VICTORIA (February 20, 2019) – After more cancelled meetings and no answers, northern British Columbians are left in limbo, concerned about the future of the mountain caribou, the resource sector and local backcountry use.
Northern BC Liberal MLAs raised this issue in the legislature this week on behalf of their constituents who have shared concerns regarding closed-door meetings, limited local engagement and questionable comments by the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development.
“Over the past year British Columbians have been kept completely in the dark over the mountain caribou issue,” said Peace River North MLA Dan Davies. “One would think, with the minister presiding over a rural part of this province, that he would echo the concerns of all of his constituents. However given his comments over the weekend it seems that the minister is fine visiting his friends in an illegal blockade, but is fearful of British Columbians who have been legitimately asking for information that does and will affect their lives in rural parts of the province.”
“The minister talks about a made-in-BC solution, but so far I only see closed door meetings, cancelled information sessions and postponed promises,” added South Peace River MLA Mike Bernier. “Local MLAs and their constituents are being shut out of a process that should include all voices within the caribou territory, not just those in Victoria. I question how you effectively engage on a plan that does not connect with the local communities that will be most affected.”
“The minister claims that his staff did not have all of the information necessary for them to engage with locals and to hear their concerns, and keep cancelling multiple meetings last minute.” remarked Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “This seems like a stretch to me, as they have the information necessary for their supposed made-in-B.C. solution meetings with the federal government and local First Nations. The lack of information is worrying locals who are concerned about not only the sustained health of the caribou population, but the health of other important aspects of rural northern life, like the resource economy and tourism industry.”
“People who work and raise their families in rural British Columbia deserve to be part of this process,” said Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka. “By refusing to meet them, the minister shows that he really doesn’t care about the opinions of hard-working British Columbians in rural B.C. Preliminary consultations on this have been devoid of local input. Why is the minister keeping British Columbians in the dark on decisions that will directly affect their lifestyle?”
Government claims that a draft version of the caribou recovery plan is expected this month.