ChilliwackToday.ca: Posted on 18 December 2011
Tags: Columns, Fraser Valley regional District, FVRD, FVRD Chair, Gravel, gravel industry, Mayor Sharon Gaetz, Mike Archer, Opinions, Sharon Gaetz, Valley Politics
By Mike Archer. Let’s hope that with Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz at the helm, the Fraser Valley regional District (FVRD) will be more agreeable to having citizens represented in the decisions over gravel extraction.
While Abbotsford councilor Patricia Ross was in charge, and before her when former Chilliwack Mayor John Les was in charge, the gravel industry was allowed to run roughshod over the interests of local residents when gravel industry profits were in play.
Chilliwack Mayorand new FVRD Chair Sharon Gaetz
While the gravel industry insists on its right to represent itself in the discussions of the disputed Aggregate Pilot Project (APP), it objects to members of the public having equal footing.
Patricia Ross has made a career out of being an environmentalist as long as the dragons she has been fighting have been foreign companies or distant cities. She road the wave of anti-SE2 emotion to power in Abbotsford and has been fighting the City of Vancouver’s plan to burn garbage rather than truck it through the Fraser Valley.
Mayor Gaetz has, so far, walked in lock step with Ross on environmental matters seeing full well the political value in playing the environmental card.
When the rubber hits the road, however, Gaetz will find it a little difficult to appear quite so environmentally friendly when she is asked to back the interests of powerful gravel industry over the objections of local citizens who don’t want gravel mines in their back yards.
So far she has been able to avoid the downside of her support of Ross and the gravel industry but her political skills will be sorely tested in her new job.
Supporting the gravel industry in its endless quest for cheap gravel to sell overseas will tarnish her image as an environmentalist and protector of Valley residents’ rights if she simply caves into the wishes of the gravel industry the way Ross did.
No one was surprised when John Les did it. After all, he was a rising star in the Liberal government at the time and he had made no promises to protect the environment.
Gaetz faces a different challenge and local groups intent on protecting environmentally sensitive areas will be watching carefully to see just how much of an environmentalist she proves to be.