Having the BC Green Party hold the balance of power in the BC legislature was great for ending the abjectly corrupt way that big money bought elections in BC, but—surprisingly—it did little to change environmental policy in BC.

Those who take John Horgan’s commitment to honouring the request by First Nations to defer logging of 2,000 hectares of old-growth  forest in the Fairy Creek watershed and the Central Walbran Valley as some kind of commitment to First Nations treaty rights or to the preservation of old growth forests need to take a look at what is happening on the land being cleared for the  Site C dam project in the  Peace River.  Over the objections of the West Moberly First Nations who live in and rely on the Peace River valley  for their way of life, the forest is being cut down and the land stripped to bare earth in preparation for flooding by the Site C dam. 

And remember Site C is not needed by BC for any current power needs. It is being developed, quite transparently, to supply power to condense fracked gas to liquefied natural gas to sell to distant markets. 

A Joint Review Panel that examined the project for the B.C. and federal governments concluded the impacts of the Site C dam on First Nations traditional land use would likely be adverse, significant and impossible to mitigate.

Having the BC Green Party hold the balance of power in the BC legislature was great for ending the abjectly corrupt way that big money bought elections in BC, but—surprisingly—it did little to change environmental policy in BC.

After the province put up a weak legal case for stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline that was easily defeated in Canada’s Supreme Court,  BC Premier John Horgan went on to “advise” the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that they should, similarly, buckle to court (settler owned and operated court)decisions that  give the go ahead to building the Coastal GasLink pipeline over  unceded Wet’suwet’en  lands.

Interestingly (depressingly interestingly) the NDP is all for aboriginal title—as long as it doesn’t interfere with resource extraction.

The thing that needs to be borne in mind is that the deferrals on Vancouver Island  in total apply to a relatively small area.  Dozens of hectares of old-growth in the same area are approved to be logged and hundreds of hectares are waiting in the approval process.

NONE-THE-LESS there is a short term moratorium on logging in some of the old growth areas.  And there is Horgan’s commitment to implementing the  Old Growth Strategic Review written by foresters Al Gorley and Garry Merkel. Their second recommendation was to “prioritize ecosystem health and resilience” so that the health of forests comes first. It would mean a shift from seeing forests primarily through a financial lens where ecosystem health is viewed as a “constraint.” “I want British Columbians to understand absolutely clearly, we are doing things differently in British Columbia,” Horgan said. “This is not your grandparents’ forest industry. It will be your grandchildren’s forest industry if we manage it correctly.”

 Nice words: we’ll see of more comes of the Old Growth Strategic Review than came of Harcourt’s Council on Resources and Environment.

Having read through the lengthy Old Growth Strategic Review, I am impressed by the ecological and social values that it sets out to protect enhance in our forests, however, I found its policy recommendations to be overly convoluted with actions that my experience with “consensus” building around multistake participants tells me sound good but don’t work so well in practice where humble citizen volunteers are thrown up against salaried industry spokespersons.  But I am willing to wait two years and see if Horgan is any better at pulling the bunny out of the hat than Harcourt was.

I do hope that in the next provincial election we see another minority NDP government supported by a larger, more informed and capable Green Party. Well, a minority Green Party government supported by a diminished NDP would be even better! All this talk comes to nothing if the NDP and Greens split the vote and allow the Liberals to from another ecologically blind Liberal Party to get elected with the assumed mandate to, once again, gut forestry regulation entirely and allow the industry to hire its own supervisors—sort of like turning out the jails to staff the bank vault guards!

I have an idea about how citizens can come together to ensure that their ecological and social values are not split between two parties allowing the rabid right to out run divided progressives. Tune in next week!

Norm Reynolds

Columnist