For several years the BC Green Caucus has been raising significant concerns about how the British Columbia government is mismanaging our forests.
Each time we raise the issue we have heard that the Minister and Ministry are doing the work. They make promises and yet do not follow through.
With the backdrop of the RCMP removing blockaders from Fairy Creek and Caycuse on Vancouver Island, I asked the Minister of Forests about reports from the Forests Practices Board and Auditor General that highlight the substantial failure of the Ministry to protect endangered ecosystems and biodiversity.
Last week we saw the results of this government’s damaging and short-sighted approach to managing our forests. Today the RCMP are starting to remove protesters at Fairy Creek, and what is unfolding is an unacceptable failure of this B.C. NDP government. The lack of leadership is causing economic, social and environmental consequences.
It’s not just Fairy Creek. Last week a damning report from the Forest Practices Board found that B.C. Timber Sales is failing to protect old growth and biodiversity in the Nahmint Valley. Their report reveals deep flaws in our management of old growth. They found that these failures are “creating real risks to ecosystems.”
B.C. Timber Sales needs to be reigned in, and we need systemic change in this ministry. One of the recommendations of the old-growth review panel, from last year, was part of implementing immediate protections for high-risk ecosystems. It’s for this government to direct B.C. Timber Sales to cease auctioning off old-growth timber.
My question is to the Minister of Forests. Will the minister follow through on the Premier’s promise and instruct B.C. Timber Sales to immediately cease development and defer selling timber in high-risk, old-growth areas?
Hon. K. Conroy:
I thank the member for the question. I also want to thank the Forest Practices Board for the report that they undertook. As the member knows, the board plays a really key role in helping B.C. to develop sound forest and range practices. B.C. Timber Sales is addressing the board’s recommendations in its operations. They’ve already begun this important work and are working towards completing the recommendations.
I just can’t stress enough how our government understands how critically important old-growth forests are to British Columbians. That’s why we have already undertaken to complete the recommendations that were made by the old-growth report. We have already protected hundreds of thousands of hectares of old growth. We know that there is more work to be done. We are going to do just that.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
The minister has certainly risen in this House on a regular occasion to stress how important it is, but the lack of action is what the people of British Columbia are seeing. The fact that recommendation No. 6, which was immediate action from this government, has yet to be completed is proof that the action side of this equation has not been followed through on.
You know, a second damning report came out last week. The Auditor General of British Columbia slammed B.C.’s management of our conservation lands program. He found that the B.C. government failed to protect species at risk and critical habitats that they rely on. The ministry lacks strategic direction. They lack data. Their plans are decades out of date. This is an embarrassing list that is very extensive.
This government says the right things. This minister says the right things. She promises changes. They accept recommendations. Yet over and over again, nothing changes — status quo in the forests. Lots of talk in here, not a lot of action out there. We need an overhaul of this ministry, and we need a minister who is seized with the urgent need to create substantial change on the ground.
My question is to the Minister of Forests. Will she acknowledge that despite the rhetoric, despite the empty promises, her own ministry is systematically failing to manage our forests responsibly and sustainably? Will she accept that urgent, systemic change is needed within this ministry? Will she commit today to doing this work with the urgency that is needed?
Hon. K. Conroy:
Our ministry is doing the work that’s needed to be done. I want to thank the Auditor General for their report as well. I point out to the member that B.C. actually leads the country, with the highest percentage of protected areas of all provinces and territories in Canada.
But we know there is more work to do. The Auditor General’s report that the member references has made some helpful recommendations on how we can do better and which we accept. That’s what our ministry does. We look at what we need to do, and we accept that and move forward. Work is already underway to accept those recommendations.
We are doing the work that needs to be done. We have been doing the work for the last four years, since we’ve been government. We accept those responsibilities. We accept that there’s more work to do, and we are doing it. We are doing it in collaboration with the ministry that is working hard to ensure that we get the work done.
For many years — many years — the previous government refused to take action to protect old growth. They refused to take action to ensure that unique ecosystems and critical habitats were protected. We are working to fix that reckless approach. We are prioritizing reconciliation. We are prioritizing environmental protection again. We are doing the work that needs to be done, because we accept the responsibility.
So stay tuned, Member. We are doing that work.