Barry Penner left environment ministry employees last week with a laugh not a whimper. In his departing email, Mr. Penner - who was shuffled out of that portfolio to head up aboriginal relations and reconciliation - gave a run down of the government's top 10 environmental accomplishments over the past few years. Number one on the list? His approval of a sewage treatment plan for Victoria,"which is important, when you consider how much crap is generated at the Legislature!" The following is a complete copy of that email.
Hi, it's Barry:
I know the dust is still settling from the recently announced changes in government, but as I get fully immersed in my new ministerial responsibilities, I want to say thank you for all your hard work and dedication to environmental stewardship and protection.
As Minister of Environment for the past five years, I felt honoured to work with such a great group of people. So while I'm certainly looking forward to my new role as Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, I must admit that I will miss the Ministry of Environment.
However, I won't be far away and I'm more than willing to provide support and advice to your new Minister, my colleague Murray Coell, if he feels it would be helpful. After all, as a former Park Ranger, I know the concept of "once a parkie, always a parkie" means that it's next to impossible to get the environment ministry out of your blood.
These past five years were often intensely busy, and time has gone by quickly (it's hard to believe that five years is longer than any other Environment Minister in BC has served in that role).
Still, much has been accomplished in recent years and I think it is worth reflecting on some of those accomplishments.
So with apologies to David Letterman, here is a 'Top 10" list of the BC Government's environmental accomplishments over the past few years - which are in addition to introducing North America's first revenue-neutral carbon tax:
10. In 2007, the BC Government announced a policy that there will be no conventional coal-fired power plants in BC. All the new electricity generation in BC since 2001 has not produced additional greenhouse gasses. They have been wind, water, methane gas capture (from landfills) and waste-heat projects. BC's first commercial wind power project is now in operation as of last year (Bear Mountain near Dawson Creek). There is also a wind power project on Grouse Mountain now producing electricity, and two other wind power projects under construction in north eastern BC.
9. The Ministry of Environment developed legislation, which I introduced and the Legislature approved in 2008, which for the first time allows the ministry to regulate the ownership and possession of potentially dangerous exotic species like tigers, snakes and crocodiles.
8. The BC Government has spent $1.8 million and worked with private sector partners (who contributed even more funds) since 2001 on recovery actions for the endangered Vancouver Island marmot. A few years ago, the number of marmots dropped to less than 30 but today there are close to 300 in the wild and 172 more in captive breeding facilities. In 2008, we more than doubled penalties under the Wildlife Act, to the highest in Canada, for anyone convicted of killing endangered species (penalties are now up to $500,000 and/or three years in jail).
7. The BC Government has established a policy of acquiring only hybrid-electric vehicles for the government passenger vehicle fleet. Today, the BC government has more than 600 hybrid vehicles - the biggest fleet of hybrid vehicles in North America. They are more fuel efficient and help reduce emissions and improve air quality -- while saving taxpayers money on fuel costs.
6. Last year, the Ministry of Environment brought forward a regulation requiring the addition of a bittering agent to anti-freeze to help protect children and pets from this poisonous substance. We are the first province in Canada with this requirement, but I suspect we won't be the last. The bittering agent must be in anti-freeze sold in BC by July 1, next year.
5. 65 new provincial parks, 144 conservancies and 2 ecological reserves have been established since 2001, protecting more than 1.8 million additional hectares of land. These additions include the Great Bear Rainforest. BC now has more protected area than any other province in Canada.
4. In 2007, BC's first electronic recycling program was launched in response to a requirement brought forward by the Ministry of Environment. The initial product categories (TVs, computers, keyboards & printers) was expanded this summer to include cell phones, compact fluorescent light bulbs (the kind that contain mercury) and batteries used in electronic products.
3. The BC Government entered into an agreement with EPCOR in 2005 to develop a treatment facility to stop up to 600,000kg of toxic heavy metals from entering Howe Sound every year from the old Britannia Mine site. This facility came into operation in 2006 and vastly improved the aquatic health of the area and saved taxpayers money (approximately $10 million) through a public-private partnership.
2. The BC Government helped fund the $2 billion Canada Line rapid transit system, which was completed ahead of schedule. It has taken 100,000 people out of their vehicles, reducing emissions caused by road travel.
1. The Ministry of Environment advised the City of Victoria and the surrounding Capital Region District in 2006 that, for the first time, they would have to develop a plan to treat their sewage. I approved the plan for sewage treatment just two months ago - which is important, when you consider how much crap is generated at the Legislature!
I wish you all the best in the months and years ahead, and hope that our paths will cross again soon.