Premier John Horgan was in Dawson Creek today to announce that the province is extending the public engagement process to May 31, and that he is appointing Dawson Creek city councillor and former MLA Blair Lekstrom as a community liaison.
“He will give us an opportunity in Victoria to look at the feedback from the community in a more focused manner,” Horgan said of Lekstrom’s appointment. “This is clearly an issue that has enraged some people and has inflamed passions, and I can’t feel that in real time on the ground because of my responsibilities in Victoria. Blair can do that.”
He noted the petition presented in Victoria by MLA Mike Bernier and the Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery drew his attention.
“I regret that we didn't start that consultation earlier, I regret that we didn’t put more information out to the public, but we are where we are,” he said.
“We decided to add additional time to the consultation, because it was clear to the public that the public wasn’t satisfied with the information they were getting,” Horgan explained. “At these public meetings where often you’d like to have an elected representative, we were sending public officials who were in some instances not able to answer the questions that the public were bringing up, because they weren’t connected to this specific issue at play.”
Lekstrom reports directly to the premier.
“We’re all in this together, we all want to ensure we try and look after the caribou, and at the same time maintaining the quality of life we have here for the people looking after their families, their jobs. I’m confident that we can do that together,” he said.
Lekstrom noted the premier had reached out to him to discuss the topic.
“This is what our region asked for, they asked to be engaged, to have the opportunity to put our input to how we think we can do this together with our First Nations neighbours,” Lekstrom explained. “It’s not us and them, we’re going to work towards finding a solution.
“This is not about politics, this transcends any political party. We have families, jobs that could be on the line,” the former BC Liberal MLA said. “I believe we can establish the looking after our caribou, working with our First Nations communities, and still maintain the jobs and the industry in this area. That’s going to be my goal.”
Horgan also spent the day meeting with Peace River Regional District board members, and Chief Roland Willson from the West Moberly First Nations and Chief Ken Cameron from the Saulteau First Nations. (Horgan noted that during the process, the chiefs had signed non-disclosure agreements and were “impaired in their ability to talk to the public.”)
Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille, who had expressed his displeasure with previous cancelled meetings with the government in the Chetwynd consultation, noted he was pleased with the announcement.
“I think it’s positive that we have the leader of our province come to see it when it’s not an NDP riding,” he said. “I feel it’s positive, moving in a direction where we can some light at the end of the tunnel, I see it as a positive move.
“I see it as moving forward and getting information out there. Information is the key right now, so if we have more information, then the local public have more information, we should be moving in the right direction.”