Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Friday, November 21, 2008

No more closed doors

On November 13 I received an email from the province inviting Zero Waste Vancouver to participate in a new Working Group On Waste.

On November 18 I received the Terms of Reference for the Working Group.

I immediately sent an email to the province outlining concerns about the group's Terms of Reference.
On November 20, I spoke by phone with the province outlining my concerns.

I said I was concerned about the focus of the group. The "key question" set to the group was: "How can BC better utilize the carbon and energy that is currently going to waste." I said the focus should be on how we can prevent carbon and energy from going to waste, rather than finding opportunistic ways to exploit waste as if it were a "renewable" resource.

I said I was concerned about the make-up of the group. Why was the Canadian Energy from Waste Coalition at the table, but not the Georgia Strait Alliance?

But most of all, I said, I was concerned about the "confidentiality" clause in the Terms of Reference.
Does this mean, I asked, that Zero Waste Vancouver could not speak publicly about any concerns we had about whether the Working Group was asking the right questions?

And I was told that, yes, that's what it means. "We wouldn't want you saying those sorts of things publicly."

I explained that unlike the other "stakeholders" on the group, Zero Waste's stake is public awareness and engagement in public policy on waste. Our core purpose is to engage the public in a conversation about what sort of policies we want to have in place to solve our waste problem.

Three hours later I received a phone call from the province advising me that the government was withdrawing the invitation to Zero Waste Vancouver to sit on the Working Group.

I later confirmed that the government also withdrew its invitation to the Sierra Club to sit on the Working Group.

Now we have a Working Group on Waste made up of the waste-to-energy industry and its customers (our regional districts), along with several businesses who are part of the waste supply chain including:

Encorp Pacific, who would love to be able to burn all the hard-to-recycle beverage containers they collect through the deposit system;

Metro Waste, who sort out the mess that is collected through single-stream curbside recycling programs;

International Composting Corporation, who are finding that the markets for compost are just as sluggish and fickle as the markets for paper and plastic and are looking for alternative uses for organic wastes.

And none of us will ever know what is said behind those closed doors. But you can be sure that the Premier and his government will listen to their recommendations seriously.

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