#10 - Digging Up The Gold For The BC Liberals

Third in our BC Liberals’ Dirty Dozen Donations series

Here’s an under-reported story about the BC Liberals’ #1 biggest donor, mining giant Teck (almost $3 million since 2005).

It’s less attention grabbing than the all-at-once disaster at Mt. Polley, but there’s a slower moving mining pollution disaster unfolding in the rivers of Southeastern BC, flowing also across the border into the U.S..

For years, Teck’s coal mines have been sending pollutants into local waterways, including selenium that is toxic to fish. Environment Canada found levels of selenium so high in the Fording River that fish were being born with deformed gills, spines, and craniums. The increasing levels of selenium even drew a rebuke from the U.S. EPA.

Then, Teck wanted to expand its Line Creek coal mine, with a permit for five times the level of selenium than the level set in BC’s water quality guidelines for aquatic fish.

BC Ministry of Environment officials wouldn’t sign off on such a permit, so for the first time ever in this kind of case, the provincial cabinet (BC Liberal ministers) stepped in to approve the permit directly.

This isn’t the only time that major donor Teck has benefitted from government action – or inaction. West Coast Environmental Law found that Teck Coal Ltd. has been inspected by government officials 58 times and been found to be acting illegally in 46 (or 79%) of them.

But, this only resulted in an “advisory” (like a note to file) 67% of the time, and a “warning” 22% of the time. The remaining 5 incidents were referred for further action, but there’s no information on what happened. We do know that Teck Coal has received 4 fines of $575 each, totalling $2,300. Again, Teck has donated thirteen hundred times that amount to the BC Liberals.

And it’s not just Teck. Other big donors include companies like Goldcorp and Imperial Metals (of Mt. Polley fame – we’ll get into that one in another post), and more, with mining coming in as the third biggest sector in donations to the BC Liberal Party.

Under the BC Liberals, mining regulation has become so lax that even the BC Auditor General concluded “We found almost every one of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program within the MEM and the MoE were not met.” She also recommended that enforcement be set up in its own independent agency, since the government was too busy cheerleading for mining to be able to regulate it properly. The government rejected that recommendation.

Finally, to put a finer point on how bad all this donation stuff looks, CBC put together this handy chart below, showing the timing of a proposed mine’s permits, and donations to the governing BC Liberals, with a one time spike in donation levels occurring before an important government decision.

All major BC political parties other than the BC Liberals have pledged to ban corporate, union, and foreign donations. Vote for change on May 9.

If you'd like to support us in getting these stories in front of BC voters, please make a secure donation here.


Other items in this series:

#12 - BC Liberals Love Those Foreign Donations

#11- Big Timber, Big Donations, Big Trouble

#9 - Tinted Windows - Cash For Access To The BC Liberals



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