Editor’s note: This is the final instalment of a three-part series on the provincial budget.
Just like managing your household finances, managing the Province’s finances is all about making choices. In my last two MLA reports, I spoke about ways that the Province receives revenue and the Province’s current debt and financial obligations, which will restrict future budget decisions for decades to come.
In this report, I will cover the third aspect of budgeting which is program choices. Where do you spend money and what benefits do you receive from that investment? These are the questions that a government must answer.
I want to apply these questions to a specific area of spending , the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
Since 2001, the BC Liberals have cut the budgets for land ministries by 52 per cent. The degradation of our forests and the loss of professional capacity within government has had dire consequences. The BC Liberals’ record on forestry includes out-of-date inventory, the closure of the research branch, little action on wildfire interface management, mill closures and the loss of 35,000 forestry jobs.
While we may have saved some money by not funding resource ministries, the real cost to our province and to our rural communities has been exponential.
A government that is focused on what is best for its citizens understands that the best course of action is judicious and reasoned investment in the land and in ensuring that the people who care for the land are able to do their work.
Caring for our forest lands pays dividends. By ensuring B.C. has healthy forests, we protect our water, our air, species diversity and mitigate for climate change. And we provide the foundation for a healthy and sustainable forest industry.
Through good stewardship, we will also be able to maximize the opportunity that new technologies and uses for wood fibre will bring.
For instance, new technologies will allow wood fibre to be used to make products such as films, pigments and bioplastics.
But we will miss these opportunities if we continue to underfund and degrade our forests.
I believe that we must have a government that sees our Crown lands as our greatest asset and that invests in ensuring that our Crown lands continue to provide wealth for our children and our grandchildren.
MLA for Columbia River – Revelstoke
Opposition Critic for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Rural Caucus Chair
*Norm Macdonald will next be in Invermere on Friday, October 19 as part of a constituency tour.