Over the past couple of weeks I have asked the BC NDP government why they are not following their own policy on conservation and maps from experts highlighting the last remaining endangered forests that should be deferred as per the old growth review panel recommendations.
The responses from the Minister of Forests have been shocking in their lack of substance.
Today, I asked about the $2.3 billion dollars the federal government set aside in budget 2021 for conservation and protected areas. The BC NDP’s budget earmarked $0.
Premier John Horgan’s response was only slightly more encouraging for the protection of old forests.
I came equipped today with a different question about a different subject, but my hope is that this can be the response to these stories over the weekend — can be not just a response from the ministers, but also a response from this Legislative Assembly. We have the ability to do that.
Over the past few weeks, the world’s attention has become focused on Fairy Creek, because thousands of British Columbians are showing up to protest this provincial government’s lack of protection of these rare and endangered ecosystems. Two weeks ago I raised the Auditor General’s report saying that B.C. is not doing enough to follow its own policy on conservation. Just after that, I highlighted the mapping that a trio of scientists have done showing where the most endangered old forests are and where needs to be immediately deferred from cutting.
Today, I would like to add that there is a significant amount of federal money on the table, money that B.C. could use to conserve these forests and support communities through transition. The federal government has put $2.3 billion on the table to expand protected areas, and that could be a game-changer if the NDP chooses to take it.
To government. My question is to the Minister of Forests. Will she commit to using every federal dollar that is on the table to protect these endangered old forests and to stop the battles playing out on the ground today?
Hon. J. Horgan:
I thank the member for his question. It’s very true. He knows full well that I am intimate with the area, Fairy Creek and environs. It’s my home community. I know it intimately. I also know the Pacheedaht, and I also know the Huu-ay-aht, and I know the Ditidaht. And it is their territory. We’ve talked about this in this Legislature. At this time, more than ever, we need to acknowledge their rights and title to that territory and sovereignty, in my opinion, over those lands.
We’ve talked about this in this Legislature. At this time, more than ever, we need to acknowledge their rights and title to that territory — and sovereignty, in my opinion, over those lands. Having said that — and I got a movement from the member — I look forward to, perhaps, a discussion, either in here or offline, about that.
Specifically to the question of federal resources, I, too, have been hearing promises of federal resources. I’ve been asking about those federal resources. I’m hopeful that they will turn up, but I’ve heard of federal resources in the past, as well, and they have not shown up. I do understand that there are opportunities here. We have been pursuing that in government-to-government discussions, through my Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat, as well as in direct conversations with federal officials.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Premier highlighting the complexity of the situation that we have in these particular areas, although I think it’s fair to say that the response of British Columbians, the response of people in southern Vancouver Island to Fairy Creek or to specific locations is actually a response about the protection of these last remaining ecosystems — these last remaining endangered ecosystems, the protection of old growth.
The federal government put $2.3 billion in their budget — and it may or may not be there, and may or may not be available immediately — but in the recent B.C. budget, there wasn’t anything — no money. It’s in the federal budget; it’s nowhere to be found in the provincial budget. There’s no money to implement the recommendations of the old growth review panel, which the Premier promised to implement — fully, all recommendations — in the last election.
T.J. Watt, from the Ancient Forest Alliance, says that because of the federal investment, the B.C. NDP “has been handed the keys to ensure that much of the grandest, most endangered old-growth forests can be protected.” The federal government is going to have the money on the table. Is the B.C. government going to chase that money down?
Again, my question is to the Minister of Forests. What specific action is she taking to find out if that money is available and, if not, to go to the Treasury Board to ensure that there’s money that British Columbia is putting on the table to follow through on the commitments that the B.C. NDP government made to British Columbians, in the 2020 election, to implement all of the recommendations — specifically recommendation No. 6 — as a first step to defer these sensitive ecosystems?
Hon. J. Horgan:
Hon. Speaker, my colleague will know that it was this government that appointed the old growth commission. We were happy to receive the report — in fact, so happy that we said we would embrace all of the recommendations and implement them. The member will know that there were significant deferrals — some 200,000 hectares immediately — because there had been discussions with Indigenous Nations about that, and approval. In fact, requests were made to do so. On the other areas, like Fairy Creek, that discussion had yet to take place and is ongoing.
Again, I appreciate the member’s passion. I am passionate about old trees, and this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. It’s no surprise whatsoever. But there are complex issues. The member understands that. I know that members from the official opposition understand that. If we’re going to make a seismic change in how forestry is done, we need to have buy-in from everyone.
That’s why tomorrow the Minister of Forests and I will be issuing an intentions paper that will lay out not just how we will address old growth but how we will address forestry across the province. The time is now to take action when the public’s attention to these issues is at its highest. There have been times in our history when forestry has been neglected and forgotten. It is certainly not being neglected and forgotten today. That is a good thing, in my mind.
We need to take the opportunity that this moment in time presents to us: a very capable report, lauded by all those who’ve had the opportunity to read it. The government is committed to implementing it. I think the stars are aligning, and we’re going to have good news tomorrow in the intentions paper and more good news about old-growth logging on Vancouver Island later this summer.