Williams Lake realtor and outdoor recreation enthusiast Henry Van Soest is not happy about a proposed outdoor recreational vehicle (ORV) act that would require licensing of all off-road vehicles.
“It’s a knee jerk reaction to bad apples,” Van Soest said Friday. “You get one bad apple in a bushel and the government seems to want to spend millions of dollars stopping that handful of individuals destroying land or using vehicles illegally.”
His goal, he warned, will be to stop the act before it gets going.
“You can’t legislate stupid out of people,” he said. “This is a bush machine, people use them in the wilderness and there’s very little enforcement. Even for a hunter, we rarely see conservation officers in the bush.”
License plates would be covered in mud and unreadable, he added.
B.C. is one of the last places in Canada that still has free reign for off-road vehicles, Van Soest argued.
“Ninety-five per cent of B.C. is Crown land. Crown land is entrusted to the B.C. government and is owned by you and me and every tax payer.”
It’s also a tax grab, he insisted.
Cariboo North MLA Donna Barnett said the act is in response to requests by many stakeholders.
“The associations and clubs asked for an act for registration so all vehicles can be registered,” Barnett said. “Snowmobiles have been registered and governed forever and a day.”
As a member of the minister’s ORV management framework committee, Barnett has attended several meetings with stakeholders.
“There has never been an act for ORVs to be registered,” she said. “They get stolen and there’s no way of tracing them.”
She argued that the act won’t be a detriment.
“It’s there because it was asked for. It’s not a tax grab, but will be a one-time registration license fee like the one paid on snowmobiles.”
Van Soest said the stakeholder groups involved in the committee do not represent the thousands of people in the province who enjoy outdoor vehicle recreation.
“Thousands of people do not belong to any clubs and have not participated with any government discussions,” he said.
He also alleged the act will cost millions of dollars to implement and additional millions of dollars to enforce.
“Once the act gets in, and I’m hoping it doesn’t, it puts these things under the same rules as the motor vehicle act. Lawyers will be the biggest beneficiaries.”
Without an act, people aren’t really in violation of anything, he said.
“You will see more restrictions come out as a result.”
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said the act will attempt to enhance safety measures to help reduce deaths or serious injuries, especially among youth, ensure there are more safe and convenient highway crossing to connect communities and trail systems, and involve a compliance and enforcement strategy focused on compliance through public information and education.
Public affairs officer Brennan Clarke said it is a complex issue.
“The ministry is seeking solutions that are fair to all user groups and it’s essential to take the time to get it right. There remain some unresolved issues raised by stakeholders, including the need for improved enforcement tools and keeping potential costs for registration as low as possible,” Clarke said.