I believe strongly that we, the people who live most connected to the land, should have the ability to make decisions about what happens on the land base that surrounds our communities. This is a principle that I have fought for throughout my political career, and it is a fundamental right that has been eroded by the BC Liberals since 2001.
When I served as Mayor of Golden in the 1990s, there were three significant instances where the community was able to use existing tools to influence decisions on the public lands that surround Golden.
When our mill went down, the fibre in our area would only be made available if a manufacturing facility was operated in Golden. When a major ski hill was proposed, the people of Golden had a vote to decide if it should go ahead. And when we had recreational conflicts in our mountains, we were able to meet as user groups to develop a plan to avoid conflicts and protect the environment.
Under the BC Liberals, all of these three tools have been lost to us and the communities that I represent in the Legislature are paying the cost.
In Kimberley, the community is faced with logging in its watershed. The need for the community to be able to ensure safe drinking water is not considered in government decisions to log, and there is no meaningful mechanism available for the voices of residents of Kimberley to be heard.
In Canal Flats, the mill has been closed and the fibre that fed that mill now goes elsewhere. The requirement for local fibre to provide local employment is gone.
In the Columbia Valley, the BC Liberals created a fake municipality that handed over control of a vast area west of Invermere against the wishes of the people. Taxpayers’ money now goes to fund a mayor and council for Jumbo where there is no town, no residents, and no development.
In Revelstoke, recreational systems are being compromised because the government no longer has to take into account the views of the community, honour agreements with community partners, or consider a range of values when making decisions on the land base.
The BC Liberal government has consistently put corporate interests ahead of community needs, and the consequences for local communities will be felt for many, many years to come. Whether it is the loss of water quality, reduced economic activity, waste of taxpayers’ money, or loss of recreational and environmental values, these are all examples of problems that could have been avoided if government was required to listen to what local residents had a say about the use of their land base.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke. He can be reached by phone at 1-866-870-4188 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.