It’s Time for Mary Polak to Resign

The Minister of Environment hasn’t been following through, and Bella Bella proves it

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B.C. Minister of Environment Mary Polak pictured in 2009. Polak is defending the Christy Clark-led government’s climate change plan against critics.(Flickr: The Province of B.C.)

Once again, British Columbian waters have been contaminated by corporate oil under the province’s Minister of Environment, Mary Polak. A tugboat containing 200,000 litres of diesel fuel sank off the coast of Bella Bella on Oct. 13, and stormy weather has prevented experts from properly cleaning it up. According to The Heiltsuk First Nation, who have been personally volunteering to help contain the spill, the lack of manpower in Bella Bella isn’t helping, either. It seems that the government has slipped up again and are continuing to flounder in their own mess while animals and plants die and millions of dollars disappear down the drain.

Meanwhile, Trudeau just approved the The Pacific NorthWest LNG, and the ozone layer’s not getting any healthier. We’re speeding toward a dangerous, overheating planet, and once again, Canada’s doing more harm than good.

For many big players in the provincial government, the Bella Bella spill was a deal breaker regarding Polak. The leader of the B.C. Green Party is calling for her resignation, with MLA Andrew Weaver clearly on board, calling the Ministry’s choice in “rhetoric to describe subpar efforts to protect the environment” what it is: outrageous.

In Weaver’s statement, he writes: “I now lack confidence in Minister Polak to uphold the obligations outlined in her ministerial mandate letter. As such, I am calling for her to be replaced by a minister who will stand up for the people of B.C. and the water and environment that we all rely on.”

That seems fair. Over the three years that Polak has been filling her current position, she has become known for inaction, often refusing to clearly answer questions or offer concrete solutions or apologies for her mistakes, which are many.

She has seen several environmental disasters during her time as Minister of Environment. In 2014, a breach in the tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley Mine site released 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic slurry into Polley Lake, which flooded and sent the waste into Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake, and Cariboo River. Up until this year, citizens had to protest to halt the dumping of toxic soil above Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island, fearing that it would contaminate their drinking water. B.C. Parks have also been the source of concern lately, with trees being chopped down, ecosystems being damaged, and infrastructure falling to pieces due to a lack of security and upkeep. Those are just some of the headline-making damages.

She was also criticized over the province’s new climate change plan, which fails to outline future carbon tax and emissions targets and clearly ignores suggestions made by environmental experts. Polak’s defence regarding the plan was that Canada is in the lead as an environmental protector anyways, which is both an inaccurate description of our current status as a country and a sign of blatant ignorance of our historical environmental impact. Remember that Polak was working while Harper was in office, and he essentially got us shunned from any environmentally-friendly initiatives worldwide for years.

At least it’s understandable when a politician that is not directly responsible for the environment messes up. They wear a lot of hats, and taking proper care of the environment is complicated and nearly impossible as a profitable businessman in politics. When you’re the Minister of Environment, however, you have a duty to actually do your best to keep our country clean, safe, and truly working against global warming. It’s clear that Mary Polak isn’t doing that.

So to Andrew Weaver, you’re right—Canada deserves better.

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