On Aug. 20 and 21, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a campaign stop in Campbell River, where he made an announcement about his party’s commitment to protecting salmon. Some controversy followed his visit when several Scouts posed next to him during a speech.
In coastal parts of the country, important questions are being asked about what each party plans to do to protect and improve the health of Canada’s waters and aquatic life as the Oct. 19 federal election approaches.
Salmon are an extremely valuable resource on the North Island, not to mention the tremendous importance they hold for the many First Nations communities in the area.
According to reports from the CBC, Harper said at the campaign stop that if his Conservative government were re-elected, they would make efforts to restore and promote the health of B.C.’s salmon and aquatic habitat. Harper promised an extended partnership with the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and $15 million towards B.C.’s estuaries. The Pacific Salmon Foundation is a non-profit charity that works on conserving and restoring Pacific wild salmon in B.C. and the Yukon.
Harper also promised he would work with the B.C. government and First Nations communities to finish the National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. This conservation area is between Vancouver Island and the mainland coast.
In the days following this pledge, some critical of the promise have said that it seems like too little too late, a small commitment that comes after damaging conservation laws put into place under Harper’s government.
The Ottawa Citizen reported that the online announcement on the Conservative Party website and on Stephen Harper’s Twitter page stating his pledge showed a photo of an Atlantic salmon – shot by a photographer in Northumberland county in England. After the Ottawa Citizen pointed out the error, the image was changed online.
Whatever the election outcome, it is clear that concerns about the salmon stocks and aquatic life in this area are here to stay. How each party chooses to approach and engage with the issue, both in terms of campaign promises and real, concrete action, remains to be seen.
Another significant part of Harper’s Campbell River stop was the fallout that took place after several young Scouts Canada members stood in uniform beside Harper as he spoke at a podium. Global News reports that Scouts Canada has said they did not agree to have those Scouts present, and the organization has said they are not connected to any political body. Scouts Canada posted on Twitter on Aug. 21, “Just a reminder that Scouts Canada members are not permitted to attend political events in uniform, we are non-partisan!”
The Scout troop leader, Bruce Hallsor, told CTV news he told them to dress in uniform for the event on Friday, but did not know about the non-partisan policy.
Hallsor went on to tell CTV news he is a Conservative Party member and has been a co-chair of campaigns in the past, but not this one.