Val Anderson

Val Anderson

Diversification project moves ahead 

Burns Lake councillors have expressed concerns about this project 

Burns Lake’s diversification project – called ‘Economic diversification: a journey to prosperity’ – is set to begin its phase one later this month.

The village has secured over $115,000 to develop this project, which is intended to find local solutions to the several challenges that the forest products industry is facing.

Burns Lake councillor Michael Riis-Christianson and Mayor Chris Beach were appointed to the core committee that will engage the rest of the community as part of phase one.

Val Anderson, Burns Lake’s economic development officer, said the committee is not expected to find ideas to replace forestry jobs.

“It’s supposed to support forestry the best we can,” said Anderson. “Maybe people in this committee with some forestry interest will want to branch out and have their own committee and look at the political side of AAC and maybe there will be a [sub] committee that branches out to tourism.”

The committee is expected to be in place and start meeting by the end of May. However, since the project’s phase one is expected to be completed by July, councillors had some concerns.

“I’m concerned about what I see here because I’m not sure that this is going in the direction that we wanted it to go as a community,” said councillor Riis-Christianson during a council meeting last month. “I can see this core group being together a lot longer.”

“My vision would be that this core group would have to be the guiding force behind this entire process and I’m also concerned about the length of community consultation,” he continued. “I think it’s a lot bigger job than that.”

“I think that council needs to have more discussion on this,” he added.

Mayor Beach said he also envisioned that the consultation period would involve a longer process.

To that, Anderson explained that the community engagement will not necessarily end in July.

“It will just not be facilitated by the consultants after July,” she said. “It will have to be a community thing.”

Council Susan Schienbein also had some concerns.

“I’m feeling a bit of a disconnect here because it’s been a long time since we talked about this,” said Schienbein. “At the end of the day, it was very rushed to get the grant application in, and maybe need to have a conversation about the outcomes of this project.”

The main challenges that the forest products industry have been facing include an impending reduction in annual allowable cut and trade actions launched by the U.S. against Canada.