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Time for Victoria and Ottawa to involve local communities in caribou recovery plan

Prince Geoerge-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer Credit: Bernard Thibodeau, House of Commons Photo Services
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer 

BY BOB ZIMMER

Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP

Our region deserves better than this and when it comes to a caribou recovery plan it’s time for Premier John Horgan and federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to fish or cut bait.

With news that Blair Lekstrom has resigned as the premier’s community liaison on caribou recovery and the premier saying that he’s not changing the text of the partnership agreement to include local leadership despite local concerns, it’s clear that there was never any intention to give our communities a real seat at the table.

In Premier Horgan’s response to Mr. Lekstrom’s resignation, he said, “… that changes to the text of the partnership agreement require the consent of all three parties and cannot be done by the province unilaterally.”

This may be true, but it’s a poor excuse.

If Premier Horgan had truly listened to our concerns about being shut out of the process, he could have said that his government supports our constituents in Northeastern BC and would not support the agreement until local leadership was formally included. This would have tossed the ball back into the federal Liberal government’s court and could have been a real push for change.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

Minister Wilkinson and the federal Liberal government also need to do more to ensure our local voices are being considered on this file, including consulting further with local caribou experts on the ground.

This also hasn’t happened and it’s become increasingly clear that this whole process has been nothing more than a sham.

Unfortunately, they are more interested in saying that they are listening to our communities, instead of doing the hard work of actually working with us and considering our concerns.

This file desperately needs leadership and while we haven’t seen it from the BC NDP or the federal Liberals, there are many of us who are working hard every day to try to have local voices heard. And yet, we keep getting shut out of the process and having to create our own to bring the concerns of our communities to light.

It is shameful that there will be no real consultation and that local leadership will not have a formal say in what happens to our region.

There is no doubt that all of us want the caribou to survive, but these decisions must be based on science and involve our local leaders and local caribou experts as active participants in the decision-making process to be able to provide insight into how these decisions may affect those who live and work in our region.

Our concerns are not going to go away and I will continue to fight to have our local voices heard when it comes to making decisions on caribou recovery plans in our region. 

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