Future must focus on clean, renewable, sustainable energy

An excerpt of Tara Ney’s submission to the National Energy Board at the Kindermorgan hearings last month

Coun. Tara Ney

The following is an excerpt of Tara Ney’s submission to the National Energy Board at the Kindermorgan Hearings last month. The full submission can be found on her Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/tara.ney

My name is Tara Ney. I am a three-term municipal councillor in Oak Bay, and a university professor in the School of Public Administration at University of Victoria.

Today I submit a resolution to the NEB Panel that was passed by Oak Bay council on June 5, 2012. It is of concern that the panel did not notify Oak Bay council of these hearings.

In a jurisdiction where 90 per cent of the people are opposed to expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the lack of notice to local government in the CRD about this local government roundtable consultation puts the legitimacy of these hearings at risk.

Nonetheless, I stand before this committee as a citizen of Oak Bay.

I was born and raised on Vancouver Island and have a long-standing relationship with the Salish Sea. I grew up on a water front property in Nanaimo. Our backyard was Departure Bay, a part of the Salish Sea. The ocean was a significant geography for me. Along with 10 siblings we swam, boated (bathtubbed – a Nanaimo thing), fished for bullheads and connected with rhythms of the tides.

In my adult life we were fortunate to have raised our children in Oak Bay.

Oak Bay is wrapped on three sides by the Salish Sea. Like me, my children learned the beauty of our ocean environment. They swam, sailed, and played in the tidal pools off the shores of Oak Bay.

Today my grandchildren are learning the wonders of the Salish Sea.

Last summer, as a municipal councillor, I had the privilege to be one of the paddlers in a canoe with six Songhees youth that, for the first time in 150 years, was ceremoniously welcomed on the shores of Willows Beach in Oak Bay.

It was a day I will never forget. A fog rolled in and so we had to wait in the canoe off Chatnam Island in the Salish Sea for the fog to lift before paddling to shore for the celebration. There was a drizzle of rain but there was no wind and the fog cushioned the noise of those celebrating on the beach. The canoe rested on a bed of kelp, rich and abundant, and the droplets of rain echoed as they landed on leaves of kelp that surfaced the water.

As we waited a couple of hours for the fog to break, our Songhees guide shared stories of the Songhees people and their intimate relationship with the Salish Sea. Among the many stories he told us one was of the profound significance that kelp plays in their culture. And we learned that for the Songhees people, kelp was understood to be the source of all life and that the health of the ocean was what sustained their life. He told us they raise their children to understand their responsibility to care for the kelp and ensure it thrives. He said if the kelp begins to die, the ocean will begin to die. And if the ocean dies, we all die.

Expanding bitumen-carrying tanker traffic will increase the risk of an oil spill in the Salish Sea. To be sure, a blanket of bitumen on the floor of the Salish Sea will kill the kelp. It is our responsibility to ensure we do not continue to play roulette with our ocean or our children’s future.

This project must be opposed for two reasons: First, there is zero upside for coastal communities; yet they will be left with 100 per cent of the problem: social, economic, and environmental. It is a risk we cannot afford.

And second, this project is not in our national interest. In the 21st century, we must aggressively pursue an economy that rejects dirty energy projects and join the many other countries that are successfully developing sustainable economies that rely on 100 per cent renewable energy.

An initiative is currently underway to have our Salish Sea declared as the Salish Sea World Heritage Site – such is the preciousness of the Salish Sea. This summer Mr. Trudeau visited our pristine West Coast. He was raising awareness of the great Canadian outdoors. With his family, he surfed, swam and whale watched: he knows the Salish Sea is considered the richest inland ocean in North America. This is his home too. His grandfather was Minister of Fisheries and his mother’s family grew up on the West Coast. He told us that he “gets this place” and that “it’s in my blood.” He knows West Coasters are in synchrony and deeply connected with their natural environment.

I ask the NEB Panel to urge Mr. Trudeau to stay true to his spirit and roots. He told us he would “develop a vibrant economy while respecting nature.” For the sake of his children and all of our children’s future, and the many generations that will follow, dismiss this application that wants to expand dirty energy and uphold the campaign promise to lead us to a future that relies on clean, renewable, and sustainable energy.

Oak Bay Coun. Tara Ney