived in Canada in 1691. As I heard my language being sung, I felt every cell resonate with those many generations, and I realized that indeed I was part of a community, one with a shared language and culture, one that has been passed down from family to family, and continues to be passed on through the French spoken with my nieces and nephew.

With that sense of cultural community so heightened in me, I looked around the room at the people I had spent 5 days with, and realized, that they too were my community. Though we each had different skills and areas of interest and backgrounds, we shared a need to use those talents to create change in the world. Feeling that connection to this group reminded of me of the greater whole I was a part of as each day I focused on the protection of our local ocean.

Since my re-entry into the “non-Hollyhock” world – always a shock – I see that my circles of community don’t stop at what I became aware of on Cortes Island. Through social media, I see that I am part of a broader and growing community – one where I am exchanging ideas with people near and far, often people I never would have met otherwise but who share many of my interests and curiosities. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of my online colleagues in person, and am now building wonderful friendships and partnerships that continue to grow.

And lucky for me, I see that I am part of a pretty special community through my work at Georgia Strait Alliance. At our AGM yesterday, I had the pleasure of gathering with staff, board, volunteers and members as we took time to honour this past year’s hard work, and the many accomplishments we achieved together. Heading out on a boat to cruise the waters of English Bay and Burrard Inlet gave us the time to savour that connection and our link to the waters we all love so much. Indeed, the GSA family is a powerful and growing community.

Community is different than what it was in my grandparent’s generation, where it meant the people who literally lived in your village or town - your family, members of your church and those with whom you worked. Today, the richness of community can still be found – in people with shared passions, in strangers who we never would have met but who become partners and collaborators in creating change through the magic of an online community, and in colleagues who are committed to make our little piece of the world – the Georgia Strait – better for all of us.

It’s been a heady few weeks for me, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s been wonderful to realize that what I thought I was missing, I actually have in abundance. Now that my eyes have been opened to the reality that I am a part of not one but many communities, I look forward to enriching that connection with them in the months and years to come. Community is about sharing and supporting, and knowing that there are so many with whom I can not only share my world with, but who generously will do the same for me, makes me feel more connected than ever before. Community may look different than in the past, but I believe it is more powerful than ever before.

May 3, 2011

The responsibility of power

There are a lot of reasons why I choose to bike to work. Primarily, I find it a fast and easy way for me to get around and get my exercise at the same time. But more importantly it gives me time to think, to plan for the day to come and process the day that was. It has served me well over the years but never more than this morning.

As I biked in on this sunny day, my mind tried to figure out what the Canadian electorate was trying to say last night. What to make of a night that elected the first ever Green MP, the first ever NDP Official Opposition – yet still elected a majority Conservative government? I know I’m not the only one trying to make sense of this, beyond what seems to me to be a very good argument for electoral reform.

While all this was going through my mind, so was the following phrase: with great power comes great responsibility. I’m not sure who first said this, but I think it’s something our new majority government should keep in mind.

Majority governments do bring stability to a country but they come at great risk if that same government uses its power to ignore the will of the majority who did not vote for them. Real leadership goes beyond partisanship and is about a vision for all Canadians.

As an advocate for sustainability and ocean health, I can say without a doubt that we have not seen leadership on environmental issues from the current federal government over the past 5 years. No comprehensive climate change action plan, no green energy plan or national transit plan, an erosion of environmental assessment regulation and continued failure to protect species at risk in this country, despite multiple federal court rulings chastising them.

What can we expect now?

The only answer is, time will tell. I am a pragmatist by nature, so I will spend the next four years focused on finding the best ways, and perhaps even some creative ways, to promote the sustainability of the Georgia Strait region. We must have the resolve to forge on because nothing is more important – for our communities and our economy – than clean air and clean water.

Some really good people – of all parties – were elected last night, and we must find ways to engage and work with them so they see the benefits of creating a green economy – and can help make it a reality. Naïve? Perhaps, but is there really another choice? The weaknesses of our political system cannot define our values, only our actions do – and last night many did vote for clean air and water. And in the end, in times of uncertainty when the choice is between despair or hope - I must choose hope. For my dreams of the future, I have no choice.

April 5, 2011

Making the hard small changes

I’m a people watcher. I admit it – I’m fascinated by people and as I make my way through the busy streets of Vancouver, or wherever I am, I people watch. I could just say I blame it on my father, who is an avid people watcher, but the truth is human behaviour fascinates me, and when you live in a big city, there’s a lot of behaviour to keep you busy!

What catches my eye? It runs the gamut really. Sometimes it’s the difference in people’s face, from the woman whose eyes sparkles as she heads to work, to the man whose face is at rest, but the lines in his face reflect a life lived hard. It’s the clothes people wear and the way people communicate, or don’t as the case may be. I wonder, as I watch the teens walking down the street, each with their eyes on their phones texting away, why the company of the person they are with isn’t as good as the person they are texting. And I watch people making choices.

Stairs or escalator? Jaywalk or wait for the light to change? Burger and fries, or soup and salad?

And as I pass the countless coffee shops in the city, I see people making another choice, one I’m at a loss to understand. As I look at the line ups, and see people picking up their coffee orders, I see that the vast majority of customers are making the choice to use a disposable cup versus a reusable one.

With almost every coffee shop selling travel mugs and with these reusable choices part of promotional giveaways ad nauseum, why is it so many of us still are making a choice that puts more garbage in our landfills and waste in our oceans?

The easy answer is convenience, of course, but it’s an answer that leaves me hollow. With awareness about our environment growing, and the knowledge that we all need to make small and big changes, shouldn’t we be able to make the simple change of keeping a travel mug with us?

There’s no doubt that change is hard. We all have busy lives, and with mornings where we barely get out of the house dressed and fed, remembering to bring a travel mug with us seems like just one more thing to do. But for all the environmental pressures our planet faces, we have to start with the small changes because they do add up and make a difference.

Reducing our footprint isn’t just about recycling, it’s about not producing the waste in the first place. So, keep a travel mug in your briefcase or purse. Carry a small reusable bag so you don’t get caught needing a plastic bag when you make an unplanned purchase. Choose products with little or no packaging. Make a small change, and join others in tackling the big problems, so that one day soon, what was once inconvenient becomes the way things are always done.

Here are some more ideas on how to be a better Steward of the Strait.

February 25, 2011

Community values must be heard

It’s true - the voice of a community is a powerful and inspiring thing.

I spent several days this week with members of the Powell River community, having been invited to speak at an event hosted by the Powell River Water Watch group. It was a truly wonderful experience in so many ways. Meeting such passionate people who care so deeply about where they live was quite inspiring. Even more so was seeing how these same people are willing to act on those passions to ensure that their community makes the right decisions for its future.

What was behind the invitation to speak was a proposed plan to treat Powell River’s sewage by partnering with the Catalyst pulp mill. Essentially, a proposal for ‘co-treatment’ would see the mill treat the community’s wastewater rather than it having to build an upgraded municipal system to manage its waste.

There are many questions and concerns around this proposal, but even more alarming is how this one option is being put forward without first including the residents in a discussion on how else wastewater can be managed. Wastewater planning is community planning. Deciding on a path without first considering how this decision fits into the overall community plan is foolhardy, as is making this decision without meaningful consultation.

The other danger of this ‘one track mind’ decision is that it ignores the growing opportunities that come with wastewater treatment. Management strategies that treat sewage as a resource that can benefit a community by turning waste into a renewable source of energy, nutrients and water, not just something to be rid of, are the way of the future. This attitude is already growing in a number of communities in BC – including Metro Vancouver, the Capital Regional District of Victoria, the Regional District of Nanaimo, and smaller communities such as Oliver.

The meeting on Tuesday night was a packed house, with over 150 residents in attendance. The questions asked were thoughtful and in the end the message was clear: we want to be involved in this decision that will affect us for years to come. I don’t know if the three city councillors who attended the meeting will act on what they heard, but they would be wise to, at the very least, involve their community more in decision making.

I have been actively involved in wastewater consultation processes in Metro Vancouver, Nanaimo and Victoria, and can speak to how when both sides enter into consultations with the intent of it being something beneficial, it can truly make any decision or plan better. I can say this was absolutely the case in Metro Vancouver, where over 2 years the Advisory Committee I sat on (along with 8 other committed individuals) worked with senior staff to create a better Liquid Waste Management Plan for the region.

The experience, knowledge and values that exist within Powell River, and so many other communities in BC, can only make any community planning process better. Ignoring community values is something leaders do at their peril, and to exclude them from planning processes will only result in decisions that sacrifice sustainable communities for short term expediency. We will be a better region and province when we stop viewing consultations and transparency as a road block to progress but rather the strongest path to healthy communities.