Woodfibre LNG thumbs-up no real surprise

Appeared in the North Shore News – November 18, 2016

West Vancouver council voted unanimously against it. At least 9,000 people signed a petition damning it. Hostility toward it bristled at three public meetings.

So, no surprise, the Woodfibre liquefied natural gas project on beautiful Howe Sound got the thumbs-up, ultimately from the only thumb that counts, the prime minister’s or his proxy’s.

Right, the premier’s thumb also chimed in – why not mix metaphors, just for laughs? And the First Nation thumb will be on the scale, once its benefits are successfully negotiated.

Obvious. After the obligatory ritualistic bow to the environment, the human race’s relentless expansionism, the project’s corporate dollars, jobs and politics will always trump nature. (Hmmm, I’ll look for a better verb than trump.)

So the public consultation was the usual charade. I’d wager my record as a trained skeptic that the decision to go ahead with the relatively small $1.6-billion project was a fait accompli at the highest levels – the only impediments being the long-depressed price of LNG and international competition.

As Constant Reader will recall, my conscience is troubled by this area’s bland acceptance of tankers, pipelines and so forth – elsewhere. Not in our million-dollar-and-up backyards.

All credit to Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy – this is his riding, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky – for up-front honesty. While opponents raged, Sturdy supported the project, partly for its tax benefits. A yawning contrast with the area’s MP, the federal riding confusedly called (couldn’t a less overlapping name have been chosen?) West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

I’ve been on the Pam Goldsmith-Jones watch for years, and once again I’m fascinated by, even admire, her non-stick political record as West Van mayor, her survival smarts, and her agile ascent to higher levels. I’d roll out that record again, but space is limited.

Teflon Pam repeatedly ignored my emails last spring soliciting her opinion on Woodfibre, yea or nay; adroitly chaired three heated open houses on the matter without doing so; and, cornered at a meeting at Gibsons whether she’d heard anybody favouring the project, responded: “There are definitely people in favour. That’s why this is so difficult. To be honest – and depending on where you go – it’s 50/50.”

Which raises the question: Where, exactly, had she gone?

Indefatigable Woodfibre opponent Eoin Finn stated that her 50/50 claim “beggars belief,” citing 9,000 signatories to the (Save) Howe Sound Declaration and the B.C. Environment Assessment Office process, reflecting more than 90 per cent opposition. Finn noted that the approval coincidentally occurred days before the provincial Liberal annual convention. Tsk tsk, what a cynic. Finn declares opponents of the project aren’t giving up.

• • •

The Old Frenchman, so often quoted here, mused: “Les extremes se touchent,” which my learned readers will easily translate as “the extremes touch” – more broadly, “the extremes resemble one another.” Hitler and Stalin claimed radically clashing ideologies. But they were tyrants united by mass murder.

On a fortunately milder matter, Donald Trump and his sore-loser detractors similarly share a bond: They’re fair-weather friends of democracy. On side when they win elections, outta there when they lose them.

Trump’s most reprehensible, even unprecedented, campaign turn wasn’t the sex thing or even predicting prison bars in Hillary Clinton’s future. It was his zero-evidence accusation that the election was rigged, and – as calmly as a psychopathic killer – his declaration that he’d wait to see the results before accepting them. He won. His “rigging” allegation instantly vanished.

The protesters? Hey, why the bellyachin,’ guys? The Republicans won the presidency (by the weird rules), the Senate, the House of Representatives. Democracy.

But Trump championed the forgotten (and more), and only a bull could smash the cosy Washington china shop – D.C. voted 90 per cent for Clinton, four per cent for the vulgarian  – which Trump is. Or was? In a trice, knives sheathed, Trump made statesmanlike noises, and Barack Obama and, briefly, Clinton rose graciously to the moment. They’re politicians. Actors, you know.

It’s a gamble writing about this shifting surrealism. All could change by the time you read these words. As for the overwhelming media bias for Clinton, it recalls the apocryphal son who was ashamed to tell his mother he was working in the news business. So he told her he played piano in a house of ill repute.

• • •

I can’t and wouldn’t want to recommend a candidate for councillor on the eve of West Vancouver’s very important byelection tomorrow – when there’s no time for rebuttal. Just get out and vote.

© Trevor Lautens, 2016

Redevelopment to set sailing club adrift?

Appeared in the North Shore News – September 12, 2014

The Hollyburn Sailing Club: More Grosvenorization of West Vancouver? Fairness, my worst fault, makes me reflective.

Agent Y6xE9j reports that the club may be sailing away into the sunset – next year put on a month-to-month lease, almost always the precursor to redevelopment. Club commodore Roy Morford’s response:

“No gossip or rumours, just the facts. Last year we celebrated our 50th anniversary. … The club’s first premises consisted of an old garden shed located at Dundarave Beach. … Change being the only constant, I fully expect more changes, particularly with West Vancouver’s plans for Ambleside.

“Regardless of our location, our lease or other factors, I am confident we shall continue to be a fixture on the West Vancouver waterfront for many years to come. Indeed, our mayor has said so on more than one occasion.”

Notice – nowhere does Morford, a witty chap, deny the rumour.

Now this admirably crisp reaction from Michael Ward, senior vice-president and general manager of Grosvenor Americas:

“Grosvenor continues to support the Hollyburn Sailing Club in its current location but respects the opinion of the district and the community should they think otherwise.”

So Grosvenor supports the club’s location. Could it be that town hall is busting an intestinal tract to anticipate whims that Grosvenor doesn’t have, or does it have its own dream of commercialization of Ambleside Beach?

Ward also explains the conflict between the dates for West Van’s Ambleside police station to vacate and the glossy Grosvenor project to begin: “Grosvenor Ambleside will be built in two phases. Construction of the first phase (westerly side of the block) is expected to begin at the end of 2014 or early 2015. Construction of the second phase. .. where the police station is currently located will commence only after the district has constructed the new Public Safety Building and has relocated the police to this location.”

Then why this? All four small businesses cheek-by-jowl with the station – near the block’s east end – have been given notice to vacate at the end of next month. Long before the police depart, sod-turning on the new building not even close. Maybe the modest businesses don’t fit nicely with the Grosvenor showroom being built beside them?

West Van council heard the pitch for the proposed Woodfibre natural gas operation Monday. As Agent 6Tcu03 implies, the current environmental assessment and opposition by the Squamish band may kill it without painful political decisions.

John Weston, MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky, politely writes about a recent item here: “You are wrong in surmising the prime minister or his office had anything to do with my opinion concerning West Van council’s motion on the proposed (Howe Sound liquefied natural gas) plant. The opinion is my own.”

I gladly stand corrected, but gently ask: Would an MP, of any party, knowingly do something the party leader wouldn’t like?

Meanwhile Weston is aggressively campaigning for re-election in November next year – not May, as recently stated here, though some Liberals expect or perhaps want the federal vote earlier.

Figures quoted here about the Howe Sound LNG project have been vigorously challenged. The opponents’ claim: “If approved, Woodfibre LNG says it will discharge 17,000 tonnes … of chlorinated, desalinated water, 10 degrees hotter than at intake, into Howe Sound every hour of every day for the next 25-plus years. The effect of this on the marine food chain in the Sound. .. could be devastating.”

Responding, Fred Bowyer, West Vancouver retired engineer grad who declares neither professional nor financial interest in the project (and his origins at “the other end of the social scale” from the admiral whose name adorns Bowyer Island), writes:

“Woodfibre LNG will discharge what amounts to tepid tap water (chlorinated/desalinated) into Howe Sound. Natural drainage flow into the Sound averages about 1,656,000 cubic metres of water per hour. 17,000 tonnes/hour from the plant equals … one per cent of the average fresh water drainage into the Sound.

“The Sound, east of Gambier and Bowen Islands, has an area of about 175 square kilometres and a depth of about 200 metres. That’s 35 cubic kms or 35 billion cubic metres of water. A year of LNG discharge is 149 million cubic metres, or 0.4 per cent of that.

“Oh, did I mention the twice/day water changes due to tidal flows? ‘The effect of this on the marine food chain. .. could be devastating.’ Or not.”

And Victor Morgan writes: “17,000 tonnes per hour? Surely you jest. That works out to approximately 1,000 gallons every second. I wouldn’t think so … the rest of that article certainly makes one think. But those figures?” Search me. I’m just the messenger. Can’t figure out my hydro bill.

How would Christy Clark, CKNW talk show host, be judging the teachers’ strike handling by Christy Clark, premier?

West Vancouver’s Elizabeth Smily, an outstanding painter with international exposure, died Sunday, aged 96. She deserves more space than this hasty late addition allows. Funeral Monday at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, West Vancouver.

© Trevor Lautens, 2014