Malahat LNG: Short-term gain for long-term pain

Over the past few weeks my son’s grade three class at Brentwood Elementary have been learning about salmon. They have the full set up, an insulated tank, a chiller, rocks and of course water.

In preparation for the arrival of their 200 fertilized salmon eggs from the Goldstream Hatchery, they learned about accumulated thermal units (ATU), how to calculate them and how to chart their progress.

When they received their eggs they floated in a little basket at the top of the tank and my son, Silas, and his classmates eagerly awaited them to hatch. They started hatching about a week ago, and everyday Silas has come home with an update.

He has excitedly explained to us, that first they are alevin and that they will remain alevin until they have consumed all the food in their yoke sacks, at which time the sack will suck up into their bodies and they will be fry.

Silas has been clear about their chances of survival, he knows that some will make it and some won’t. He looks forward to the day that his class can take their fry to a creek that feeds into Todd Inlet to release them.

He understands their lifecycle and he knows of the sacrifice that salmon make at the end of their lives to reproduce and feed the plants and animals of the forest surrounding their creek.

It is beautiful to watch him learn about the incredible journey of the Coho. As a family that eats salmon regularly it is important that he knows the connection that we have and it is thrilling to know that he is excited to take a personal responsibility for this relationship.

So, I was overcome by emotion when I was asked by a high ranking executive of Steelhead LNG why I cared so much about their plan to establish a 6 million tonne floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Saanich Inlet. Frankly, I was speechless when he suggested to me that perhaps it would be easier for me to just stop caring about their plans to drive their proposal through the approval process.

I care, for the same reason my son cares, just like thousands of generations of his ancestors cared before him. I care, because his experience of raising these 200 Coho means nothing if he is releasing them into a toxic environment where they and their offspring have little chance of surviving.

The Saanich Inlet is finally recovering from a century of industrialization. During that century, a once thriving ecosystem, teeming with biodiversity, was turned into a marine wasteland.

That was the premise that this Steelhead LNG executive used to justify his proposal. This is not some Greenfield site he said; this is an industrial site, with a deep-water port.

Today, people look out to the Saanich Inlet with sadness. They remember the stories their grandparents told them about the salmon. Not 200 eggs nurtured and loved in school classrooms, but salmon so plentiful that you could walk across their backs to visit your relatives at Malahat.

The Steelhead LNG executives want so badly for us to stop caring. They want so badly for us to allow them to drag this project through the regulatory process so they can get their approval, and get a big blank cheque.

That is where the economy begins and ends for them. They have no connection to this place. They have dropped into the Saanich Inlet with a plan to leverage the political aspirations of our current provincial government for their personal advantage. They are committed to sacrificing the long-term quality of life of the Saanich Inlet for their short-term gain.

The local economy, the one that we built for generations, is just an impediment to them. The fish are an annoyance to their plan; the damage caused by heavy industry in the Saanich Inlet to the tourism operators like Butchart Gardens, and other small businesses has been ignored. The message of course is if you oppose Steelhead LNG then you oppose the “economy” and “jobs.”

I do care. I will continue to care. We will continue to raise our children to care. That is why I will not stand by and allow fast-talking, say-nothing, operators threaten a lifetime of investment, so they can capitalize on an ill-conceived LNG export industry created by desperate politicians wanting to get re-elected.

The plan as I see it is to drag the people of the Saanich Inlet through “the process” so they can cash their cheques and be gone, just as the cement plant before them, and we will still be here, hearts hurting, while we clean up a mess that should have never happened in the first place.