Conservative MPs ... What about the promised $1 billion in pine beetle funding?
By Peter Ewart
By Peter Ewart
Recently, northern BC Conservative MPs Dick Harris and Bob Zimmer have been speaking out enthusiastically in support of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. Harris has praised Enbridge’s “state of the art” safety systems for the proposed project, and Zimmer has strongly denounced opponents, dismissing them as being “foreign-funded” and “radical environmentalists.”
Indeed, residents haven’t seen so much passion from our federal representatives for a long time. Too bad that they have not been so passionate about another issue of huge economic significance for this region – the pine beetle disaster and the lack of federal “beetle” funding.
Just last week, the provincial legislature’s Special Committee on Timber Supply, released its report on the devastating effects of the pine beetle epidemic in the Interior of British Columbia. By 2021, the Committee estimated that between 53 and 70 per cent of merchantable pine will have been killed, resulting in a dramatic drop in timber supply in the region, which has meant the closure of a number of mills, adding to the already thousands of job losses in the forestry sector.
Among the Committee’s recommendations to the provincial government was to “develop a strategy and objectives for re-engaging the federal government to acquire funding that will be used to help respond to the mountain pine beetle crisis” and address “community challenges associated with the epidemic.”
In this recommendation, the Committee is being quite diplomatic in its language, i.e., talking about “re-engaging” with the Harper government over the funding. But the plain fact remains that the federal government has failed to deliver on the much heralded promise it made back in 2006 to provide $1 billion worth of funding to the region in installments of $100 million a year over ten years. The Harper government used this promise to get votes leading up to the 2006 federal election. However, once the election was over, it only delivered two installments of funding before the program was cancelled.
There is a bitter irony here in that, for a hundred years, the forest industry and forest communities in the Interior of British Columbia have provided a colossal amount of revenue for both federal and provincial government coffers in the form of employee income taxes, corporate taxes, stumpage fees, and other means.
The Harper government and our local Conservative MPs are ever so passionate about a pipeline that will provide few benefits to our region and province, but many serious risks. Yet when disaster hits our forests, which have generated untold billions of revenue over many decades, they are missing-in-action.
How did the federal government pull this off? By using the oldest funding trick in the book. In 2006, it made its $1 billion funding announcement and used that to reap a heap of political hay for itself. But then a couple of years later, in the midst of the financial crisis when no one was looking, it cancelled the funding and folded it into its new “stimulus program.” Once again, it reaped political hay with another so-called “new” program, using a technique similar to that of fractional banking whereby the same dollar is loaned out again and again to different customers.
This trickery was even used with the two installments of funding that were actually delivered – by allocating portions of the funding for projects unrelated to the pine beetle, such as airport improvement in Prince George.
Have local Conservative MPs like Dick Harris and Bob Zimmer been standing up in Parliament and demanding that the Harper government re-instate the promised pine beetle funding? No, they have been very quiet on this issue. This is despite the fact that Harris is on record back in 2006 for claiming that his government would “make good” on its pine beetle funding commitments. At that time, Harris stated: “That’s the attitude we want to bring to government – if you say something, you’d better be prepared to back it up” (May 5, 2006, PG Free Press).
It is now 2012. Where is the $1 billion in funding, and where are our local Conservative MPs and their pledge to “back it up”?
One of the problems with the current party system of government is that MPs can keep getting elected year after year simply because they have been anointed by a political party in parliament and submit to the party leadership. Under this system, entire electoral regions are simply taken for granted. Judging by the cavalier and arrogant attitude the Harper government has shown towards our region over the Enbridge pipeline and the pine beetle funding fiasco, maybe this is what is happening to us.
Whatever the case, it is high time for our federal representatives to raise the issue of reinstating the pine beetle funding, whether the Prime Minister and Conservative Party brass in Ottawa like it or not.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hey, Zimmer knows how to speak? .... now all he has to learn is how not to speak nonesense.
We managed to get an independent university here instead of creating one from the local college.
We managed to get a medical program here instead of in Nanaimo, for instance.
We eventually managed to get a Cancer Clinic here, although Kelowna got the first one in the hinterlands of BC.
Each was established because of some variable pressure by large or smaller influential groups of people.
So here we were offered some help. But the gift ended up as broken promises. So because this is Conservative country, this can happen to us? Surely we must have some Conservatives in this community who are upset enough about this to wield their influence to push the great Harper to keep his promises.
Broken Promises, that's what he delivers.
Lets not lose sight of the fact that the responsibility for forests in Canada belongs to the Provinces. Thats not to say that the Federal Government shouldnt put up some money, especially if they promised to do so.
So whats the problem????
Well if we go back to 2006 we will find that the Federal Goverments started collecting the export tax on lumber at the US border. This tax was then returned to the Provinces and went into General Revenue. In the case of BC this amounts to approx $260 Million dollars per year.
So in essence by returning the export tax dollars to BC, the Federal Government has in fact given them over $1 Billion dollars.
I suggest that the real question is. How much money has the Province received from the Feds, since 2006, and how much of this money was directed to offset the costs of the beetle killed timber problem???
Insofar as the forests go. They have always been a Provincial jurisdiction. The Federal Government has the responsibility for Federal Parks, and the forests they contain, but thats about it.
In fact the Feds dont even have a Ministrie that is responsible for forests because????? They are not responsible for forests.
Lets get back to the question. What happened to the billion dollars in export taxes that the Federal Government returned to the Province of BC since 2006??? Thats the interesting question.
Its a rare day indeed when you will hear the Liberal Government discussing this money. It has always been kept under wraps. Wonder why?????
Frank Oberle was the Minister of Forests for Canada during part of his time as an MP. Subsequently the Federal Ministry was changed to Natural Resources Canada which has the Canadian Forest Service as one of its departments.
Dick argued that PG needs to lead by example in not accepting federal hand out dollars in our effort to fight the federal deficit leading the nation by example. For him money spent on local infrastructure by the federal government was wasteful spending. Reading it now it is amazing anyone ever voted for this guy much less seeing him get elected.
I don't know if they have a PG Citizen archives, but its rich with extreme right wing ideology from a guy that clearly didn't want any federal dollars spent in this region.
That was then and is now a big joke, because the Federal Government did not then, and does not now have any say in forestry. This is a Provincial responsibility. The exception is the forests in National Parks, and as such Frank did have some trees to look after.
He was given this rather strange title, to give the impression that the Government had some concern about Northern British Columbia.
Governments do strange and wonderful things. There was a time when BC Rail came under the Ministry of tourism I beleive.
In Britain, (John Cleese will back me on this) they had the Ministry of Funny Walks.
So tell me Palopu, the provinces have jurisdiction over Natural Resources. Why, then, does the federal government, to this day, have a Minister of Natural Resources, which includes the resources of the Forests? You know, the Smart Harper government.
Smart Government (but one needs a Smart Harper to have a Smart Government)