Liberals break promise on timber consultation, New Democrats say

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VICTORIA – Controversial changes to the way public timber is accessed by forest companies are moving ahead without the full public consultation promised by the Liberal government, says New Democrat forest critic Norm Macdonald.

“The forest minister promised there would be public consultation on these changes before the end of the summer,” said Macdonald. “We’re now at the end of September and there has been no public consultation.

“We’re worried that these changes are being decided without fully considering the public consultation the minister promised. Given the Liberals’ penchant for avoiding democratic discussion, the public should be worried.”

Last year, a bi-partisan legislative committee on timber supply made recommendations aimed at ensuring that forest companies could get the most of declining timber supplies, while protecting environmental values.

The Liberal government ignored those recommendations and in March they proposed changes to the Forest Act. Those changes would have given the minister incredible discretionary powers to sign new tree farm licence agreements and give corporations strong private property rights over vast areas of publicly owned lands.

“Significant public outcry was all that kept those changes from being rammed through in March,” said Macdonald. “My concern is that with the legislature closed by Christy Clark, the Liberals will try to implement those same changes with no oversight whatsoever. I’m worried that the plans are already made and any public meetings that follow are nothing but a sham.

“The legislative committee was very specific in its recommendations,” said Macdonald, who was deputy chair of the committee. “And it called for a go-slow approach to any change in forestry or timber allocation practices. The industry knows that solid environmental practices are vital to maintaining markets, as well as just being the right thing to do.

“Barrelling ahead with change regardless of the consequences isn’t good for anyone.”

B.C.’s New Democrats continue to call for forest practices that respect environmental values, which are done in consultation with communities and First Nations, and that use B.C. logs to create B.C. jobs.