MLA Columbia River-Revelstoke
Last week, the residents of Revelstoke had their chance to speak up regarding the province’s Caribou Recovery Plan. Despite the fact that the engagement session was four hours long and was announced only one week prior, there were about 800 concerned, distressed and discouraged citizens in attendance.
My constituents expressed fear of losing their jobs, their local economy, and their rural way of life. This theme was echoed by small and large business owners, long-time residents, the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, recreation organizations, and their Mayor, Gary Sulz.
The provincial government is asking the public to provide feedback on their draft Caribou plans; plans that do not contain enough information. The access to data has been scarce, and this government has not been forthcoming with details. There were many questions from the Revelstoke attendees looking for a socio-economic impact study; why has the government evaded this task? Attendees explicitly stated that they do not trust this overall process.
These pre-arranged draft agreements do nothing to quell the concerns of those who work in the forestry, mining and tourism sectors. The Premier and the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development need to hear this message.
An unforeseen side effect of the government’s current process is a shifting discourse that sees people taking sides. The mishandling of this issue is pitting British Columbian against British Columbian; caribou recovery is already a complex situation. It saddens me that this flawed process is muddying the waters and creating conflict in rural B.C. People want and deserve clarity from their elected officials.
Earlier this month Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier presented Premier Horgan with a 30,000 signature petition on behalf of his constituents. John Horgan only then made his first visit as Premier to northeast B.C. a week later. His comment was “I regret we didn’t get more information before the public.
But we are where we are.” Since making his comment, Premier Horgan has not provided new information, or any additional face-to-face consultations. Instead, he extended the online feedback forum by four weeks. This extension is about optics, not transparency.
Premier Horgan, it’s time to start treating rural B.C. like the valuable resource it is. Residents who are living in the middle of this process want answers. How will you decide who gets a seat at the negotiating table during the herd planning stage? When will that stage begin? What type of caribou numbers will constitute a successful population recovery? When will the province perform crucial socio-economic studies?
Premier Horgan, rural B.C. wants to be a part of the dialogue and the solution. So give us the chance to share our stories and add local perspective to the process, because it is clear that so far this is just another case of the NDP telling rural B.C. that “Victoria knows best.”