Saturday, February 26, 2005

Senator Baucus Debacle

US Federal Senator Max Baucus visited Fernie on Friday February 25 to express his opposition to Cline Mining's coal exploration activity in the Flathead.

His agenda included a poorly advertised public meeting at the Fernie Senior Centre at 1:30pm, and we learned that morning that he was also scheduled to meet with Fernie's mayor at noon. That noon meeting was suddenly cancelled when the protesters gathered at City Hall. The mayor made it clear he did not organize or condone this event. Nobody seems to want credit.

Baucus is the protectionist senator behind the illegal US punitive tariff on BC's softwood lumber, and is also the person responsible for initiating the closure of the border to Canadian cattle over BSE.

Baucus appeared to have poor advice regarding the scope of the coal exploration activity, notably that the extent of the exploration is only 90 tonnes of coal. He appeared to be under the impression that local residents do not support the project, we think he has a better understanding now. The real organizers of this meeting decided to stay away leaving Baucus to fend for himself.

About one hundred local residents (car sales, real estate sales, mine employees, mine industry suppliers, tourism operators, hotel and lodge owners and their employees, furniture sales, plumbers, contractors, woodworkers, lawyers, golf course representatives, students, ranchers, hunters, guide outfitters, various retail business owners and many others) turned out on an hour's notice to protest and to ask Baucus some very pointed questions about his Canada-bashing track record.

Baucus reaffirmed that he is opposed to the opening of the border to live cattle in March. He still feels that Canadian softwood should be heavily tarriffed because of our "unfair advantage", this despite repeated rulings by NAFTA and WTO against that illegal action.

MLA Bill Bennett explained to Baucus that we admire and respect our good neighbours to the South, but also made it clear we're not impressed with his personal attitude toward Canada. Bill also expressed that we're completely within our rights to explore OUR land, and that our province has an enviable track record for environmental stewardship. Environmental impact studies would be undertaken at the appropriate phase in the mining development cycle (e.g. exploration, proposal to mine, raise capital, approval to mine, ...).

Canadian Coverage

US Coverage