achieving the impossible?

As another multi-million dollar inquiry begins on “missing” wild salmon — the Cohen Commission into “Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River” — I do wonder if one of the first terms of reference could have parallels with another multi-million dollar government initiative: Canada’s  “Own the Podium” initiative at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Over the last fiver years, almost $120 million (most of it taxpayer input) has been funneled into a sport-support program who’s main goal is to: “Place first in the total medal count at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.”

Attainable goal? Wise use of funding?

The first term of reference for the Cohen Commission suggests the Commissioner shall:

conduct the Inquiry without seeking to find fault on the part of any individual, community, or organization, and with the overall aim of respecting conservation of the sockeye salmon stock and encouraging broad cooperation among stakeholders. (my emphasis)

This initially raises questions of “conservation” by what definition? See several earlier posts on this site for some of that discussion — in essence “conservation” for what and for whom?

And, “encouraging broad cooperation among stakeholders”?

This is about as realistic as expecting that Canada would lead the medal count at the end of the Winter Olympics.

The debate surrounding wild salmon, salmon conservation, salmon fishing, Fisheries and Oceans Canada management (or mis-management), and so on — is far hotter than even the debates that started in Canadian pubs and living rooms last night about who should play in goal for Team Canada in the next Olympic hockey game.

Go read the comments on any article related to salmon on CBC’s website. One article that mentions the announcement of the Commission has almost 200 comments. On other media websites, comments on salmon-related articles explode into searing racial slurs, personal attacks sillier than boxers before a fight, and school yard bickering worse than Canada’s Parliament (even days with more hot air flying around than a Namibian trading post on the edge of the Sahara).

“Encouraging broad cooperation”….? hmmmm.

Now, OK, if Commissioner Cohen could in fact have the magical powers to encourage “broad cooperation” — hopefully he and his team of lawyers can stick around to implement the recommendations of the inquiry.

And after that… go pay a visit to our overly collaborative & cooperative Parliament… (when it re-opens anyways).

Hey, I’m all for big goals. Aim high.

Just be prepared for the tears and apologies and lots of kleenex — similar to Canadian athletes that got boosted on to the “owning the podium”  stump in the stratosphere then come crashing to earth under the pressure of a nation and a $120 million investment with one goal in mind…

Collaboration and cooperation are vitally key when it comes to salmon conservation.

However, collaboration and conservation means opening up the books to everyone; opening up the networks to everyone; and especially opening up the “science” to everyone.

Is the federal government prepared to do this? And does it really have to wait until it’s under oath at a judicial inquiry?

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