Why are government actions failing to meet the urgency needed to protect wild Pacific salmon?

May 15, 2024 | 42-5, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video

As the salmon go, we go!

It is why I have spent so much time on salmon policy. As the industry is proudly depicted in a mural in the rotunda of the Parliament buildings it has become an example of the boom and bust economy that is the tradition of the British Columbia economy.

Boom and bust. That’s what we do in B.C.!

The latest boom is the methane gas and fracking industry. The BC NDP were once fierce critics of the LNG industry but they have completely sold out to the mis- and dis-information of the fossil fuel lobby. Once again we fail to learn from our history. We are indeed still operating like the resource colony established in the late 19th century.

Even as the provincial government fails to require protection of the wild Pacific salmon, they ramp up the methane extraction of the LNG industry.

The BC NDP have been captured by corporations. Based on the environment minister, Hon. George Herman’s CleanBC program that he uses to defend massively increasing fossil fuel production in a climate crisis, it justified turning the Parliament building driveway into an electric car dealership full of cars most British Columbians can’t afford.

So, I wouldn’t surprised to see the methane gas industry out there next.


A. Olsen:

SĆÁÁNEW̱, salmon, are the backbone of this province. They’ve nourished the land, the economies and cultures of these territories for thousands of years. Despite their importance, the draft ecosystem health and biodiversity framework did not include wild salmon or recognize the urgent need to stem land use activities that degrade and destroy salmon habitat.

The province once celebrated salmon, dedicating a panel in the rotunda just outside here to this iconic species and the industry. But habitat loss over fishing, logging in watersheds, fish farms and climate change have pushed salmon stocks to the brink of collapse.

My question is to the Premier. When he decides to replace that mural out there in that rotunda, the wild pacific salmon mural, will he replace it with a fracking rig and the massive welded pipes or a hellscape of wildfires and hungry, thirsty British Columbians?

Hon. G. Heyman:

I would hope the member would realize that this government has put significant work into rehabilitating habitat for wild salmon, into taking measures to protect wild salmon. I want to pay particular tribute to the Parliamentary Secretaries for Fisheries and Aquaculture, as well as for Watershed Restoration.

The member should know that we are developing a wild salmon strategy. The member does know that we are developing a watershed security strategy and fund. The member should know — I’m sure does know — that we had a healthy watersheds initiative, and that we continue to take action to rehabilitate wild salmon stocks, to protect them, to work with First Nations to accomplish that.

And there are a range of initiatives under my colleague, the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship that are designed to do just that.

The Speaker:

Member, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

What I do know is that it’s clear that this government is strapping all their environmental woes to the former head of the Sierra Club, on his way out of this place.

My dad, ZȺWIZUT Carl Olsen, successfully defended his Douglas treaty hunting and fishing rights against this province in the Supreme Court of Canada. He’s actively protesting a plan to build a highway on top of Goldstream, our critical salmon habitat, pushed to the brink by both deforestation and increased traffic, standing each Tuesday with his signs and his allies, ZȺWIZUT now defends the trees that provide cover to the spawning beds.

This is the story of so many creeks, streams and rivers in this province that would be lucky to have a ZȺWIZUT standing in their defence. We wonder where our salmon are. Instead of slowing traffic down through the park or modifying human behaviour, like the hundreds of drivers mindlessly texting as they speed past ZȺWIZUT, it’s the salmon who are going to pay the price.

So to the Premier, with the fishing industry all but extirpated in this province from this B.C. economy, will the Premier lease that mural space out there depicting the fishing industry to the fossil fuel lobbyists for advertising so the Minister of Energy can be very clear who’s calling the shots, and so that the visitors of this place will know exactly what the members of this House have done to a once glorious industry in this province?

Hon. G. Heyman:

Every member on this side of the House knows how important wild salmon are to the people of this province and to the First Nations who have lived here for millennia and their people. We have heard that directly from the nations with whom we meet. I heard that as recently as yesterday.

[2:45 p.m.]

We are in the midst of an overarching project to ensure that we look at things holistically. Whether it’s changing the parameters of the Forest Act to put ecosystem health first, whether it’s ensuring that land use planning is integrated in the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship and that we bring together a wild salmon strategy, watershed security strategy and a coastal restoration strategy, we are taking actions because the way that we’ve done things in the past just did not work.

You cannot make decision by decision in isolation and expect to protect the ecosystems on which we depend. We’re changing the paradigm. We’re working hard at it. There are a number of people on this side of the House who work together on that, and we’ll continue to do that work.


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