Although there were major shock waves surrounding the announcement of the decision made by the Provincial Government to approve the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Plan, as the dust settles a bit, there is almost a relief in some quarters that it is finally over.
Our communities have been dealt another major blow but we are no strangers to setbacks. Our resilience has shown we are survivors and we will find our way through this one as well.
First of all, there was the opening of the Coquihalla Highway in 1986 that brought traffic through the Fraser Canyon Highway almost to a complete standstill.
Our gas stations, restaurants and motels were badly hit and many of them were forced to close down and leave town.
Then our quality of health care was hit, services provided by our hospital were slowly eroded so much so that it is a mere shell of what it was a little over a decade ago. The hospital was carved up and numerous corner offices created where beds for patients used to be. The proud Ashcroft & District Hospital became degraded and re-named a Health Site!
We lost our doctors and were forced to take on the job of doctor recruitment with incentives provided not by the Provincial Government or Interior Health but by the taxpayers in our communities and we sparred with our neighbours for attention.
Now we are faced with the reality that our major industry which provides gainful employment to some 120 people could be phased out in another three or four years.
The decision didn’t go the way we had hoped, but our fight is not over. Let’s hold the Provincial Government’s feet to the fire. The Environment Minister, Terry Lake, has said in response to our concerns that he will work alongside our local leaders to look for economic opportunities for us.
Metro Vancouver still needs a place to ship its garbage for a few years yet. Their Waste to Energy (WTE) Incinerators won’t happen overnight. They have a long hard battle ahead of them.
Former Environment Minister Barry Penner, with whom our mayors, councillors and local Native leaders had many conversations and many meetings, seemed to have the best understanding. His riding was Chilliwack and the Upper Fraser Valley where there is major concern regarding air quality.
But in the end, the decision was taken out of his hands when, in a cabinet shuffle under a new premier, Minister Terry Lake from Kamloops took over and his support was not as re-assuring.
We don’t blame Mayor Ranta for his harsh and critical words, he has worked extremely hard in his lobbying efforts, very determined to keep the landfill alive for the benefit of our area.
But give him a day or two to get over his huge disappointment. There is still much work to be done to find other ways to keep our industry operating. Waste to Energy is a long ways in the future and in the meantime, there’s a mountain of garbage to be disposed of somewhere.
It’s a big challenge but his constituents are counting on his dedicated leadership to keep the Cache Creek Landfill in the running. Let’s get on with the job!