Give citizens say in B.C.’s future

Should the public be consulted when governments are planning contentious changes in legislation?

Should the public be consulted when governments are planning contentious changes in legislation? And if so, should the governments heed the public’s opinions?

The federal government’s “Fair Elections Act” triggered  public outrage  as it is seen as anything but fair.

The provincial government’s plans to monkey  with land use  by “updating”  the Agricultural Land Reserve and changing the management of forest tenures have alarmed both political friends and foes. Critics of the  Election Act see it as a plan to tip the scales in favour of the Conservative party.  B.C.’s   proposals  would make drastic changes to the land.  The feds may be  listening  to the  critics.  As for the province, who knows?

The BC Agriculture Council (representing 14,000 farmers) is among the critics of Bill 24 (ALR changes). After listening to this  group, Norm Letnick,  B.C.’s  brand new agriculture minister, says he is open to input and would consider a rewrite. However, B.C.’s Core Review Minister Bill Bennett, who crafted the bill, indicated it will pass as is during the current legislative session. It will be interesting to see who prevails.

Jim Snetsinger, B.C.’s former chief forester, is leading the brief consultation process on forest tenure. There are no public sessions planned, he’ll meet with designated people here tomorrow.  While most  agree there are many issues to deal with in the aftermath of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, environmentalists, retired professional foresters, ordinary people and even Don Kayne, CEO of the giant Canfor Corporation, are questioning both the province’s planned solution and the limited consultation process.

The Fair Elections Act has huge implications for the integrity of our electoral system, but a new government could reverse it. The province’s plans for farmland and forests are a different matter. The impacts will last a long, long time. Wouldn’t it be fair (wise?) to allow citizens to have some say in planning the  province’s future?

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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