There’s been a lot of attention paid to Burns Lake since its mill burned down in January this year. A recovery team was assigned to help the community through its immediate crisis and help people find work as quickly as possible.
I give full credit to Minister Pat Bell and MLA John Rustad for the immediacy of the government’s response.
However, recent announcements by the provincial government in Burns Lake ($2.4 million for its $3 million community centre) and work being done behind the scenes to secure a timber supply to entice the mill owners to rebuild reveal an inherent weakness in the government’s overall response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
Recent work by government and the major licensees suggests that under the current land-use plans we’ll run out of commercially viable timber in the central interior faster than we expected. Yet, after at least 10 years of knowing this day of reckoning was coming, we still don’t have a game plan for the mill closures that are now on the near horizon.
Therefore, it’s imperative that, while they may not have had a mill burn down, every community in the mountain pine beetle zone should be assigned a recovery team now. Every company operating in this zone also needs to know the government will manage the impending dramatic reductions in available timber in a manner that is fair and market-based and not in a way that will see government picking winners and losers.
Unfortunately, the provincial government is apparently drafting legislation that will assign timber to Burns Lake to enable the rebuilding of the mill there, indicating it will put itself in the position of determining who will win and who will lose as cut levels come crashing down in the next few years.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.