Federal government scraps PNCIMA funding agreement, NDP cries foul

Online first. - Black Press
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The Federal government has decided to unilaterally withdraw from a funding agreement meant to provide money for the Pacific North Coast Area Management Initiative (PNCIMA), a process to create a comprehensive plan to manage the environmental and economic needs of the North Coast from the top of the Haida Gwaii to the top of Vancouver Island.

The move was announced in a letter from DFO – which represents the Federal government in the PNCIMA planning process – to other stakeholders. The decision has led the Federal NDP and other PNCIMA supporters to accuse the Conservative government of political interference in a program where most of the participants are likely to be opposed to Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

In the its letter to PNCIMA stakeholders, the Federal government makes no mention about why the funding agreement needed to be scrapped other than some vague reasoning that in order to meet PNCIMA’s December 2012 deadline, a more focused plan needs to be developed. According to DFO’s regional director general, Susan Farlinger, that the government is dedicated to seeing PNCIMA initiative’s work towards creating a ocean management plan will continue as before, but that the previous plan was not practical or efficient enough to finish the work before the deadline.

“Fundamentally what this is about is a streamlining of the process. There had been a lot of detail in the work plan we had contemplated, and we’ve really needed to meet that deadline of December 2012, but we also need a plan that is practical and will provide a framework for moving forward,” Farlinger told The Northern View.

However, the now scrapped funding agreement that was sacrificed in the name of streamlining contained an $8.3-million deal with a Californial-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation that would have gone to help pay for the process. This is not a small amount of money; it’s actually over two million dollars more than what DFO has spent on the initiative since 2003. The government is reiterating its support for the original overarching agreement that was signed with the Provincial government and First Nations, but on which Tides Canada is conspicuously absent.

These funds were going to be administered by Tides Canada, an environmental group. The Vancouver Sun newspaper has cited unspecified sources that say the government was worried about PNCIMA becoming too heavily influenced by environmentalists from the US, where there is currently a raging debate over the construction of an other oil pipeline from the Albertan oil sands.

The NDP has been quick to come out to accuse the Tories of political interference. Local MP Nathan Cullen says that the Conservatives were looking for any excuse to try to undermine a coastal management plan that could have caused problems for the Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project. The Tory government has stated a support for the project in the past and voted against Cullen’s House motion to support a potential oil tanker ban off the North Coast of BC, which received unanimous support from the other parties. Cullen believes that the decision comes too close to when the inquiry into the Enbridge pipeline is set to begin for it to be a coincidence.

“I think it’s [the Conservatives] giving in to their friends in the oil patch. It’s going to hurt Canada’s ability to have a clean ocean environment. It’s Sabotage.  They were looking for a reason to get out and they found one,” says Cullen.

Cullen says that if the Conservatives are actually worried about the money coming from environmental groups, they only have themselves to blame.

“The only reason there was any money at all coming from environmental groups at all is because the government reneged on its promise to properly fund the program . . . if money was really the problem they could just start funding it properly.

Des Nobles is the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District’s representative on the Integrated Management Committee, which takes part in the PNCIMA discussions. He says that there have been some rumblings that a decision like this was coming.

He says he’s concerned that the decision may have been influenced by lobbying from some group who may be opposed to the restrictions an ocean management plan may impose on businesses.  He says that he will be attending a meeting of the committee scheduled for the middle of this month here in Prince Rupert where he hopes that the government’s intentions are will be clarified.



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