Chris Clay

Chris Clay

Chris Clay is a blogger and an activist based in the Cowichan Valley, British Columbia. He is the managing director of Warmland Medicinal Cannabis Centre, in Mill Bay.

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Fracking With Our Coast: The Malahat LNG Project Reconsidered

Published in Politics

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants. - Maggie Kuhn

There's a new giant in the Cowichan Valley, one that needs toppling. Steelhead LNG, a fossil fuel company from Vancouver, has been slowly but surely extending its local influence in preparation for a massive LNG project... In response, I organized a recent town hall meeting in South Cowichan in an attempt to put the project into perspective.


Steelhead LNG has been busy lately promoting its proposed Malahat LNG project, which would process 900 million cubic feet of fracked natural gas per day via a monstrous floating offshore facility at Bamberton, in the beautiful Saanich Inlet. The project would involve a pipeline across the Salish Sea and would bring tanker traffic directly past Salt Spring Island, through a number of Saanich Inlet hazard zones. Alarmed area residents recently staged their first protest, while Green Party leader Elizabeth May has called for increased environmental protections for the Inlet, citing its "globally unique ecosystem." According to Gary Holman, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, "there are a number of very serious safety and environmental concerns raised by the location of this particular proposal, which is near settlement areas and would impact one of the most unique and sensitive marine environments in Canada."

The best hope for stopping the project may lie with the Malahat Nation, stewards of the area for thousands of years. Despite claims of strong First Nations partnerships, Steelhead showed their true colours when they announced the project days after the Malahat Nation Chief and Council had resigned amidst a host of allegations. Equally as disturbing, the Malahat people were never given the chance to vote on the project. In contrast, both the Tsawwassen and Lax Kw'alaams First Nations voted on LNG projects proposed for their territories, and both communities rejected them (the latter community even refused an offer of $1 billion.) However, in a surprising turn of events, the Malahat people recently elected a new chief, Caroline Harry, who has expressed major concerns over the project.

In the face of plummeting LNG prices, public opposition and growing concern among Malahat Nation members and neighbouring First Nations communities, Steelhead LNG is relentlessly forging ahead. They've retained Pace Group for "community engagement campaigns" and to "raise the company's profile." They joined the South Cowichan Chamber of Commerce and the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, and will soon be bringing their slick presentation to the Duncan Chamber of Commerce; they've been wining-and-dining up to 15 people a time with "LNG 101" sessions at Arbutus Ridge; they've rented a community outreach office in Mill Bay. Meanwhile, they're quietly jumping through the necessary regulatory hoops.

Fracking With Our Coast

malahat lng projectTo present area residents with an alternate point of view, I organized Fracking With our Coast: The Malahat LNG Project, a town hall meeting that took place December 9 at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre. Speakers discussed the overall need to divest from fossil fuel projects, specific concerns regarding this project, and alternatives for the future. The event was covered by CHEK-TV and the Victoria Times Colonist (though the Times Colonist reporter inexplicably framed it as an issue for Shawnigan Lake residents.)

The evening's presentations were filmed by Story in Focus and are now available below.

laurel collinsPart 1: Laurel Collins

Laurel is an organizer with Divest Victoria. She teaches Social Justice Studies and Political Sociology at the University of Victoria. In the past she has worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Northern Uganda, she spent time as the Program Coordinator at Victoria Women in Need, and is the co-editor of a book entitled Women, Adult Education, and Leadership in Canada. Her research and activism focus on theories and practices of violence and nonviolence, social movements, education and learning, as well as social and environmental justice.

adam olsenPart 2: Adam Olsen

Born in Victoria, Adam was raised on Tsartlip First Nation in Brentwood Bay. Adam was elected to Central Saanich Council in 2008 and re-elected in 2011. He served as the Chair of Planning & Development and Water & Wastewater and represented the community on a number of boards and commissions including solid and liquid waste, Greater Victoria Public Library and the Regional Housing Trust Fund.

In 2013, Adam resigned his seat on Council to run provincially for the B.C. Green Party in Saanich North & Islands. Finishing third, in the closest three-way race in the province, Adam was less then 400 votes away from being elected.

In August 2013, Adam was appointed Interim-Leader of the B.C. Green Party. When the Party elects a new leader in early 2016, Adam will continue to focus his efforts on growing the Party's presence in the Capital Region and preparing to run for a second time in Saanich North.

Most recently, Adam founded the Saanich Inlet Network to raise awareness of Steelhead's proposed LNG facility and to help build a new vision for the future of Saanich Inlet.

guy daunceyPart 3: Guy Dauncey

Guy Dauncey is an author and futurist who works to develop a positive vision of a sustainable future, and to translate that vision into action. He lives on Vancouver Island, in Canada.

He is founder of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, co-founder of the Victoria Car Share Cooperative, and the author or co-author of ten books, including The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming. His most recent book is Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible.

He is an Honorary Member of the Planning Institute of BC, and a Fellow of the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. His websites are and The Practical Utopian.

Part 4: Greg Horne

Greg Horne discusses the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation's resistance to an LNG project proposed for Lelu Island. Greg is the energy coordinator for the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition

Bonus Video: Dr. Eoin Finn

Dr. Finn has prepared a through analysis of the Malahat LNG project and has raised a number of concerns. He will be addressing a South Cowichan audience in early 2016... In the meantime, here's the presentation he recently gave in Brentwood Bay.

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Fracking With Our Coast: The Malahat LNG Project was sponsored by the following:


Rona's Rants and the Normalization of Marijuana

Published in Politics

"You'll never hear me say that marijuana is a medicine." - Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health

With those words, Rona Ambrose arguably provided the catalyst for marijuana's de facto full-scale legalization in British Columbia. Her recent rants (along with some ridiculous public service announcements and attack ads) could also conceivably cost her party the election, as voters increasingly see legalization as a key election issue in a tight race where every vote will count. 

She was responding in outrage, of course, to the unanimous Supreme Court decision that legalized cannabis-based edibles, extracts and concentrates for medical use. The court's decision was good news all around: patients were finally granted legal alternatives to smoking or vaporizing marijuana, and parents would no longer face prosecution for preparing medicine for their children. The ruling made perfect sense - but Ms. Ambrose, as Stephen Harper's mouthpiece, went ballistic.

ambrose nurse painImage courtesy of @montrealsimon

The Baker and the Blockhead

The decision, and the over-the-top reaction from the minister responsible for administering Canada's medical marijuana program, were big news across the country. Also, they highlighted several major problems:

  • A soft-spoken baker from Victoria, British Columbia, had to spend over $150,000 and six years of his life defending himself for making cookies for sick people.
  • The minister responsible for the nation's medical marijuana program (which will grow to encompass over 400,000 Canadians by Health Canada's own estimates), is a complete blockhead.

People in British Columbia paid particular attention to these developments. Marijuana is the province's second largest industry; half the country's medical marijuana licensees live there; and just about everybody wants to see it taxed and regulated. When Ms. Ambrose expressed more outrage a few weeks later - this time over Vancouver City Council's decision to regulate cannabis dispensaries - local authorities weren't impressed:

Marijuana storefronts form part of Justin Trudeau’s plan to make smoking marijuana a normal, everyday activity and make it available in stores across Canada... Storefronts selling marijuana are illegal and under this Conservative Government will remain illegal. We expect the police to enforce the law. - Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health

The notion of raiding 100+ marijuana retail stores that serve thousands of patients, many of them seriously ill, was so ridiculous that local authorities responded with a collective "WTF?!" Of course, they were a bit more diplomatic -  the province's chief medical officer said he would "beg to differ"; the police said they'll probably be busy that day with other priorities, like violent crime; one city councillor told the minister to "wake up"; a former mayor reminded Ottawa they had "lost control of this file"; and, when asked if he would shutter the dispensaries, the mayor simply said "no."

squirrel ronaImage courtesy of @montrealsimon.

Response to Prohibition

As one civic politician pointed out, the rapid rise in dispensaries was a direct response to the Harper government's "prohibitionist approach." Dispensaries grew in number exponentially when Ms. Ambrose's department told 47,000 patients that they could no longer produce their own cannabis or obtain it from licensed growers. Instead, they were to order it by mail (at a higher price) from a few large corporations.

Smaller producers were pushed aside, left hanging with expensive, empty facilities as Health Canada continuously changed the rules; larger corporations, backed by investors with deep pockets, overreached; legal producers tried to find niche markets, such as pill-popping soccer moms (!); a court injunction was issued, keeping the old regulations in force; police were frustrated; patients struggled; confusion reigned.

To make matters infinitely worse, Health Canada sent out all 47,000 patients and growers notifications of the new regulations by mail, using Health Canada's medical marijuana program as the return address. Hundreds of home invasions and security breaches followed, forcing over 300 people to change residences. A class action suit is currently underway.  

The social, legal and political chaos that has resulted from what one judge described as Health Canada's "tight, almost miserly, control over the distribution of medicinal marihuana" created such a morass that market forces took over and the cannabis dispensaries took off.

growth medical marijuana dispensaries vancouver

Coinciding with new municipal regulations, the dispensaries themselves are banding together with their own trade associations [1,2,3]. The Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) has already released a set of common-sense certification standards, and reading through them is like a breath of fresh air compared to the onerous regulations imposed by Health Canada that have caused this mess. It's no wonder physicians are as likely to refer someone to a dispensary as to the official Health Canada program.


With the election looming, the Harper government will inevitably increase its prohibitionist rhetoric. Meanwhile, dispensaries will continue to multiply in number, especially in BC, as more Canadians request prescriptions from their doctors and people begin to appreciate the convenience of dispensaries. Police forces seem to be taking the changes in stride, overall (Nanaimo police have entered a "holding pattern" while the dust settles; and Winnipeg police even tried to reassure a concerned caller that dispensaries are legal.) And, though there will be a few holdouts (Duncan City Council has surprisingly instructed staff to deny business licenses to dispensaries) many municipalities are keen to explore the Vancouver model, or something similar - Kimberley City Council recently showed their mettle; Victoria's regulations are coming soon; White Rock is now considering a pilot project; Nanaimo is turning a blind eye.

weeds social club

Despite positive reports pouring in from south of the border (bountiful tax revenues, a decline in use among youth, even decreased highway and prescription drug fatalities) Ms. Ambrose insists that "legitimizing and normalizing the use and sale of marijuana can have only one effect: increasing marijuana use and addiction." However, the sky certainly hasn't fallen in Vancouver. With more dispensaries than Starbucks, and a groundbreaking set of municipal regulations, Vancouver has shown what can be accomplished - and, as one city councillor put it, "everybody is watching". 


Recent events haven't gone unnoticed internationally. The Supreme Court decision caused global headlines, as did Vancouver's dispensary regulations. One Washington sheriff, following events in Canada, went out of his way to assure CBC listeners that when his state legalized marijuana, "from a crime standpoint, there was nothing to enforce anymore and the sky didn't fall." It was "business as usual, and no big deal."  

While pressure builds for the entire province to follow in Washington, Oregon and Colorado's footsteps, the province's former soliciter general announced that it's totally doable without Ottawa's support. Meanwhile, a de facto legalization will continue to creep from one BC community to the next. Hopefully, Rona has a few more rants in store to speed things along.

rona pot shopImage courtesy of @montrealsimon.


Owen Smith, the Victoria man at the centre of the Supreme Court ruling, produced this video to express his thoughts on Rona's rants. Enjoy... It's genius. 


No Apology Necessary, Ms. May

Published in Politics

An Open Letter to Elizabeth May

elizabeth may escorted press dinnerLike many Canadians, I was surprised, and a little chagrined, to learn of your somewhat awkward speech at the recent Press Gallery Dinner. No one likes to see their party leader briefly fall off the rails, whether said leader is driving plastered in paradise, choking protestors or simply telling it like it is while overtired and perhaps a bit tipsy. However, at least it could have been worse... Lesser politicians than you have certainly gotten themselves into far worse situations after running on empty for a while and being passed a few drinks (or tokes). Among the many sordid tales, a few standouts include those of everyone's favourite mayor (where to begin... let's go with uttering death threats), and the case of the armed-and-dangerous-driving senator.

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