Thursday, October 29, 2015

Horgan in the BC Legislature

Hansard, October 28, 2015:
Yesterday I asked the Premier if she would apologize to Tim Duncan, the courageous whistle-blower who came forward when he was bullied by an official in the Minister of Transportation's office and directed to delete e-mails that he felt needed to be retained to respond to an access-to-information investigation. She refused to offer an explanation or an apology to Mr. Duncan.

We asked her why it was that the person responsible for freedom of information in her office used a tracking system consisting of Post-it Notes, and she didn't answer. We asked the Premier why she had said in May, and then again as recently as this fall, that she wouldn't tolerate anyone working in the government that wasn't abiding by the rules. Yet Ms. Cadario and Mr. Facey, identified by the commissioner, continue to be in the employ of the province of British Columbia.

My question again, given 24 hours, is to the Premier. Will she do the right thing, apologize to Mr. Duncan and also follow through on her commitment to ensure that people working under her are not breaking the law?

...Well, they said they wouldn't do it again in 2012. They said they wouldn't do it again in 2013. Now here we are, two years later, and we're still not going to do it again.

But it's not just Ms. Cadario who has an absence of records. It's not just the Premier who has an absence of records. We contacted, as I said yesterday and we raised here yesterday, the Premier's office and asked if Mr. Dyble, her deputy minister, had any records, any documentation around litigation, around internal investigations, around the botched firing of seven health care workers. Now, one would think, with all of the activity around that file, that someone in the Premier's office would have kept a scrap of paper, but that is not the case.

We then asked for another series of information from the Premier's communications director, Ben Chin. We asked if he had kept any records or documents over a period of time. You can well imagine the response we got... But the communications director, the guy responsible for making some sense of the incoherence in the Premier's office, did not keep one scrap of paper.

So my question, again, to the Premier is: if the Premier's director of communications doesn't write anything down — he doesn't send any e-mails — how is it that he communicates her inexplicable vision to the people of British Columbia?

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Judge by actions, not by words

2011 Year End Report, Premier Christy Clark
We are working to make British Columbia the most open provincial government in Canada and I am committed to being the most connected premier in history.

Open Government is about giving people a sense of confidence that government is working for them, not trying to do something to them.

Government claims it has no records related to health firings, Vancouver Sun, October 27, 2015
VICTORIA — The B.C. government claims to have virtually no records from senior officials who oversaw the botched firings of health researchers, in response to multiple freedom of information requests by the B.C. NDP and The Vancouver Sun.

The government said it was unable find a single email, memo, briefing note or other correspondence from top officials in the Health Ministry and premier’s office during two years in which it was rocked by the scandal, forced to apologize and launched an outside review...
Email scandal uncovered a culture of 'delete, delete, delete' in B.C. government, CBC News, October 22, 2015
Denham's report, Access Denied, found that Michele Cadario, deputy chief of staff in the premier's office, routinely deleted emails in contravention of laws protecting the public's right to hold politicians accountable for their actions.
NDP lashes out at B.C. Liberal government’s ‘culture of cover-up and deceit’, The Indo-Canadian Voice, October 26, 2015
Premier Clark has created and encouraged a culture of deception, deceit, and delete, delete, delete,” said NDP Leader John Horgan. “We asked for emails from the Premier’s office and got none, then discovered more than a hundred existed and disappeared. We asked for emails from the LNG ministry and got exactly three. Then we found out 800 existed and, again, disappeared.”
BC Government Put Itself Above the Law with Email Deletions, Paul Willcocks, The Tyee, October 28, 2015
...[Information & Privacy Commissioner] Denham was reviewing a specific FOI request Southern had handled. The applicant had sought all emails sent by Michelle Cadario, Premier Christy Clark's deputy chief of staff, over eight days last November.

Cadario said there were no responsive records, not one email, and that's what the applicant was told.

But the same person filed a similar request seeking email records from Clark’s chief of staff Dan Doyle. And those included emails from Cadario from the same period...

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In BC, photo ops trump action

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Truth does not serve needs of crony capitalists

SNC-Lavalin Inc. is the kind of ethics-light corporation that BC Liberals likes to have as a partner.

With considerable public flourish, after departure of Chairman Gwyn Morgan, the company announced an amnesty program, effective from June to August 2013, to encourage senior employees "to report potential corruption and anti-competition matters in which they may have been directly or indirectly involved."

However, questions were soon raised about the sincerity of SNC Lavalin's amnesty. Executives Michel L'Abbé and Michel Emond admitted they had been involved for years in rigging bids and hiding illegal political contributions by using nominees who were secretly reimbursed by the company. Despite the amnesty, SNC Lavalin discharged these senior managers. The firings sent a message to other insiders thinking of implicating the corporation in criminal activity.

This week, a Quebec Superior Court judge said the program entitled the employees to protection from disciplinary or legal consequences. They were given substantial awards.

Petro politician Gwyn Morgan, Christy Clark's transition team advisor in 2011, is a 6-figure contributor to the BC Liberal Party and a 7-figure contributor to the Fraser Institute. He was criticized by corporate lawyer and director Garfield Emerson. Theresa Tedesco of The National Post reported:
Basically, Mr. Morgan speaks of shock and disbelief at learning about illicit payments worth tens of millions of dollars in early 2012 while on a business trip to Hong Kong. “The following 16 months turned out to be the most disturbing and challenging of my four-decade career in business,” he wrote in a column in the Globe and Mail.

Mr. Morgan, a celebrated member of the Canadian business establishment as founding CEO of Encana Corp., writes about the damage control that ensued and SNC’s attempts to get to the bottom of the crisis. Among the bon mots in this sordid corporate tale, Mr. Morgan, who is also a director of at least four major global companies, earnestly concludes the corruption scandal raises fundamental questions about governance. “Why didn’t these errant behaviours come to the board’s attention earlier? Shouldn’t we have known about these payments? Were we, as some have suggested, ‘asleep at the switch’?”

Enter Mr. Emerson, a long-time blue chip director of numerous Canadian companies, and no stranger to corporate crisis having lived through the demise of Livent Inc., who mocked Mr. Morgan’s takeaway points from the bribery scandal as “weak, defensive and unpersuasive.” In a letter to the editor, Mr. Emerson bluntly dismisses Mr. Morgan’s “conveys” about the role of directors, independent directors, internal and external auditors as “corporate governance 101.” In other words, they are pedestrian conclusions hardly befitting a director of Mr. Morgan’s experience and stature. “It is unconvincing that he only learned these lessons from knowledge of alleged defalcations by long-time senior executive officers of SNC’s management,” declares Mr. Emerson.

...Mr. Emerson was searing in his sarcasm. The former SNC chairman may have been “directly on point,” Mr. Emerson writes, but he failed to acknowledge that he was an integral part of the problem. “What Mr. Morgan did not learn was that the chairman of the board and the board, as the leadership of the company, are responsible for assuring that the company they direct and supervise has established the right corporate culture and management they appoint practices strong ethical values.”
Morgan's claim of naive ignorance is similar to Premier Clark's assertion that she knew nothing about underlings routinely destroying documents and correspondence. October 22, Information & Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham delivered Access Denied, a scathing judgement of Liberal Government practices. Clark could not have been surprised by anything Denham wrote because the Commissioner's words reiterated observations made in previous assessments of Liberal actions. As the Vancouver Sun headlined:
Premier ignores repeated calls to archive information, Christy Clark’s inaction makes a mockery of her promise of open and transparent government...
Clark's immediate act was one that is tried and true; a scheme also employed to quiet the recent health ministry scandal. She appointed a faithful ally so that questioning could be deflected while an "outside review" was underway. David Loukidelis, who served Liberals so that repayment of millions could be waived to induce guilty pleas that ended the politically embarrassing BC Rail trial. This time the former Liberal Government insider will recommend changes to information handling procedures.

But, wait, you say. Doesn't the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner already provide counsel on those matters and haven't taxpayers paid the office about $25 million for their expert advice since Christy Clark took office?

Well, yes, that's true. However, Elizabeth Denham is a highly respected independent officer and David Loukidelis is a loyal Liberal servant who has pocketed almost $3 million in payments from government since the party took office, including $324,205 reported in fiscal years 2013-2015, despite his "resignation for personal reasons in 2012."

Gary Mason provides an apt and concise summary in his Globe and Mail column:
Once upon a time, Ms. Clark campaigned on the promise to have the most open, transparent government in the country. We now know that was a complete and utter sham, said for the benefit of a gullible public to get votes. The government’s record on this front is a disgrace...

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Wheels of justice turn slowly

The legal processes may be slow but that provides years of opportunity for people devoid of morality and ethics to speculate in stockholdings of the merchants of death.

In the 1990s, the Government of British Columbia began legal action against tobacco manufacturers, seeking recovery of damages and costs arising from wrongful conduct of the tobacco industry, including deceptive promotion of their products. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of government to sue the tobacco industry and, almost four years ago, BC partnered with other provinces to "expedite moving these cases to trial." No hearing dates are scheduled so final resolution of the action is not likely to occur before the 2020s.

One arm of the BC government takes legal action and provides services to smokers trying to stop because, experts know:
Tobacco-related illness is the leading cause of preventable death in British Columbia. Tobacco use causes up to 6,000 deaths in the province each year; killing more people than all other drugs, motor vehicle collisions, murder, suicide and HIV/AIDS combined.
However, while teams of lawyers spend their careers preparing government's case, another arm of the same government provides financing to the industry that profits by killing and injuring its customers.

Compared to a year earlier, bcIMC has an additional $73 million invested in the world's tobacco companies. This list is taken from the pension manager's March 31, 2015 inventory of investments, which was only recently released.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dear Globe and Mail

disposito, Prof. Holger Syme, October 16, 2015
You have the best arts coverage of all our Canadian newspapers. You have some excellent reporters. During this election campaign, you published a number of serious, well-considered, forcefully argued editorials. I don’t know why you feel the need to give Margaret Wente a platform, but I can overlook that. Often, I feel like you are the only Canadian paper that aspires to some sort of intellectual seriousness. The Toronto Star tends to break more stories than you do, but I prefer your vibe. I’m stuffy that way. I don’t know why anyone would read the National Post, except, occasionally, for its long(ish)-form theatre reviews.

And today, you left me without a Canadian paper to read. I’m cancelling my subscription...
After reading the complete article, you may have a sense of the skill deficiencies within senior levels of Canada's newspapers. No doubt, the press employs young people with potential to become consummate journalists but steady cutbacks not only shrank editorial offices, they pruned heartwood that provided durability and decay resistance to each news organization.

When any corporation excises it most experienced staff, it expects to save costs and it may hope to gain vitality. Instead, remaining staff becomes submissive and the operation loses institutional memory, knowledge and wisdom. When management selects a brainless course, there is no one willing to dispute the choice.

David Walmsley, Globe and Mail editor for the last 19 months, moved from one senior media job to another since coming to Canada from the U.K. where he worked in Belfast, Glasgow and London. Within weeks of his arrival at the Globe, the newspaper's staff were expressing uncertainty, worry and discontent. Media critic Andrew Mitrovica blamed in part, "a proposal to have editorial staff pen advertorials paid for and approved by advertisers."

The Globe's editorial supporting the Harper dominated Conservative Party, but not Harper, has been called an example of absurdist humour. The twitterverse reacted in its usual multi-faceted fashion:

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Wanna Raise a Kid, Cheap?

Following is an item from August 29, 2013. I was reminded of it while reading Stephen's informative and entertaining Twitter feed. His followers have been growing steadily as he explains:

Sun columnist Stephen Lautens (@stephenlautens) has an eye for worthy stories and a deft way with words. This example can be found at his blog, Stephen Lauten's Parking Space:
"The Fraser Institute published a report this week that says the cost of raising children in Canada has been grossly exaggerated by parents, child welfare advocates and governments.

"According to the author – who previously wrote a report that said poverty is not really a problem in this country – parents here only need to spend around $3,000 to $4,500 a year to raise a child. In fact, “it has never been easier, financially, to raise children in Canada.”

"If you are an actual Canadian parent like me, that is when your morning coffee shoots out your nose.

"Most studies and estimates place the annual cost of raising children at between $10,000 and $15,000 a year. According to the new Fraser Institute Report parents don’t necessarily need to spend money on things like a bigger house or apartment, so it’s not fair to count that towards child costs.

"That is the point when you wonder if anyone at the Fraser Institute has actually met any children..."
Continue reading HERE

Readers of Stephen Lautens, at least ones beyond the age of 30, might find that his playful and pointed style strikes a familiar note. Actually, the name provides a clue as well.

Stephen is the son of Gary Lautens, a giant of Canadian journalism who passed far too young. I remember Gary well; he was one of my favourites.

Ryan Beedie, a director on his way to Fraser Institute meeting to discuss costs of child-care in Canada

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"Throw him some work"

Regular readers know my complaints about corporate media found-ins taking payments from parties affected by coverage. People taking the cash don't feel need to explain or excuse and indulgent colleagues seldom raise the conflict issue.

Vancouver Sun political pundit Vaughn Palmer might believe the practice does not influence reporting, but Premier Clark's Executive Director of Communications and Issues Management has a different view, revealed by Leslie Campbell in When spin doctors make policy, published by Victoria magazine Focus Online:
After a year and a half of waiting, Focus received records that show in some detail how the provincial Liberals came up with a pivotal element of their winning 2013 election strategy: an LNG industry that would create 100,000 jobs, bring $100 billion to provincial coffers, and underpin the “BC Prosperity Fund.” When juxtaposed against Adrian Dix’s promise to keep Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline from becoming a reality, enough easily-influenced voters in BC opted for Christy’s Clark more economically pleasing vision of the future. But it was phoney baloney, conjured up in a three-week period in a “rush assignment” given to Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance Doug Foster by Clark’s newly-hired communications director Ben Chin.

Chin was formerly a CBC TV news anchor in Ontario and after running for the provincial Liberals there—and losing—he became VP of Communications with the Ontario Power Authority. In that job he infamously advised an OPA official—who was troubled by critical media reports—to "throw him some work" to get a particular journalist onside. "It would be a good score," Chin said.
The entire piece by Ms. Campbell reinforces what we've known for some time. BC's entire LNG policy was a collection of lies developed as an election ploy that worked for Liberals in 2013 and may work again in 2017.

To seem plausible again in 2017 to "easily-influenced voters" requires continued assistance of corporate media participants. That will be rewarding for the helpful. Both the Finance Ministry and Liberal business friends are used to throwing out lucrative rewards.

For an example, READ Rafe Mair's LNG shill, Province blogger practices shabby journalism, Common Sense Canadian, October 2015.

Cash for Coverage: Bribery of Journalists Around the World, A Report to the Centre for International Media Assistance.

Cash for news coverage: It’s what Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas, calls “the dark part of journalism” – and it happens every day somewhere in the world.

Nearly everyone agrees that it is an enormous and extremely serious problem for the profession. But Alves is among those who believe that journalists’ groups have not done enough about it.

“It’s not an issue that’s much covered,” he said. “We have been so much engaged in defending journalists, that we become shy sometimes in uncovering or exposing this side of our craft.”

Not only do journalists accept bribes and media houses accept paid material disguised as news stories, but all too often, reporters and editors are the instigators, extorting money either for publishing favorable stories–or for not publishing damaging ones.

With all the organized efforts to support media development and defend press freedom around the world, there has been remarkably little done in any concerted way to reduce the problem of corrupt journalism…

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hitching to a busted wagon

LNG bust could last for years,, Oct 8, 2015
Commodity prices have crashed over the past year, and the market for LNG is no different.

Over the past five years or so, there has been a flurry of construction for LNG export terminals, as natural gas exporters hoped to take advantage of the sky-high prices for LNG in Asia. LNG prices jumped following the Fukushima meltdown in Japan – Japan was by far the world’s largest LNG importer before it was forced to shut down more than fifty nuclear reactors in 2011, and its dependence on imported natural gas spiked immediately after the disaster.

China, despite voracious demand for all sorts of commodities, has not been a huge consumer of natural gas. It uses coal for most of its electricity generation. Nevertheless, due to an effort to clean up its terrible air pollution, China has been central to corporate forecasts for huge annual increases in global LNG demand. As a result, LNG export projects proliferated around the world.

But a funny thing has happened along the way. LNG prices have crashed, with landing prices in Asia dropping from a high of $20 per million Btu (MMBtu) in early 2014 to around $8/MMBtu today. The bonanza for LNG exporters is not playing out due to a variety of factors. First is the collapse in oil prices. LNG prices are still largely linked to the price of crude, so plummeting oil prices have dragged down LNG as well.

...China’s slowing economy has put a dent in its demand for imported LNG, with imports down 3.5 percent in 2015 compared to a year earlier.

...Also, Japan is slowly returning to nuclear power. It brought its first nuclear reactor back online in August. More nuclear power generation will cut down on the need to import LNG.

...Then there is supply. The scramble to build LNG export terminals in recent years is leading to way too much supply. Companies proposed and broke ground on new facilities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Australia, East Africa, Russia, and more. Global liquefaction capacity stood at 301 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) at the end of 2014, according to the International Gas Union. But there was 128 mtpa under construction – meaning global LNG export capacity will jump by more than 40 percent in the next few years. Demand doesn’t appear to be able to keep up...
Read also:
Buyers Market for LNG Turns Tables on Producers Amid Supply Glut, Bloomberg Business, Oct 5, 2015

Is the B.C. LNG industry sailing away?, CKNW, Oct 7, 2015

Gas & Petro rights sales

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A challenge to Wally Oppal and friends - UPDATE

More than two year later, almost nothing has changed for people most in need.

CBC News

The following was first published August 8, 2013:

In 2009, Delta South voters decided that one term MLA Wally Oppal was not the person they wanted to represent them in the Legislature. That decision made him eligible for a severance payment from taxpayers worth $127,000. This eligibility was not affected by the almost $200,000 a year pension he received for work as a Superior Court judge, nor the fact that he was about to be appointed Chancellor of Thompson Rivers University and Commissar of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, a sinecure that paid him close to $1 million with much more for high-priced friends to do the real work. He also is Senior Counsel with Boughton Law, a firm that billed $1.9 million to the BC government in fiscal years 2011-2013.

To put the income of Oppal and friends in context, from Statistics Canada we learn that the median family income of British Columbians in 2010 was $66,970, about $3,000 below the national average. According to the Conference Board of Canada, one of the country's five census divisions with the lowest median income is in Northern British Columbia. From that territory are drawn some of the missing and murdered women that were subjects of Wally Oppal's inquiry.

It is for Northern BC that I throw out a challenge, more particularly for the women who might otherwise be future victims on the Highway of Tears between Prince Rupert and Prince George. Twice daily service by Greyhound between the two cities costs about $300 return, not an affordable sum for people struggling to survive.

This is part of my December 17, 2012 article, Poor people are economic stimulators for a few:
"...I checked with an operator and discovered that a 25-passenger bus with two drivers could shuttle from Prince George to Prince Rupert and back three times a week at a yearly cost of about $220,000. That's cost, no operator mark-up but it would change things on the Highway of Tears.

"How many lives would that save?"
So Mr. Oppal, if you and your friends contribute 5% of your billings to the inquiry, a shuttle service could be operational for a year. Call me and I'll put you in touch with people that can do it.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Custom election lawn sign

Print your own using a high resolution image file, available free of charge. Email:

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shockingly high BC Hydro rate increases inevitable

The audio file below is a recording of my time on CFAX1070 with Ian Jessop October 06. We talk mostly about BC Hydro and the inevitable high-level rate increases.

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"Radical" environmentalists proven correct

In 2009, the Wilderness Committee issued a press release. Gwen Barlee and Joe Foy were prescient:
“Requiring BC Hydro to purchase power that it doesn’t need is an idiotic decision and a gift to the private power industry. Three months ago, the BCUC said buying this power was not in the public interest, and yet the BC government is ignoring their own regulatory watchdog and ordering BC Hydro to spend billions of dollars on power we don’t need. This decision won’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions in BC by one iota, but it will damage a lot of streams and rivers in the process,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Wilderness Committee.

“Private power coming from so-called ‘run of river’ projects comes mostly at the wrong time of year for British Columbians, is costing us far above market rates, and threatens our rivers and streams. Ratepayers are already on the hook for $31 billion [$56 billion as of March 2015] in energy agreements to the likes of General Electric. The BC government’s decision to order Hydro to buy even more of this power is irrational and unacceptable,” said Wilderness Committee campaign director Joe Foy.

... “It is sadly ironic that while the BC government is bailing out the private power industry under the ruse of addressing climate change it is blasting ahead with contradictory plans to promote carbon-producing coal mines such as Klappan and Groundhog in northern BC, axing Live Smart BC, radically increasing subsidies to the oil and gas sector, and promoting massive highway expansion. People recognize hypocrisy when they see it and are aware that this gift to the private power sector has nothing to do with addressing global warming,” said Barlee.
The Wilderness Committee is Canada’s largest membership-based, citizen-funded wilderness preservation organization. We work for the preservation of Canadian and international wilderness through research and grassroots education. The Wilderness Committee works on the ground to achieve ecologically sustainable communities.

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As we've been saying...

Premier should admit LNG dream is dead, David Bond, Kelowna Daily Courier, October 5, 2016
The evidence is now overwhelming. B.C.’s current energy policies, centred on the LNG export strategy and BC Hydro’s Site C, are likely to fail at great cost to taxpayers.

Under regulations set by the provincial government, LNG development will result in significant emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Moreover, liquefying the gas once it reaches tidewater to enable shipment overseas will more than double the pollution produced because the province has approved burning gas to power the cooling operation.

In short, our clean air policy has been sacrificed to the LNG dream...

Note: Also published in Vancouver Sun, October 5.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

State and future of BC Hydro

Opposition parties in BC ought to create a set of hearings to conduct a thorough PUBLIC examination of independent power contracts, alternative less-destructive energy sources and the state and future of BC Hydro.

MLAs should try to initiate the examination as a committee of the legislature and when Liberals refuse to participate, cross the street to a public place and begin hearings. Leave empty chairs for Liberals.

The Christy Clark Government would try to ignore the event but the public would not and the corporate media could not, without destroying what little credibility they still have on matters of resources.

There are plenty of experts from business, academia and environmental groups who would participate in meaningful ways. Invite Rafe Mair to give first testimony.

Provide a public forum and take the lid off the financial shenanigans that took us into the current situation. There won't be any ability to subpoena documents and compel people to participate and there won't be millions of dollars from taxpayers to spread among friends organizing the events.

In other words, it would be about MLAs representing the people, getting energy policy information to citizens and revealing how BC Hydro was hijacked to profit Liberal friends and insiders. The public forum would not be an exercise managed by ranks of lawyers, spin doctors and ass-coverers.

The Liberals would refuse to take part but the Green Party and the NDP could proceed without them. How about it John Horgan and Andrew Weaver? Let’s put policy over party and protect the future for our children and grandchildren.

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Wilderness destruction, only to enrich a few

Narrows Inlet by Duane Burnett:
An almost pristine silent majestic oasis where the west coast rain forest mountains plunged straight into the fjord carved out by the last ice age, rich with so many salmon spawning you could almost walk across the water, and an area steeped with thousands of years of beautiful Shishalh nation history.

Read more commentary about the video and Narrows Inlet by Duane Burnett

More from In-Sights about Narrows Inlet private power projects.

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