…about 94 per cent of BC is Crown or public land. And over the decades the wealth generated from that land – the royalties and taxes from forest, natural gas, and mining activities – has enriched public programs such as health care, education and transit to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.Lately, however, our provincial government is behaving as if there’s nothing particularly important about our great, shared natural assets.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the speed at which one of BC’s longest standing public agencies has been gutted and dismantled — to the point where it is dangerously close to becoming irrelevant.
I speak of our Forest Service. In less than a decade, the provincial government has axed one quarter of the agency’s staff (1,006 positions) and cut the number of fully staffed district offices in half, effectively severing the link between the agency and 21 communities that it once so ably served.
The depth of the cuts to the nearly 100-year-old agency is a serious concern. And when one bores down to what the cutbacks mean on the ground — our shared ground with First Nations — the alarm bells really go off.
The implications of this are enormous for every citizen of BC, whether you live in Vancouver or Terrace. It amounts to the corporate theft of our resources, our public wealth, for the enrichment of a few shareholders who don’t even have to pay taxes on our wealth. Recently, Campbell has opened the door to another NAFTA lawsuit, allowing the corporation to sue the People of BC for millions of our tax dollars. They will win.
The theory that the corporate sector will trickle jobs is a baldfaced lie. Back to the feller buncher and it’s BFF the Log Processer. That’s technological innovation for you. $160,000 for the machine, wages saved in lost forestry jobs? Priceless. The huge cost of these machines also allows for an excuse to gate the logging roads and deny access to community stakeholders because they have to protect their investment from the people. Originally, the social contract with Forest Companies stipulated that the onus was on them to maintain logging roads and provide community access for recreational purposes. On the South Island, they used to close the gates for fire season, understandable given the huge costs associated with fighting forest fires. Then, suddenly, they just stopped openiing the gates at all. Now, they can log to their hearts content, without ever being held acccountable for the shoddy practices that leave huge blocks of nuked forestland, slashpiles everywhere filled with wood that should have been utilised and soil completely exposed to the elements of erosion. Now we have the added danger of politicians removing huge tracts of land from the TFL to enrich the shareholders further, selling it off as Real Estate. Quickly and as quietly as possible. Island Timberlands, WFP and Timberwest were suddenly gifted by Rich Coleman with the ability to morph into Land Developers. With absolutely no consultation with the affected communities and first nation stakeholders.
The Forest Service was concieved to protect the public interest in our biggest resource from the winds of political change. People who are granted 4 year terms are not likely to have 10 year plans, never mind the 1000 year plan required to sustainabley steward the wealth of our children’s children. Hell, we can’t even get elected officials to feed and educate the current crop of children!
This superministry that Campbell has sprung on us seems designed to destroy the oversight on industry by Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Mining, Forestry. Don’t forget it was Kevin Falcon who headed up the Ministry of Eliminating Red Tape! Anyone who votes Liberal in this Province is voting for the Corporate Agenda and against the financial future of their children. By eliminating the 100 year old Forestry Service, Campbell eliminates government oversight of our greatest attribute. Oh, yeah, want to see the trickle down effect?