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December 10, 2016

Reaching common ground on environment, economy

Dallas Smith
Today’s BC Liberals Candidate – North Island

Photo: Province of British Columbia

Photo: Province of British Columbia

Everywhere you look, division is in the news.

From the events at Standing Rock, to the recent U.S. election results, to the passionate debate over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project, we hear constantly about bitter arguments dividing neighbour against neighbour and community against community. Many of these conflicts have resource development at their heart.

I believe in a different approach. Until recently, I served as president of the Nanwakolas Council – a coalition of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations with thousands of years of history on northern Vancouver Island and the Central Coast. We formed the Council a few years ago to move forward in an agreement with the Province of British Columbia for use of our traditional lands that would balance protection of the environment and our cultural values with responsible economic activity that puts food on the table for families.

Now I am running in the upcoming BC provincial election as a candidate with the BC Liberals – because I have seen the value of this collaborative spirit unfold before me.

One of the greatest moments of my life came this past February when I stood with Premier Christy Clark, environmental groups, and representatives from the forest industry to mark the achievement of ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest – 6.4 million hectares of pristine coastal temperate rainforest.

By seeking collaboration instead of conflict, we reached an agreement to protect 85% of the rainforest while allowing sustainable forestry in the remainder – supporting local workers and communities. The beneficiaries are many: future generations of my people and of all British Columbians, magnificent species like the Spirit Bear that call these forests home, and indeed the whole world – a fact recognized by the Queen when she declared the Rainforest part of the global Commonwealth Canopy.

Photo: Province of British Columbia

Photo: Province of British Columbia

The Great Bear Rainforest is unique – but the approach that got us to this point has been the hallmark of Premier Clark’s leadership. Thanks to her constant pursuit of common ground, British Columbians can be proud of our province’s environmental stewardship – even as our economy leads the country.

The BC Liberal government has quietly added more than two million hectares to our province’s protected areas – so that more than one-third of BC’s land base is designated for conservation, one of North America’s biggest protected areas systems.

The Premier and her team have brought the same balanced approach to the fight against climate change. BC’s leadership through the revenue-neutral carbon tax, the first of its kind in North America, has been applauded by the United Nations and the World Bank. And in its recent Climate Leadership Plan, the government set a course to continue this success through specific actions.

There is more work to do – there always will be – but British Columbians can be proud that our government has charted a path that seeks to put the environment and economy in healthy balance, including participation in a national climate change agreement that protects fairness and affordability for BC.

I am also proud to be a part of the team that has consistently stood up for British Columbia with five clear, consistent conditions for new or expanded heavy oil pipelines.

At a time when supporters and opponents of these projects have been bitterly at odds, the Premier and the BC Liberals have made clear that BC welcomes job-creating resource development – but only if it respects our land, our waters, and our way of life.

Photo: Province of British Columbia

Photo: Province of British Columbia

In particular, the Premier’s insistence that these projects must address Indigenous rights and create opportunities for our communities has set the bar for First Nations to benefit from development that takes place on the territories we have looked after for generations.

British Columbia can only continue to succeed if we work to genuinely understand one another’s experiences and perspectives, try new approaches, and make compromises when necessary to reach common ground.

There are some in BC who will always oppose – some because of deeply held beliefs, others out of political opportunism. But a bright future for our children, and their children, depends on finding a way forward.

I know we can continue BC’s economic growth and strong job creation while protecting our environment for future generations – but we have to do it together.

By BC Liberal Team