North Coast MLA Bill Belsey admitted Thursday that his government made a mistake moving administration of the islands’ small business forestry program to Chilliwack.
“I went against it, I told him (Forests Minister Mike De Jong) it was crazy,” Mr. Belsey told a group of local loggers at a meeting May 22 in Port Clements. “I’ve gone to the minister and told him it’s not working. It wasn’t my decision but I am, like you, trying to do something about it.”
The loggers posed some tough questions to Mr. Belsey, demanding to know why the islands have been lumped into a “business area” with far-away Chilliwack and Squamish, while the Prince Rupert forest district has been consolidated with Port Hardy and Bella Coola.
The change – which took effect April 1 – doesn’t make sense geographically and it won’t work efficiently, they said.
The locals are just starting to get a look at the implications of the change. Forestry engineer and consultant Gerry Johnson told Mr. Belsey that because of the change, he won’t be able to bid on a five-year contract to do engineering work here – because the contract requires bidders to also work in Chilliwack.
“Do I get a chance to bid in my own back yard?” he asked. “No, not unless I can move down to Chilliwack for six months of the year.”
Others told Mr. Belsey that the changes fly in the face of his government’s promises to revitalize the “heartlands” or rural areas of BC.
“I thought you were here today to tell us our small business program is moving back to the Charlottes,” said Port Clements mayor Dale Lore. “Surely that’s one of those mistakes that’s fairly easy to see and rectify.”
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