Liberal leadership candidate Mike de Jong says he would permanently relocate the major operational branches of the forest and lands ministry, including the Office of the Chief Forester, to Prince George, should he become premier.
De Jong made the announcement Thursday in Prince George. He said locating critical provincial regulators and operations closer to the people who work and live in those sectors will move government closer to the citizens and boost responsiveness.
“So much of what government does is organized around what’s best for government – that’s why so many provincial offices and agencies are concentrated in Victoria and Vancouver,” de Jong said. “It’s time we looked for ways to move government operations closer to the people and the economic sectors they are dealing with. Government for the people means government with the people.”
Moving the ministry out of Victoria is a notion that previous Liberal administrations have suggested, but never acted upon during their 16 years in power.
If elected, de Jong said he will undertake a detailed review to determine other regulators, agencies, and offices that makes sense to move closer to the people they directly impact.
“We can empower communities outside Victoria and Metro Vancouver by enhancing their role in the decision-making process,” de Jong added. “Decentralization on the scale I envisage will strengthen the linkage between those making the decisions and those impacted by those decisions.”
Relocating offices and operations brings another advantage – affordability for people working in those offices, and a boost in economic activity in the communities.
“The BC Lottery Corporation generates in excess of $1.3 billion for the people of B.C. The location of its headquarters in Kamloops proves you don’t need to be in Victoria or Vancouver to be successful,” says de Jong. “We are constantly told how the advent of technology is facilitating the decentralized work place – it’s time government caught up.”
Fellow leadership hopeful Andrew Wilkinson has promised to locate a northern premier and cabinet office in Prince George.
Liberal leadership hopefuls will be in Prince George today for the second leadership debate, which gets underway at 10:30 a.m. at the Coast Inn of the North. The BC Liberal party will hold a leadership convention to announce the new leader on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018.