Four interesting years

Who was the official opposition forestry critic during the last round of debate? Quick, without googling it. Exactly.

The fresh four-year term handed to the provincial Liberals means that a number of controversial resource-related projects will either come online – or not – during this government’s mandate.

Christy Clark promised, when she was in Burns Lake a few weeks ago, to push forward with changes to the B.C. forest act which would facilitate the conversion of some volume-based licenses into area-based licenses.

This topic continues to generate phone calls and comments from readers, despite some calls for a moratorium on writing about forest tenure reform.

Fall debate (that’s when the legislation is likely to be reintroduced) surrounding the issue will be very different than the last time around, mostly because former MLA for Cariboo North, Bob Simpson, won’t be there.

Simpson was a tireless critic of the proposed changes, despite the pressures he felt within his own riding to tone it down a bit. One of the most successful tree farm licences in B.C. is held by Dunkley Lumber, just north of Quesnel.

It will be interesting to see if someone rises to fill the void left by Simpson, or if it will be left to independent think tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to question provincial forest policy.

Who was the official opposition forestry critic during the last round of debate? Quick, without googling it. Exactly.

Changes to the forest act aren’t likely to bring people into the streets in protest, but the province’s stance on Enbridge Northern Gateway is another story.

Nothing will polarize a room like bringing up the proposed oil pipeline. You won’t find very many people willing to come out and say they are in favour of the pipeline, but it seems that a large but quiet cross-section of B.C.ers want to take a wait-and-see approach.

Wait-and-see usually refers to the outcome of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) process about to enter its final round of arguments in Terrace. This process is expected to submit its final recommendation by Dec. 31 of this year.

The process has provided a convenient way to side-step taking a position  regarding the pipeline project. Will it eventually provide a peg to hang one’s pipeline hat on?

I don’t think so. The outcome of the JRP is likely to be entirely anticlimactic. It will probably conclude the project is defensible assuming a list of conditions are met. That would produce a collective ‘no kidding’ that would do nothing to aid the wait-and-see’rs in their decision.

The conversation surrounding Enbridge Northern Gateway isn’t about science or pipeline robustness. Engineering is shaped by probabilities, not absolutes.

The Enbridge debate is a conversation about risk; either its absolute mitigation, or, the tacit acknowledgment that leaks are possible.

If leaks are possible, then enough of the population – especially the population that lives along the pipeline route where it is at its riskiest – seems to be dead set against pipeline construction.

If politics is the art of compromise, then there may be no political solution to the pipeline question.