VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The chair of a 30-year-old environmental watchdog slated to close its doors this week because of Tory funding cuts plans to meet with two local MPs this Friday and ask them to fight to save it.

BC Environmental Network Chair Dave Stevens accuses the Harper government of eliminating the national program’s half-million dollar budget – part of which paid for one administrator in BC and its website costs – to clear the way for mining companies.

“The mining company goes in, they make the pitch, they say ‘we want a permit, and everything’s going to be fine.’ Then, when the ordinary people who live in the area take a closer look, a better informed look, they say ‘No, no, there’s a great deal at risk here, it’s not ‘everything’s going to be OK,’” Stevens explains.

“So the environmental assessment then proceeds with that extra information in hand. So that’s the sort of voice that is likely to be less effective because of this.”

Last year the environmental network helped the Tsilhqot’in First Nation in central BC defeat a mining company’s proposal to turn a salmon-bearing lake into a tailing pond.

“You, know, it’s politics,” Stevens says. “The environmental voice is a voice of caution and prudence when it comes to putting in place large projects that may have dangers to the public at large. The current administration in Ottawa does not want to see the brakes put on development projects, so why would they pay people to criticize them?”

The Conservative government says it plans to replace the network’s role with electronic consultation methods, but in Stevens’ opinion that’s just “hand-waving.”