General News · 31st October 2011
by Brian Hayden
729 Whaletown Rd.
During the second public meeting on the second draft of the Cortes OCP, a key issue was raised that does not appear to be adequately dealt with in the draft OCP: the relation of corporate entities to the goals, values, objectives, and policies of local citizens’ government. Corporations by their very nature are qualitatively and quantitatively different from individual citizens. They can be large powerful entities with enormous resources and legal clout that can dwarf, intimidate, and overpower local - and sometimes provincial or national - governments. They can be multinational entities with no ties to, or concerns for, local citizens’ interests. This is demonstrated almost daily in news reports from the third world and even Canada where grain growers are sued by Monsanto for the genetically modified plants growing by chance in their ditches without paying royalties, and where municipalities are sued by pesticide companies for passing bylaws to ban “cosmetic” pesticides that affect children’s health. Most corporations are driven by one thing and one thing only: profit, often with little or no regard for other concerns, whether environmental or human health, welfare, or even life. In contrast, citizens often cherish life, health, relationships, beauty and art, other life forms, and the environment. Despite the enormous differences between corporations and individuals, corporations are generally treated the same as individual citizens in terms of legal rights.
In the Cortes OCP, there seems to be little recognition of these differences or discussion of corporate industries. In some domains, such as forestry, corporate affairs appear to be entirely controlled by Provincial agencies and there is little that Cortesians or the Regional District may be able to do other than plead or protest corporate actions that run counter to established OCP goals, objectives, or policies. However, the implementation of bylaws that may be able to curtail objectionable practices may not have been fully explored. In other areas, such as aquaculture, the Regional District clearly does have some control over where and how corporate or industrial operations take place as well as the nature of these activities.
What the draft OCP lacks is a clear statement of what corporate behavior should be permitted and how it can be controlled, especially when corporate or industrial actions appear to conflict with stated OCP policies or regional bylaws. Glaring examples of conflicts between the existing OCP and corporate or industrial actions already exist such as the introduction of Atlantic salmon, parasites, and viruses into regional waters; the killing of crabs and sea stars as industrial “pests”; the harassment of waterfowl; the intimidation of those who protest aquaculture abuses and expansions; the tearing up of beaches and placement of shellfish structures on beaches; the introduction of machinery in locations where it is explicitly prohibited. How can these actions be reconciled with the existing goals and policies:
- To preserve the rural quality of the area while protecting its ecological integrity.
- To safeguard the quality of the marine environment, given its importance to the economic and social well-being of the community.
- To emphasize our respect for all forms of life and the need to protect biodiversity and the health of the environment that it reflects.
- To preserve areas deemed to be environmentally sensitive from inappropriate forms of development.
- To protect coastal areas from development deemed to be inappropriate by reason of location, form, scale, or density.
- To protect environmentally sensitive areas and to promote the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat.
-To protect beaches.
-To ensure that coastal developments do not “adversely affect the scenic and environmental qualities of the Island and its foreshore,”
I was surprised to hear one younger attendant at the second meeting say that she definitely wanted industry (it seemed of any scale, including on the scale of the Fanny Bay shellfish processing plant) in order to create jobs for younger people on Cortes. How is this consistent with the vision and goal of maintaining a rural environment and biodiversity? She appeared to be ready to pave paradise to put up parking lots. Is that really why people have come to Cortes? Small-scale industries are definitely to be desired (internet services, brewing, construction, markets, restaurants, trades, value-added products, smithing, and others). These are consistent with the existing OCP and the tenor of the draft OCP. However, large industries, by their very nature seek to expand and grow and infringe on local values and interests, as has already been the case with a number of aquaculture corporations. Before endorsing yet another corporate venture, such as an aquaculture processing plant, the issues noted above need to be investigated, thought out, and carefully planned so that unrestricted growth and invasion of others’ rights are not compromised.
Contrary to the observation that there used to be a small family owned shellfish processing plant on Cortes (and by implication another one should be okay or even desirable), the shellfish industry has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. It is much larger than it was in the past, and there are now a number of large corporate players involved on Cortes, including Island Sea Farms and Taylor Shellfish (the largest producer in North America, I believe). Taylor has already taken over the processing plant at Fanny Bay, and their record in dealing with residents, the environment, and the state in Washington is not good (see Google: Save Our Shorelines). Taylor is a typical big corporation, and I understand that it would like to expand further in British Columbia.
Cortesians and the Regional District desperately need some means to contain and control corporate activities, or they will be taken over and controlled eventually by large corporate interests (if that is not already the case). Is it citizens or corporations that should determine the fate of places like Cortes Island? Without adequate controls and the means and will to enforce them, there seems to be little point to developing any OCP. The Regional District record so far in this respect has been sadly deficient.