Recently during a radio interview, one of our leading political pundits offered his thoughts and advice to those who were still trying to make up their minds as to which party and candidate to vote for in our provincial election.
Interestingly, he pointed out that more often than not, the voting public tends to focus too much on character rather than on paying more attention to policy and where each party and its candidates stand on one that might be of concern to them.
That being said, one particularly bad policy that was introduced by our current Liberal government soon after they came to power in 2003, which has proved particularly disastrous for us here in the Comox Valley — and especially to our local environment — should be on the top of our agenda as voters.
This was the Private Managed Forest Act Lands Act that essentially, as one old, retired Crown Forest logger phrased it, left “the foxes in charge of the chicken house.”
And the chicken house?
The thousands of hectares of prime forest land owned outright (thanks to E&N land grant of 1880s) along the east side of Vancouver Island by the two corporate giants, TimberWest and Island Timberlands.
This not only includes some of the best Douglas fir growing area anywhere on the planet but also, all the majestic high-elevation yellow cedar and mountain hemlock stands surrounding Strathcona Park.
As it stands now with this dreadful policy, the wholesale liquidation of the remaining first- and second-growth stands up along the headwaters of the Puntledge and Tsolum rivers will be over and done within the next couple of years.
And now TimberWest, our local timber baron, has moved onto the liquidation of its Cowichan claim. And how did this all come about? Well, it was the combination of this particularly bad piece of provincial legislation with as just as dreadful a federal one that ended up in the creation of one incredibly toxic corporate entity. This was where our federal government allowed a resource company, in this case TimberWest, to morph itself into an income trust and put itself in the position where it was obligated to provide a guaranteed return to its unit holders quarterly.
And when it soon discovered that it was unable to meet those obligations in the early 2000s, it found itself having to double and then triple its harvest rate to meet it.
But when it comes right down to it, who’s to know all the sordid details of what actually went on since our Liberal government passed the Private Managed Forests Lands Act some 10 years ago?
The likes of forest giant TimberWest aren’t answerable to anyone and, especially, to local communities like the Comox Valley.
And now, as a consequence, we local taxpayers here in the Valley happen to be looking at a half million dollar bill for flood remediation along the Courtenay River in the next year or two while local fishery and watershed restoration groups continue to muddle along in dealing with the downstream consequences of overlogging in the hills and headwaters above us.
So, that leaves us with the question: What party in the coming election is going to be up to re-examining and perhaps rewriting this disastrous provincial policy, the Private Managed Forests Land Act?
Well, certainly, not the Liberals who brought it all down us in the first place.
The Greens perhaps? Well, we’ve been waiting for years for them to step up to the plate and address this issue here on Vancouver Island.
But what also has been rather disappointing is that many of their supporters, involved with our local environmental groups, for instance, have shown some reluctance in coming forward to address what maybe one of the largest, manmade environmental disasters to have occurred within recent memory here in British Columbia.
So I guess that leaves us then with only one party left to consider, the NDP. And indeed after communicating with a couple of their Vancouver Island candidates recently, re-examining our province’s current forest practices legislation is going to be right up there at the top of their legislative agenda once they’re elected.
That being said, we are particularly fortunate then in having such a bright, articulate candidate as Kassandra Dycke running since she is particularly well-versed in what’s gone down with the Liberals’ incredibly weak forest policy legislation and, in particular, that dealing with private timber lands.
And just one final comment in response to a local sawmill owner who I spoke with a couple of years back who, after shaking our heads over what had gone down on the TimberWest claim here in the Valley, responded, “Well, it’s private land; they can darn well do what they please!”
I wished he’d told me that years ago, since me and Bubba were thinkin’ of runnin’ a combination free range pork and wreckin’ yard on our two acres right here in the City of Courtenay!! So I guess we are free to go right ahead then!