Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Do Citizens get the Government they deserve?


                           Do Citizens get the Government they deserve? 


We are not getting the government we deserve.  All governments hold great power to deceive and divide the populace.  Our burning BC forests are a good example of this.  When tree farm licenses (TFL’s) to log on public forest land (unceded native land) were first given out to private logging companies by the BC government, there was a condition attached.  It was called the Appurtenance Clause.  This clause demanded that in exchange for practically giving away public forest trees (in those days it was priceless old growth forests) the logging companies had to build saw mills on the lands covered under the TFL’s. It was a government exchange; a give-away of public forest trees for jobs, jobs in the forests, and jobs in the mills.  And the workers also had the union (IWA) to look after their interests. 

As time went on, commercial logging, with clear- cutting the favored (and only) method of logging, soon begat enormous clear cuts that disfigured the land, killed wild animals, poisoned the waters and displaced and dispirited First Nations.  The companies, increasingly multi-national, continued to shift the responsibility of the care of the forests to the government itself while still dictating how things should be done (no controlled burns). The logging companies hated the worker’s union (IWA) and the union leadership became corrupt, especially when the easy picking, easy clear-cutting, valley old growth forests became scarce.  IWA leader, Jack Munroe, finally stepped down to take a plumb job speaking for the forest companies and against the workers.  The IWA began to dissolve .

 New labour saving machinery started replacing men in the forests as well as in the mills.  Some of the mills didn’t make enough profit to satisfy the multinational logging companies.  They advised the NDP they wanted out of the Appurtenance Clause; the deal that insisted on mill jobs for workers in exchange for the give way of public forests.   And in 2003 the NDP government caved and canceled the Appurtenance Clause.   The NDP gave away BC public forests and mill jobs for absolutely nothing in return. That we know of.


It is easy for me to say that the workers should have demanded more from their union (I have been a union supporter all of my life), demanded more from the corporations they worked for, and demanded more protection from the government.  However, the workers were divided by the deal- making being made by the remnants of their treacherous union. And the enviro groups of the day were also divided.  Each individual environmental group was in competition with the other enviro groups for scarce funding. Not only did we not have enough communication between like groups, we certainly didn’t try hard enough to engage the forest and mill workers themselves.  Another thing that bothered me (from the confines of my prison cell) was that among the leaders of the more predominately well-funded enviro groups there was a decided air of elitism. And then  selective leaders from this group of major environmental elites made a deal with the BC Liberal government behind closed doors that if the Great Bear Rain Forest would be preserved, there would be no more “War in the Woods”. 

I resented this behind the scenes environmental dealing by select environmentalist groups at the time, especially with the succeeding Gordon Campbell government, and I still do.  These groups can no more speak for people who are willing to do civil disobedience, the when and where citizens decide to protest environmental destruction, than I can.  Civil disobedience in defense of Mother Nature is always up to individuals.  And we can see that saving (or partially saving) a certain forested  area in this vast province in exchange for continuing with the  uncontested rotten forest practices in the rest of the province, practices that have led to massive, catastrophic fires, is not a good idea. And logging in the Great Bear has continued. From Ian McAllister of Pacific Wild:  ‘”There is no skirting the issue:  “This agreement proposes to log 2.5 million cubic metres of old-growth forest every year for the next 10 years,” he said in an interview. “The campaign was to stop ancient-forest logging.  Unfortunately this agreement enshrines the idea that ancient-forest logging is part of doing business in the Great Bear Rainforest.  That’s been a significant change in the conservation movement”.

The new NDP Environment Minister, George Heyman, has stated that reviewing B.C.’s forest system is a top priority for the B.C. government.   But as yet there is no timeline.  Perhaps the continued burning of the province’s forests will set a fire under him.  Hope springs eternal in the human breast.


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