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Environmentalists rejoice as George Heyman becomes minister of environment and climate change

Author: Larry Pynn 

Media Outlet: Vancouver Sun

Conservationists gave a glowing endorsement of Tuesday’s appointment Tuesday of George Heyman, a Vancouver-based MLA with a background in unionism and the environment, as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

“I’m over the moon,” said Joe Foy, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee. “I think he’s going to be a fantastic environment minister. It’s a great choice. George is a fighter. I think he’ll do well.”

Heyman served as president of the B.C. Government Employees and Service Employees’ Union from 1999 to 2008, and as executive director of the Sierra Club B.C. from 2009 to 2013.

That mixed background is expected to serve him well in his new job.

Foy said that during Heyman’s time with the BCGEU, he “brought together a coalition of union representatives and environmental representatives and made the argument that it didn’t need to be jobs versus the environment.”

Foy added that Heyman’s career has been leading to environment minister and he called on him to act swiftly to pass legislation to protect endangered species across the province.

The name of the new ministry more closely aligns B.C. with the federal government’s Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Eugene Kung, a staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, said that decision indicates the province is serious about climate change, “an issue that is felt in every other area of government.” He added: “With the wildfires, we’re seeing first hand right now the impact of climate change.”

Tim Pearson, spokesman for Sierra Club B.C., urged Heyman to be a strong advocate on all issues that touch upon the environment whether or not they fall directly into his portfolio. 

“He’s got a strong track record and has shown as a critic that he understands the issues. We’re looking forward to working with him.” 

Pearson urged Heyman to protect remaining old-growth rainforests on the B.C. coast, including Vancouver Island, and to focus on forest health, especially in light of the wildfire situation.

Environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki noted that people are at the core of the “eco-crisis, as the cause, victims and solutions. We can’t have a genuine sustainable society without social justice and greater gender and financial equity. George Heyman is an environmentalist with a track record as a social and labour activist. A great start for this young government.”

Karen Tam Wu, acting B.C. director of the Pembina Institute, said it’s time for B.C. to once again “be a leader on climate solutions” and avoid “being left behind as the global economy shifts and the costs of a changing climate begin to mount.”

Heyman was first elected to the B.C. legislature in Vancouver-Fairview in 2013 after beating out Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs for the party’s riding nomination. He’s been serving as Opposition critic for the environment. 

The NDP and Greens have already agreed to refer Site C to the B.C. Utilities Commission and to use every tool possible to stop expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which already has the blessing of Justin Trudeau’s federal government and the former Christy Clark government.

The NDP and Greens have also agreed to increase the carbon tax by $5 a tonne every year starting next April, bumping the current rate of $30 per tonne up to $50 per tonne in 2021.

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, July 19, 2017