A Westerly News reader sent in this photo of an Omega Pacific barge that was heavily damaged during two storm events last month and is believed to be the source of thousands of Taplow Feeds feed-bags washing up throughout the West Coast.

VIDEO: Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns slams government for keeping thousands of spilled aquaculture bags a secret

“Clearly this government cares 1,000 times more about its image than protecting the environment.”

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns is demanding to know why Canada’s Liberal government did not notify local communities when thousands of empty aquaculture feed bags were found washed up within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Parks Canada officials found the bags on Nov. 10, but the public did not hear about them until media reports on Nov. 17.

“A leaked Parks Canada memo alerted British Columbians that thousands of plastic feed bags escaped from an aquaculture farm and washed ashore in the Broken Group Islands yet, for some reason, the Tseshaht First Nation and other local groups were never notified,” Johns said in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

He said the leaked Parks Canada memo suggested the spilled bags were not immediately made public because of concerns about potential negative media attention.

“Clearly this government cares 1,000 times more about its image than protecting the environment,” he said. “Will the Liberals apologize to Vancouver Islanders and finally act to create a permanent, dedicated, annual fund to help with marine debris cleanups?”

In response, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna assured the government cares about the environment, though she did not speak to why surrounding communities were not notified of the spill by Parks Canada.

“I can assure the member opposite that we care greatly about the environment that we are concerned about this incident, that Parks Canada is involved in the cleanup and that we will continue to work very hard to ensure that we protect our oceans,” she said. “We are absolutely committed to protecting our oceans and protecting the environment.”

After hearing about the spill on Nov. 17, local volunteers spent the weekend cleaning plastic bags off West Coast beaches. The bags all had Taplow Feeds’ logo on them and are believed to have spilled off an Omega Pacific barge during two storm events last month.

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