|Both federal and BC environmental ministers
acknowledged on the weekend the daunting pollution problems facing
the Strait of Georgia, but neither would commit additional money to
solve the problem.
"This ecosystem is clearly under serious threat, "federal Environment
Minister David Anderson told a Vancouver conference Saturday, referring
to air and water pollution and habitat loss resulting from population
"You start looking at the avalanche coming down the hill - the avalanche
of human population growth in the Gulf of Georgia. We have enormous
problems to face up to, and what we can do is sometimes limited.
The population of the Georgia Basin is expected to surge from 2.9
million to 3.6 million by 2010.
Noting the health effects of air pollution alone, Anderson estimated
25 per cent of all school absences are attributed to asthma and that
up to 5,000 premature deaths per year in Canada are associated with
air quality problems. Anderson and his provincial counterpart, Joan
Sawicki, are under pressure form environmentalists for more habitat
acquisitions in the Strait of Georgia to ensure biodiversity, but
both ministers agreed money alone won't solve the problem.
"Money is part of it, a big and important part," Anderson said. "But
I don't entirely think this is a money issue. It's a question of coordinating,
getting the energy of every level of government and private industry
as well. A lot can be done through better us of money."
The news conference was called to discuss the first year of the
cooperative Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative, meant to protect
key habitat, remedy air and water pollution, and work with communities
on stewardship programs. When the initiative was unveiled in December
1998, Ottawa kicked in $22 million in additional funding over five
years, while the province only offered to redeploy existing resources
and work with federal officials.
The province's position has not changed. "I am always going to be
a strong advocate for money for this ministry," Sawicki said, "But
dollars are tight. We can also achieve a great deal by just making
efficient use [of resources]...and working closely with other ministries
Despite a dramatic turn around in Ottawa's financial position -
federal budget surplus is estimated at $95 billion over the next
five years - Anderson said he couldn't promise more than the initial
"Is it enough? Probably we'll have to look at it and see whether
there's anything more that needs to be done. But people working
together is more important."
Asked to rate his own efforts to control pollution, he said: "Everything
I do in politics, I always rate myself as an F. Then I try harder.
Among the initiative projects under way in the basin area: the exploration
of alternative farming techniques to reduce hog manure filtering
into the Abbottsford aquifer; tracing the source of microscopic
airborne particles that create smog and haze, the creation of a
model sustainable community in Surrey's East Clayton area, studying
the effects of urban runoff on aquatic life, and checking for contaminants
in the feces of wild mink and river otters.