I attended the all-candidates meeting on Nov. 4 in Qualicum Beach and was alarmed at the response to a question from the audience (not me) about the proposed Raven coal mine near Buckley Bay.
I was especially astonished by the response of four candidates who responded in virtual lockstep, saying emphatically that the prospect of a nearby coal mine had nothing to do with council, and if they were elected, council would do nothing, and had no role to play in the matter.
They said that other levels of government would decide the matter, not our town council. Those four candidates were Bill Luchtmeijer, Dave Willie, Mary Brouilette and Denyse Widdifield. The rest of the candidates gave various vague, generally disappointing responses about the general merits of coal mines and wanting to ask the public their views.
The only candidate who actually identified issues that would directly affect people who live in Qualicum Beach if a coal mine was approved was Mayor Teunis Westbroek. He said that the presence of a coal mine in the area would “definitely be an issue for residents of our town, especially when trains and trucks full of coal start to roll through the town”.
Do Luchtmeijer, Willie, Brouilette and Widdifield not know that other municipal governments have already weighed in with concerns about transporting coal through their communities? Municipal governments in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, White Rock, the Sunshine Coast and Cumberland, Courtenay, Comox just to name a few, have spoken out about coal mining and transportation through their communities. The UBCM (Union of B.C. Municipalities) issued a resolution in September to conduct “a comprehensive environmental and health impact assessment” about the shipping of coal, citing in particular, “dust that is difficult to control”.
Given that we have been told that train and/or truck traffic will be rolling through Qualicum Beach 24 hours a day if this coal mine is approved, do these four candidates not realize the likely impacts: drifting coal dust compromising the health of residents, greatly increased wear and tear on roads not built for that amount and type of traffic, train and truck traffic noise at all hours of the day and night? And how would this coal transportation fit with their supposed desire to boost the tourism economy in our town? Do you think tourists will flock to Qualicum Beach when it’s covered in coal dust?
To hear Luchtmeijer, Willie, Brouilette and Widdifield tell it, they would sit on their hands and leave it to some other, distant level of government. We will only have ourselves to blame if we elect people who have told us up front that they will not lift a finger if the coal company wants to use our town as its transportation route.
L. Joan Sampson