Will an omnibus budget put oil ahead of wild fish?

We know this much, each and every salmon river has a its own unique genetic strain of salmon that is locked into spawning rituals on gravel beds that have hosted that particular ‘family’ for tens of thousands of years.   We also know the Conservatives have used omnibus budgets to hide significant changes to long-standing regulations, like those in the Navigable Waters Act, claiming they are necessary for the economy but are unwilling to debate outside the entirety of the budget package.

A recent report attributed to a long-time Department of Fisheries and Oceans employee suggests that the Conservatives are about to weaken the Fisheries Act in a way that many heritage-minded outdoor enthusiasts and environmentalists will see as choosing big oil over wild fish – especially Canada’s bounty of wild salmon and sea-faring trout species (rainbow and cutthroat on the west coast and brook trout on the east). 

The report states: “I have received a leaked document originating from the political level in the Harper government that indicates that Cabinet is planning to water down the habitat protection provisions of the Canada Fisheries Act by deleting habitat from Section 35(1) of the Act – i.e. the section dedicated to protect fish habitat across Canada.”  

This is the section that was added in 1976 to protect fisheries habitat and has been used all across Canada in the last 36 years to do just that.  What has changed?   A proposed pipeline through sensitive salmon spawning grounds is the immediate suspect.

It is obvious that this government will do whatever is asked of it by big-oil companies – many of whom are in no way beholden to Canada.  The fact that our government is so uncritically pro-petroleum shows in the way they attack environmentalists and pipeline critics in the most base and personal way instead of actually laying out facts to argue in favour of the proposal they so clearly support

Dr.  David Suzuki scolded the Conservative dominated senate this week for their use of ‘immature rhetoric’ on the topic of the oil sands.  Who do you think really gives a damn about the Canada your grandchildren will be inheriting – an overpaid oil executive or Canada’s most prominent and well-respected naturalist/scientist?  For me, it’s no contest.

The economy is bad in no small part because it has been made bad with careless trade agreements and an uncreative insatiable corporate class that is addicted to profit before any other consideration.  We cannot allow the environment to be utterly run down as greedy oil executives seek out endless and unnatural growth of their own personal fortune. 

When the Conservatives changed the Navigable Waters Act in the 2009 budget, I was very much surprised that the outdoor community was not up in arms.   If the Conservatives eliminate the protection of fishery habitat in 2012, fishers, outdoor enthusiasts and environmentalists in Canada cannot allow it to go unchallenged.  This isn’t about cheering for political parties like you would a favourite sports team; it is about your country.