Congratulations to the people of the Peace for raising your voices, expressing your concerns the caribou protection plans being rolled out by the government, and having those concerns heard in Victoria.
It’s a long way to deliver a message, but you did it. The voice of the Peace was so loud because of the incredible work by the Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery. They collected more than 30,000 signatures on their petition. For comparison, remember that the entire population of the Peace is just over 65,000.
It was one of the highlights of my entire time in public life to deliver that petition on the floor of the Legislature on April 10. That petition called on the government to halt the process, conduct broader consultations, begin economic and socio-economic impacts of the caribou recovery proposals, and provide base line scientific data for the closures. We've got some of what we were looking for when Premier John Horgan finally came to Dawson Creek April 15 to acknowledge the concerns of the region and so much of rural British Columbia. But the Premier only extended the on-going consultation of the existing draft caribou recovery plans by a month and appointed my predecessor as MLA (and current Dawson Creek Councillor) Blair Lekstrom as a liaison to the Premier on the issue.
What was missing? Any commitment to taking our concerns seriously, or any further stakeholder input being allowed. The Premier created this mess and tried to blow it off by just saying “my bad.” To me his quick fly in and fly out was only a political stunt to try to turn down the temperature on how own government’s ham-fisted approach that has generated so much across rural BC.
I’m worried because the extra month appears to only give the environmental groups more time to cuddle up to this Government in their quest to shut down our back country. Also troubling is the Premier’s failure deliver on what we need from any recovery plan: • more science included in the plans, • a commitment to zero job losses, • references to predator management, • a commitment to hear from local groups.
There’s plenty still to hear on all of these topics. They are issues the people of the Peace have been begging to be heard on since long before the draft agreements were released and my caution is it is late in the game for the input to come and there are so many warning signs in what’s missing. All of this is why it’s clear to me that even though the Premier thinks the first battle is over, the fight is far from won.
What’s at stake is enjoyment of the lifestyle that is the reason why so many of us call the Peace our home, as well as and the resource activity that builds our communities, supports our families, and sends tax dollars to be spent far away in Victoria.