Thursday, June 17, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Thursday, June 17, 2010)

Questions persist about make up of Cohen Commission into the Fraser river fishery, Lax Kw'alaams Academy prepares for a unionization vote and  Carole James outlines her opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline project, some of the items of interest for Thursday's news files.

Daily News, front page, headline story
CUMMINS CONCERNED ABOUT FRASER RIVER INQUIRY-- The Conservative government's Commission into the state of the 2009 Fraser River salmon fishery is finding that some of the most concerned critics of the planned sessions sit on the government side of the House.

BC Hydro brings an electric car to Terrace, as the power corporation tests out a Toyota Prius destined for duty with the City of Terrace. The Northwest community is one of three across BC conducting the test drive for BC Hydro.

Unionization plans move ahead at Lax Kw'alaams Academy, as the BCGEU announces that it has filed an application with the provincial and federal labour relations boards for a certification vote at the Port Simpson school.

The Sports section featured more results and background on Seafest sporting events this past weekend.

(The Daily News Archives for Thursday, June 17, 2010)

Cummins concerned about Fraser River inquiry 
BC Hydro offers "electric" opportunity 
CTR receives warm welcome in China 
Lax Kw'alaams school goes union 
Beauty and the Beast

The Northern View
CityWest celebrates 100 years -- Details of the birthday celebrations that took place at CityWest on Thursday as the city owned telephone and cable provider celebrated its 100th birthday (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
CityWest celebrates anniversary -- Some background on the 100th birthday celebrations hosted by CityWest (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Carole James opposes Northern Gateway Pipeline Project -- Provincial NDP leader Carole James adds her voice to the opposition to the proposed pipeline project that Enbridge Energy is hoping to construct across Northern BC and into Kitimat (see article here)

CBC News Northern BC, Daybreak North 
Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now.

The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here

Daily News, front page, headline story   
Cummins concernred about Fraser River Inquiry
By George Baker 
Staff Writer
Prince Rupert Daily News
Thursday, June 17, 2010 

The Cohen Commission looking into the state of the 2009 Fraser River salmon has come under fire by the very government who named the commission in the 
first place.

B.C. MP John Cummins is convinced that the presence of at least three members of the commission’s scientific advisory panel are too closely linked to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. He fears that the scientists that will work under the panel will not be sufficiently independent of the federal fisheries regulator.

“They have appointed 13 scientists to examine what has gone on. If these guys are advising Cohen on what scientists to hire, you can well imagine that these guys again are going to be pet rocks,” said Cummins.

Cummins is claiming that the Justice Bruce Cohen-appointed advisory panel should be scrutinizing DFO as much as any other stakeholder during the commission.

In a flurry of emails last week, Cummins named three members of Cohen’s panel with deep DFO routes: Paul LeBlond, Carl Waters and Thomas Quinn.

“They are not going to be independent thinkers, or people who don’t have a bias or people who don’t have a connection to DFO,” chastised Cummins. “These [13 scientists] are going to be just as biased as the panel.” 

Because of the perceived conflict of interest, Cummins, who has fought to have a proper inquiry on the major southern river since the John Fraser inquiry in 1994 left questions on the table, is already wiping his hands of the Cohen commission.

Given that he was the person who was able to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to hold the inquiry in the first place, it is a damaging blow.

According to the former commercial fisher, LeBlond has advised every Minister of Fisheries since John Crosbie was Minister in the early nineties.

He was appointed to head an inquiry into the disappearance of millions of Fraser sockeye in 1994 but within a week was removed by Brian Tobin when concerns arose about his close involvement with DFO.

Cummins added that LeBlond has issued numerous advisory reports to the Minister on DFO’s management of salmon. An example is a report requested by the Minister to respond to criticism of the department’s over escapement policy: a practice that Cummins said many believe has lead to the decline of Fraser sockeye.

“If that’s not the department examining itself, then I don’t know what is,” said Cummins.

“That’s not what I wanted. That’s not what the folks I talked to wanted. We wanted an independent judicial inquiry. That to my view is what the Prime Minister wanted.”

The commission begins its meetings this week. The hope for the commission was that it would shine some light on why the Fraser River salmon returns were only 10 per cent of the original estimate, 1 million versus the expected 10 million sockeye return.

Cohen is to report by August 1 with either an interim finding or a full finding, depending on the need for more time, however it is more than likely that the final report will take another year to finalize.

While some members of the advisory panel may come with some baggage, the staff has a blending of environmentalists, lawyers and science researchers.

Amongst the group are Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro and science lawyer Jennifer Chan and Bruce Martland, who served as counsel for commissions of inquiry and in public hearings, and related litigation, under the B.C. Police Act.

One of the most contentious issues surrounding the commission is that fact that ‘no fault’ is a pre-existing condition for the commission.

According to the Terms of Reference, Cohen has been directed to “perform his duties without expressing any conclusion or recommendation regarding the civil or criminal liability of any person or organization.”

Cummins, who was allowed input on the Terms of Reference, said that it was neither in the country’s nor the salmon’s best interest to go and start pointing fingers.

“What you want to do is, you want to look at what happened collectively and say that the department screwed up,” said Cummins. “But naming individuals, in my view, is not helpful.”

In the past, Skeena-Bulkely Valley MP Nathan Cullen has raised the issue of detachment by Ottawa-based DFO executives who make West Coast decisions.

But he wasn’t ready to throw the commission under water just yet.

“Is there too much [DFO]? Maybe. But we’ll have to see how the commission actually functions to determine that.”

Cullen will be paying close attention to the inquiry, as will many North Coast fishermen. Whether it produces the answers they seek is another matter.

The Skeena fishery this year is estimated at being very poor. The river has already been closed to salmon fishing until at least July 15, when the Tyee Research Index has a read.

But that system has come under criticism as not being accurate enough to judge the amount of salmon reaching the mouth of the river. But the 2009 Skeena season will not be a part of the Commission’s examinations.

“I am disappointed that the impacts of the Skeena will not be included, but there is no doubt in my mind that there are many lessons that will be drawn from what happened on the Fraser for our river and the crisis that we are facing,” said Cullen.

“In terms of what they are going to look at – fish farms and allocations and the way that the river is managed – it seems like a good start.”

Cullen, like Cummins, believes that ultimately DFO will bear their share of blame on this collapse.

 “DFO is nervous – very, very nervous. The chances are they will be indicted in the destruction of the Fraser River sockeye. That is something that senior members of the DFO do not want to be involved in,” criticized Cullen. “There are people, who have been on the ground, who have known there have been these problems for many years and they get ignored by their senior managers.”

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