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B.C. scientists urge strategic voting to protect watersheds

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — Five leading conservationists and environmental scientists said yesterday that British Columbia watersheds are threatened by provincial government policies, and they urged the public to “vote strategically” in next week's election.

They were reluctant to endorse any specific party, but their pointed criticisms of policies introduced by the Liberals indicated they think a vote for the NDP would be in the best interest of the environment.

“When you see five people of this calibre gathered together to raise the alarm, you have to pay attention,” said Craig Orr, who moderated a group news conference.

Making statements were Mark Angelo, chairman of the Rivers Institute at B.C. Institute of Technology; Elaine Golds, a biochemist; William Rees, a professor at the University of British Columbia; Alexandra Morton, a leading salmon researcher who has been campaigning against salmon farms; and Vicky Husband, a senior environmental advocate.

Three of the people present – Dr. Orr, Dr. Rees and Ms. Morton – are on the board of a non-profit group, the Save Our Rivers Society, which sprang into existence because of concerns over the government's promotion of private power projects in B.C. watersheds.

Ms. Husband said the environment is a non-partisan issue, and offered criticism of not only the NDP and Liberal platforms, but also of the Green Party. “I wouldn't say who to vote for,” she said, but then ran through a list of concerns that showed she thinks the Liberal government has put B.C.'s environment at risk. “We have the best place on earth,” she said, echoing a government advertising slogan. “Then why the hell aren't we protecting it?”

Mr. Angelo said he is concerned about the lack of an overall plan for developing run-of-river power projects in the province and a lack of public consultation. “Whoever wins has to address those concerns,” he said.

Ms. Morton accused the government of putting wild salmon at risk by allowing fish-farm expansion and by promoting power developments on numerous rivers. “I personally have always voted Green, but I feel personally responsible for [Liberal Leader] Gordon Campbell getting in, so I'm voting NDP,” she said.

Dr. Rees indicated he is doing the same thing, saying he has an affinity for Green policies, “but I probably will vote strategically to try and avoid having the Campbell government return.”

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