Premier Christy Clark said there will be community consultations around the province’s timber supply, but the format for those has yet to be settled.
“I’ll have more information in the coming weeks,” she told media during a visit to WIlliams Lake Friday.
The problem, she said, has been a long time in the making and government has been analyzing it for the last few years.
“We’re now at a point where we really have to make some decisions. And you know what, some of them are going to be controversial and difficult decisions, there’s no question about it.”
Given that tough decisions are going to be made, the government has to consult with communities and find out what solutions communities want, she added.
Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett insisted the government does have a plan.
“In 2006, we started working in the Cariboo Chilcotin with the Beetle Action Coalition and we have documentation on everything you could possibly think of,” Barnett said.
“We spent three or four years putting together long-term plans for the timber supply when the pine beetle hit,” Barnett said, adding the annual allowable cut was raised with the understanding it would go back to the normal allowance once the pine beetle killed wood was harvested.
“We knew there’d be a downturn for a few years, and then it would level off,” Barnett said, adding the province is lucky to have the beetle action coalitions because they’ve got the information the government needs.
Clark said she believes Williams Lake is doing well job-wise.
Driving around talking to hotels and business people, she’s seen the place thriving, she said.
“I think there’s been a lot of work in terms of diversifying the economy. Bio-energy is a huge source of potential employment in the future. I think there are lots of opportunities out there. I know there are folks out there who only like to talk about the problems, but there are solutions to some of the challenges the communities face.”
Barnett added while forestry might change, it will still be one of the stable employers in the region.
“When we go out to do the actual community consultations and people understand where we are with the timber supply, I don’t think alarms will need to be raised. I think we are in good shape, because long-term planning is in place,” Barnett said.
Clark added there’s been a net gain of 36,000 jobs in the province over the last 12-month period, and lots of those jobs have occurred in the north.
“Lots of it has happened because we’ve been pushing to drum up trade opportunities in Asian economies that are really booming and the government’s been working really hard to try and plan for economic change,” she said, adding B.C. has done better than most other provinces at a time of world economic “chaos.”
Being prudent in the way government spends money — by keeping taxes low and balancing budgets, and focusing on trade and economic development — will help keep job numbers growing, Clark suggested.
In terms of the New Prosperity Mine project, Clark said it would be great for the community if it went ahead, but said there’s a lot of history to it and the proponents are going to have to work through that history and find their way through to make it go ahead.
“I think it’s a really important part of economic diversification and we are doing what we can as a government to help facilitate discussion and help find a solution,” she said.