By the time former MLA Blair Lekstrom had been brought in to salvage a caribou recovery plan for the northeast section of the province, it was already too late.
Nearly two years of closed-door meetings produced an agreement that by Lekstrom’s estimate, excluded 97 percent of residents who live and work in the region, including local governments, business, the outdoor recreation community and even certain First Nations. My colleagues and I consistently called on the government for transparency. To make matters worse, forests minister Doug Donaldson took a done-deal on the road and tried to pass off hastily organized information sessions as “public engagement.”
But rather than engage the public, Donaldson enraged people to the extent that 30,000 signed a petition calling on the government to immediately cease and desist. It was only then John Horgan started to pay attention to the unfolding mess and called on Lekstrom to bail him out. The second look contained in Lekstrom’s report really only confirms what people have been saying all along.
Any path forward must be guided by local voices and have the full cooperation of affected
Everyone wants to save this iconic species, but we must have a full grasp of all economic and social consequences before any government action can proceed. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen following last week’s announcement of an “interim” moratorium on any new resource development in certain parts of the northeast.
This is sending shockwaves throughout the rest of the province, especially communities that could have the door slammed shut on any future resource development. Our local forest industry is already hurting enough. The last thing we need is another hammer blow to the job losses we have already suffered. And rest assured, the oil and gas and mining industries are closely monitoring what is unfolding as well.
Before John Horgan and the NDP issues anymore dictates from the premier’s office, the provincial government must first look at the social and economic impacts of any recovery plan before we end up with another mess that has left northeast communities harshly divided, and perhaps beyond repair.