British Columbians have seen right through Premier Horgan’s last minute “public consultation” on caribou recovery efforts. It is clear that staging a half-hearted public engagement was the only thing the NDP deemed necessary to move forward with their pre-determined plan. Forget listening to local residents with years of experience and deep knowledge of the wildlife and land base, this sham consultation is meant simply to placate every rural and northern British Columbian who lives, works, and plays in the backcountry while ignoring their voices.
Thankfully, nobody is buying it. For months, regional districts and provincial MLAs begged the provincial government to hold meaningful public consultations on how British Columbia would work with Ottawa to put together an effective plan to increase the dwindling caribou population. Despite promises to engage the public, the Horgan government announced that a draft plan had been reached between the province, some First Nations, and the federal government before any consultation occurred. With a draft plan already agreed to, the NDP declared a short five-week consultation period ending on April 25th only a few days before Ottawa’s deadline.
This plan will have a major impact on the forest, mining, and tourism industries. Recreational users may also find themselves unable to access the backcountry as a result. We all want caribou numbers to rebound to a healthy level, but this can only be achieved if the public becomes an active part of the conversation. The fact that local knowledge and on-the-ground experience has been so overlooked, and only brought into the picture as a token afterthought once the plan had already been drafted, should trouble any observer.
People have a right to have their voices heard and taken seriously. Let’s have a meaningful conversation and develop science-based solutions to save caribou before it’s too late.
Andrew Wilkinson | Leader of the B.C. Liberal Official Opposition