Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

Forest communities being ignored

MLA Lorne Doerkson column

Last week was the end of the fall legislative session in Victoria. It was the last opportunity for MLAs to debate legislation this year, and as the Official Opposition, our BC Liberal Caucus was eager to dig into the bills the NDP had put forward and get a better understanding of how they will impact British Columbians.

Unfortunately, whether by poor time management, or by design, the NDP found themselves short the time needed for MLAs to fully discuss the bills. Instead of allowing extra time to ensure that vital legislation touching on Freedom of Information, Indigenous rights, and many other issues had the opportunity to be properly debated, the NDP began to shut down debates that were just getting started.

Two of these bills touched on a topic relevant to people in the Cariboo — forestry. They substantially amended the Forest Act and Forest and Range Practices Act, and will allow for serious changes to tenure, definitions of “special purpose” areas, and many other topics of concern.

The bills will have serious ramifications for the industry, possibly leading to the loss of thousands of jobs. Yet all of the changes were decided behind closed doors, with no details given to those affected. Industry stakeholders and First Nations have expressed their concerns about these bills and the lack of adequate consultation. The NDP have now only given First Nations 30 days to provide feedback — an unreasonably short amount of time given the bills’ significance and possible implications.

Meanwhile, forestry-dependent communities have not even been given 30 days. Instead, they have absolutely no say in this legislation, despite the devastating consequences it could contain for their livelihoods and communities.

This is just another example of this NDP government taking little time to understand rural B.C., making sweeping changes without so much as a cursory conversation with those most affected. Adding insult to injury, when the elected representatives of forestry-dependent communities finally have the opportunity to debate the possible implications these bills could have on their constituents, they get cut off early.

It’s time for the NDP to include rural B.C. in more than just words, and not shutting down rural MLAs as they try to debate important legislation would be a good place to start.


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