It's never a good sign when politicians and bureaucrats flex their muscles against reporters and I for one think the recent pressure put on Ted Murphy, editor of the Delta Optimist, by Mayor Lois Jackson and Delta City Council is beyond reproach. I can only imagine the tactics they used to make the Optimist print a retraction and apology.
Recently, in a community column written by Debbie McBride and published by the Delta Optimist, Lois Jackson and Coun. Scott Hamilton were called out for their conduct and behavior when dealing with Metro Vancouver and some Fraser Valley communities on the issue of building garbage incinerators that would pollute the Fraser Valley's air. The column then went on to report the recent blocking of of Ramsar status for Burns Bog by Jackson and the City of Delta. It would seem these comments (facts?) struck a nerve with the long time Delta Mayor and council and they demanded a retraction and apology, citing their motivations for stopping the Ramsar designation in its tracks.
Regardless of motives, let's be very clear on the main point of Debbie McBride's article:
Mayor Lois Jackson, Councilor Scott Hamilton, the City of Delta, and the rest of City Council have prevented Metro Vancouver from getting Ramsar status for Burns Bog.
Now for the matter of their motives and the apology strong armed out of the Delta Optimist there is a saying, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
I have received many letters and emails regarding the stalling of Ramsar status, McBride's article, the retraction, and questionable (read: profitable) land use re-designations (ie. environmentally sensitive land being rezoned light industrial). The letter I have chosen to publish was not addressed to the Delta Free Press. It was in fact sent to Ted Murphy of the Delta Optimist. It is doubtful that it will ever be published in print so I have decided to include it here.
Now for the letter
Delta Optimist: Letter to the Editor
June 26 edition: I was surprised that the Delta Optimist apologized to Delta Mayor and Council because the Council objected to remarks in a Community Comment column. Apparently, Delta Council objected to the contention that the municipality is standing in the way of a Ramsar designation for Burns Bog. Delta Council wants to make clear that it supports a Ramsar application but first wants to add additional properties to the covenant on Burns Bog. Delta’s position is noble. However, for several years there has been intent, but no action, to add properties to the Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy Area. In 2004, Councilor Guy Gentner put forward a motion to view all land areas in Burns Bog as candidates for protection. The Management Plan of 2007 included plans for the addition of 2 properties and documented the benefit of seeking a Ramsar designation.
It is very unfortunate that stalling on adding publicly-owned lands to the Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy has resulted in plans to build the South Fraser Perimeter Road through unprotected Burns Bog properties. The new freeway is planned within the unprotected hydrological boundary of Burns Bog. Government scientists have warned that the freeway “poses risks to key ecological functions required for the long term viability of Burns Bog.”
The Ramsar Convention Secretariat has published a Handbook on Designating Ramsar Sites. Page 20 advises that particular attention is needed to protect sites from potentially damaging activities, especially those likely to cause hydrological disturbance. Applicants are advised to maintain hydrological functions needed to conserve the international importance and integrity of the site.
So have our various levels of government been stonewalling attempts to move forward with the job of protecting the ecological viability of Burns Bog? You bet they have and we all know why.
Sources of Information
Handbook on Designating Ramsar Sites
Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy Area Management Plan
Environment Canada quote from Technical Comments to the South Fraser Perimeter Road Environmental Assessment, November 19, 2007, Page 29 of 93