The Appeal Court of Newfoundland and Labrador is hearing arguments from the provincial government and the Atlantic Salmon Federation on the government’s appeal of the Supreme Court decision to require an environmental impact statement for the Grieg aquaculture proposal for Placentia Bay.
In the meantime, the government has announced that it will require an environmental impact statement. However, if government wins its appeal, there will be no environmental impact statement.
On the face of it, starting the environmental impact statement process before the appeal is heard appears to be a good thing. However, the government’s whole approach in this process has been cynical and heavy-handed. The central question is: can the public have any faith in a process administered by this government when they have already made up their mind that this project must go ahead regardless of any impacts on the environment, wild salmon or any other species?
The minister responsible for the environment, Eddie Joyce, has stated publicly that we have to find a way to make the Grieg project happen. He appears to have forgotten that his mandate is to protect the environment. Government has already shown their contempt for the environmental assessment process by releasing the project without requiring an environmental impact statement, in violation of their own legislation. Now they are in court challenging the ruling that an environmental impact statement is required.
The minister responsible for aquaculture, Gerry Byrne, believes that if he says something with enough conviction, no matter how ridiculous, people will believe it. His statement in the House on Dec. 7 to the effect that Newfoundland and Labrador has the best aquaculture regulations in the world and is attracting the aquaculture industry to N.L. illustrates this. The aquaculture industry is definitely attracted to N.L., but for the opposite reason. Our aquaculture regulations are pathetic, even for Canada. With an incentive of $45 million and insignificant access fees, Grieg would be crazy to go anywhere else. Why not get rich here while being subsidized for polluting Placentia Bay with impunity? Unfortunately, the public can have no confidence in the ability of government to objectively and fairly administer the environmental assessment process for the Grieg proposal. For its part, Grieg has said little except that the $45 million is essential. Government is in a clear and significant conflict of interest because this investment would make them an owner and because they have already shown that they are desperate for this project to go ahead. Meanwhile the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has mutely facilitated this environmental travesty.
N.L. should be developing a properly regulated aquaculture industry with sustainable models that have been shown to work in other jurisdictions. It is not necessary to destroy the resource on which aquaculture is based to develop sustainable aquaculture jobs. It is not necessary to invest in a failed technology that is fatal to wild salmon and toxic to the environment.