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HELSTON: Shuswap Lake spill shows Trudeau government isn't as open and transparent as it promised

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
March 18, 2016 - 6:49 AM

The lead agency investigating a possible spill of glue and fuel products in Shuswap Lake has jammed a plug on the trickle of information.

We were initially told "several thousands of litres" of contaminated water seeped into Shuswap Lake — a popular swimming, boating and fishing spot, not to mention salmon habitat and primary water source for the City of Salmon Arm. But when that figure was hotly disputed we got only a whisper of response from provincial and federal government agencies.

Most of the information we’ve received so far has come from Interior Health, but it’s not at the helm of the investigation. When contacted earlier this week, a Ministry of Environment spokesperson told me Environment Canada leads on the case.

When I called Environment Canada Wednesday morning and asked for an interview, the communications officer took down my questions and said she’d get back to me. Just before 5 p.m., I got the following email: ‘Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Enforcement Branch has been advised of the incident at Shuswap Lake. We are following up and working in conjunction with our partners.’

I wrote back, asking for a formal interview. 

A couple hours later, I got a big, fat no in my inbox: ‘We will politely decline your request for an interview.’ 

Curious about why my request was declined, I phoned and was told it was ‘a matter of availability.’

"So, how about scheduling something for tomorrow then?" I said.

I was then asked to volunteer some ‘specific questions’ but I still haven’t heard back about those either. Before hanging up, I was essentially told I shouldn’t hold my breath — “It’s very early on, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to say too much at this point.”

I’m trying to do my job here, but it’s not about me. The people of Salmon Arm and Canoe deserve more than two sentences from Environment Canada. They have the right to know what’s going on. They deserve to know why the leak believed to have caused the spill at a local plywood plant was initially observed March 7, but not reported to the public until March 15. They’re entitled to know just how big the spill is thought to be. The Interior Health Authority — which is getting its information from partner agencies — has stated the spill is an estimated several thousands of litres, but the plywood plant has since come out saying those reports are inaccurate. The company, as much as the residents of the area, deserves a response from Environment Canada.

We’ve heard a lot of promises from our shiny new prime minister about creating a more open and transparent government, but sadly, what we saw this week has been quite the opposite.

— Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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