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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marks first trip to Bowen Island

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise Tuesday morning stop on Bowen to discuss ocean protection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his first ever visit to Bowen Island on Tuesday morning to announce a new investment to the Oceans Protection Plan.

“It is so fantastic today to be here on Bowen Island. Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandparents just across the way in West Van looking out over Howe Sound, and my great grandmother actually lived on the other side near Gibsons, where we’d go and visit,” said Trudeau.

“Being here today on Bowen roots me here in the past, but also in the future that we need to build all together.”

Discussing the reason for his visit – $2 billion in new funding over the next nine years for the federal Oceans Protection Plan – Trudeau outlined some of the projects that money will go toward, including many in the waters around Bowen.

“The Salish Sea right behind me is one of the most richly biodiverse places on Earth,” said Trudeau from the Causeway overlooking Mannion Bay. “And I don’t have to tell anyone here why it matters that we protect these spaces.”

The Oceans Protection Plan, launched by the federal government in 2016, aims to “ensure our oceans are cleaner, healthier and safer for years to come,” according to Transport Canada. The government is planning for 15 new initiatives over the next nine years, to pair with 39 measures already in practice.

The prime minister said the next phase of the project – dubbed “Oceans Protection Plan 2.0” – will “renew and expand this work across the country, including continuing our work in the Great Lakes and on the St. Lawrence. We’ll take action to combat emerging threats to our marine safety and ecosystems, and we’ll strengthen partnerships with Indigenous peoples.

“A good example is the work we’re doing together right here together on the Salish Sea strategy. We’ll continue to protect and restore this rich ecosystem in a way that respects Indigenous and treaty rights and traditional knowledge,” said Trudeau.

“And we’ll deploy technologies that reduce the impacts of underwater noise so that marine mammals can safely communicate with each other and navigate through these waters,” he added.

 Trudeau pointed to the region’s history to show that even dire environmental situations can be solved.

“We can’t help but feel hopeful when we hear stories like the new baby orca born to one of the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) families for the first time in over a decade,” said Trudeau.

“You can also see it when you look around Howe Sound. Fifty years ago this was one of the most polluted places in North America, teetering on the brink of ecological disaster. Today, it’s teeming with life once again,” added the prime minister.

Asked about some of the program's successes he’s most proud of, Trudeau noted building relationships with Indigenous peoples in coastal regions, helping to counter the negative effects of marine traffic, the reopening of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station in 2016, and new births among the SRKW population.

Trudeau said he’s very pleased he finally got the chance to set foot on Bowen after a lifetime of coming close to the island. “I’ve kayaked all along the whole coast going up the sound, and I’ve always looked forward to coming here,” he said.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting as many people as possible and enjoying some of the fabulous and famous Bowen Island hospitality.”

The prime minister did just that, going for lunch at Doc Morgan’s following the announcement and meeting with people at the restaurant and gathered on the USSC Marina lawn before and after his meal.

The prime minister and his team then departed on a Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft en route to his next stop of the day at a North Vancouver child care centre.