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Greed and Destruction at Fish Lake Part 3: The Role of Government

Former environment minister Jim Prentice confers with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Former environment minister Jim Prentice confers with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In previous installments of RosebudMag.com’s series about Taseko Mines Limited’s attempts to turn a pristine lake and wilderness area near Williams Lake, British Columbia into a toxic waste dump, we’ve looked at the big picture and the history of the battle over Fish Lake. In Part 3, we look at the role of both the provincial and federal governments in giving first the thumbs up, then the thumbs down to the proposed Prosperity mine.

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The Tsilhqot'in Nation were the first to alert the public to Taseko’s designs on destruction, which soon attracted the attention of environmental groups. But despite the public furor over the proposed mining project, the government of British Columbia greenlit the most recent proposal to develop Prosperity Mine and destroy what the natives call Teztan Biny, or Fish Lake.

The premier of the province of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, has an inconsistent environmental record. For example, he introduced a carbon tax, but also okayed Prosperity Mine. Eventually, he became so unpopular (mostly due to a new general tax) that he stepped down from his position as leader of the province.

He is still premier, but his potential successors are already vying for his position.

Then in early November the federal government stepped in to reject the mine's proposal on environmental ground. But even this latest move, while in the best interest of the area and the people who live there, may not be on the up and up.

Canada’s federal environment minister, Jim Prentice, was the one who officially nixed the Prosperity proposal, calling the environmental assessment of Taseko’s plan “scathing.” Two days after his decision, Prentice resigned from his position and became the vice-chair and senior executive vice-president of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, one of Canada’s largest financial institutions. The move came as a shock even to political insiders.

Further raising eyebrows is the recent report that 19 days before Prentice announced the axing of the Prosperity proposal, shares in Taseko Mines Limited dropped nearly 40%. In fact, on October 14, over 30 million shares changed hands, including 2.7 million shares in one 40-second period. In less than a minute, the price of Taseko stocks plunged 32%.

This news has created a whole new spin on the battle over Fish Lake. The stock dump strongly suggests a government leak, reminiscent of the insider trading scandal that helped topple the last Canadian majority government under The Liberal Party. Couple this with Prentice’s resignation, which seems to reinforce the perception that the Conservative Party keeps close ties with the banks.

What is the true measure of wealth?

Whatever the details, it seems there’s something fishy about the whole Fish Lake situation. But at least for now, the region is safe from destruction. Will it stay that way? That’s up to the government, the mining company, the Tsilhqot'in Nation, and also us, the consumers.

How do we measure wealth after all? Is it how our stocks are trading? Is it the gold on our fingers? Or is it the legacy we leave for our kids? Is it the beauty and richness of the natural world? Even if we’re not comfortable acknowledging the link between our material desires and the effect of our lifestyles on the natural world, these are important questions to ask.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 09:46

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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