FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – On October 29 the Peace River Regional District had sent a letter to Premier Horgan outlining the Boards displeasure of the recent decisions made by the province.
The letter, posted on the District of Chetwynd’s Facebook page, looks at the Province’s a proposal that could see the Province claw back 400,000 cubic meters of timber as part of the caribou recovery program.
In a response to the letter, the Ministry of Forests stated, “As part of our commitment to caribou recovery, the Province is currently negotiating a Caribou Recovery Partnership Agreement with the federal government and West Moberly & Saulteau First Nations. No final decisions have been made. There is no imminent clawback of timber.”
Brad Sperling, Regional District chair says he isn’t buying that statement.
“They keep saying that, but our issue is, if you read our letter, is not everyone is sitting at the same table. That’s the issue. We respect the federal and provincial jurisdictions and First Nations. We are also going after as to who is looking after the social and economic impact. When you hear of clawing back 400,000 cubic square metres of timber and a very large area, what’s the impact on the community if they lose the mill?”, said, Sperling.
Sperling adds, “They may make offers to the timber industry to compensate them for the loss of their cuts, but who is compensating the community for the loss of the tax base of that mill or the jobs that it’s going to affect? Where is the social impact?”.
In the letter, it claims there could be an upwards of a minimum of 500 jobs lost if this project were to go ahead.
The ministry claims that the Province is committed to engaging local governments and industry stakeholders further once interim agreements are in place.
Sperling says the Province has not been engaging with or contacting the Regional District in regards to the decision.
“They’re not. We find out either second hand or we may get a little conference call-type thing from them that they are already making these plans and they keep saying nothing is finalized”, said Sperling.
Sperling feels that the term “further once interim agreements are in place” makes it seem like the province is going ahead and making plans without any input and telling the Regional District after the decision has been finalized.
He feels that they should be included in these talks as the District knows what impact this project will have on the community.
“We should be because they’re not letting us tell them about the social impacts on the community or the district. If you look at the letter, it doesn’t really seem like a typical letter that you would send to the government, we liked it because it had more of the individual, personal spirit and that’s what we’re trying to get across… we wanted to come across more from a personal perspective”, said Sperling.
The ministry says Senior ministry staff are committed to following up with the regional district in mid-November on the proposal.
Sperling hopes that the Regional District is included in these talks soon.
A copy of the full letter sent to the Premier can be viewed on the District of Chetwynd Facebook page.