As you know, the role of an opposition MLA focuses on pointing out the failures of government and offering an alternative course of action that would better meet the needs of the people of British Columbia.
Two years ago, I raised concerns about our preparedness for the potential renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, 2014 being the first opportunity for either side to indicate a desire to re-open negotiations. There was a strong sense amongst MLAs from the Kootenays that we were not as prepared as a province and a region as we needed to be.
As representatives of this area, we asked government to make a number of specific commitments that would improve our readiness should a renegotiation of the Treaty be required. We asked government to develop a framework that would include authentic consultation with Columbia River Basin communities, significant government resources towards preparation for negotiations, and a commitment to ensure that the specific interests of the Basin region would be fully considered in preparing a negotiating position.
Based on these requests from MLAs and other area elected representatives, significant action has been taken. The Columbia Basin Trust took the lead in providing information to Basin residents to aid consultation, a committee of local government representatives was formed specifically to consult with Basin residents, and the provincial government brought ministry resources to bear on having discussions with communities about our priorities.
Information concerning the Columbia Basin Treaty has been shared with communities and their feedback has been collected by government.
The recommendations the Ministry is taking to Cabinet can be found at blog.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty, then click on “Columbia River Treaty Draft BC Recommendation”.
There is still much that needs to be done. There are a number of problems arising from direct impacts of the original treaty and the subsequent operations of the system that still need to be addressed.
But participating in this process over the last two years has been encouraging, and I will continue to work with government to ensure that the issues that have been highlighted will receive the attention they need.
Norm Macdonald can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or over the phone at 866 870 4188.