Delegates vote on resolutions Wednesday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.

Local politicians split over environmental ‘rights’

Right to clean water, air and food narrowly supported by UBCM majority, critic says it's 'David Suzuki propaganda'

Over vocal objections from some representatives, local politicians have narrowly endorsed a call for an “environmental bill of rights” for B.C. at their annual convention.

Calling it “an idea whose time has come,” Richmond Coun. Harold Steves sponsored the motion Wednesday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver. It calls for recognition of a right to “live in a healthy environment, including the right to clean air, clean water, clean food and vibrant ecosystems.”

Steves reminded delegates of a summer of smoke from forest fires and a drought that saw his Cache Creek farm run out of water. He noted the bill of rights has been supported by 36 municipalities around B.C., after a tour of local councils by the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot campaign.

The idea was quickly challenged.

“How is this resolution going to prevent forest fires and create clean air?” North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring asked. “It’s not.”

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb dismissed the bill of rights movement as “David Suzuki propaganda” backed by urban people who don’t understand that mining and forestry provide the lumber, copper and other products that build their homes and communities.

Cobb said it already takes years of environmental review before resource extraction can be approved, “and if this passes, it will be another nail in the coffin of rural B.C.”

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz urged support for the bill of rights, arguing it would “raise our consciousness.” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps quoted from a presentation to council by an 11-year-old boy and joined other delegates in calling for the resolution to support future generations.

Coquitlam Coun. Terry O’Neill listed a dozen provincial laws governing clean water, air pollution, public health and food safety. He called on the convention to focus on specific measures instead of asserting rights that are actually “a demand for others to do something for you.”

Nanaimo Regional District director Julian Fell agreed, saying four of the six rights proposed to his board are actually “entitlements.” He called for the UBCM to declare that water and air should be legally guaranteed to remain public assets.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RDN says water in French Creek still potable despite levels of iron, manganese

Strategy to improve water quality being established

COVID-19: City of Parksville to open offices on June 1

Health and safety restrictions will be in place

Program at Parksville’s McMillan Arts Centre offers chance to connect art, environmentalism

MAC program works to create community arts installation in city

Questions remain as summer tourism approaches in Parksville Qualicum Beach

COVID-19: Association hopes residents continue to support local businesses

‘A bottomless well of love for people and communities’

Parksville Qualicum Beach News editor JR Rardon dies at age 61

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

100-pound gargoyle stolen from backyard in Nanaimo’s south end

RCMP asking for any information about the statue’s whereabouts

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read