Mr. Speaker, I thought that rather than getting into a debate only with our words, I would put some words from registered professional foresters on the record with respect to the federal government. I have some comments from Peter Gribbon of Downie Street Sawmills and from Troy Hromadnik, the chief forester at Tembec. Both are very responsible forestry companies, as are all of the forestry companies in my constituency of Kootenay—Columbia, that I am proud to represent.
Mr. Gribbon in part says:
The cause of landscape level outbreaks is tree and stand susceptibility. The best long-term strategy is to focus on managing pine instead of the beetle. That could be extended to say: the best strategy is to focus on managing lodgepole pine ecosystems and the processes that regulate them. Conversion of the landscape to one less prone to epidemic outbreaks provides the only real solution to the type of Mountain Pine Beetle problems currently seen in B.C.
Existing forest management knowledge needs to be translated into “beetle proofing” future stands through practices like:
management of tree densities which should be reduced;
a mix of tree species and ages in a forest helps to prevent populations from building up;
shortening rotations time also helps keep the forest younger, healthier and more resistant to attack;
permanent road systems throughout the working forest reduces the response time and can help keep outbreaks small;
maintain vigour in pine stands.
He goes on to say:
The Federal Forest Rehabilitation program, led by Natural Resources Canada will deliver a beetle control response on federal forest lands that have the greatest concentration of beetle-infested forest.
The federal government could also make additional significant contributions in the following areas:
economic and strategic analysis;
economic diversification support;
environmental impact mitigation work;
fisheries and water protection work;
rehabilitation of non-economic sites;
support for University and College research chairs;
undertake research into effective forest and ecosystem management;
investigate influence of climate change;
help support rural
community economies and assist in developing other economic engines.
Mr. Hromadnik of Tembec had a slightly different perspective in his presentation to me. He said:
At this point, management efforts at the provincial level are almost exclusively focused on controlling the spread of this pest. While this is and clearly should be the priority of land managers in the province of BC, only recently has there been a recognition that the federal government must begin to play a more active role.
As it relates to forest health, the role of the federal government continues to be elevated as the mountain pine beetle epidemic persists in the province of BC. In a recent forest manager 'think tank' session, the question was asked of senior industry members, “What is the role of and/or what are the expectations of the federal government in the matter of controlling the spread of mountain pine beetle in B.C.?” Several consistent themes evolved including...
education and awareness;
research and development;
community stability; and,
overall political support for the various initiatives.
In 2001, a BC industry task force called for $600 million in federal assistance over 10 years and in 2002 joined with the province to request an additional $125 million over five years. While the province did receive $40 million in federal funding, the amount is far short of that required to address the 'fall-out' from this disaster. Although industry maintains the legal requirement to reforest land where salvage harvesting has occurred, there are literally thousands of hectares where stands that are killed will not be salvaged. To ensure that these stands continue to contribute to the 'productive forest landbase' of the province, rehabilitation activities will be required. As one assesses the problem it becomes clear that substantial federal funding will be required to assist the province of BC in completing this task.
He goes on to say:
Although the beetle epidemic in BC is rightly seen as a disaster by most, it is not necessarily viewed this way by all. The federal government, to the benefit of the province and the BC industry, may choose to implement a mountain pine beetle education and awareness program. Through such efforts, the federal government will educate foreign markets, communities, NGO groups and students on the implications of this event.
He then goes on to talk about research and development as a key area of the federal government. He also points out:
Many communities in the province of BC will undoubtedly face significant, long-term impacts as a result of the beetle epidemic. The federal government, in cooperation with BC agencies, will be able to identify such communities and will be able to develop economic transition strategies where they are suited. The federal government can aid and encourage economic diversification of communities and/or individual businesses and can attract other economic ventures compatible with future re-establishment of the forest industry. With federal funding and efforts tied to the maintenance of community stability in affected regions of the province, the long-term economic impacts of this pest will be reduced and, in some areas, perhaps mitigated.
Federal support has been sought by the province in the past. In light of the disaster created by the mountain pine beetle, B.C. is again looking for the involvement of the federal government. The federal government has a key role to play in the control of this pest and/or in the mitigation of its impacts. The federal government, in collaboration with provincial partners, is capable of identifying and addressing those challenges that have arisen as a result of the beetle epidemic. The federal government maintains the knowledge, resources and infrastructure to follow through on the action plan it develops. It is for these reasons that the federal government must join its provincial partners and engage the mountain pine beetle issue head-on.
Those were two sets of comments by people in the province who are directly engaged with the potential of this problem.
In my constituency of Kootenay—Columbia we are just at the starting edge of this problem. I regret to see the devastation in the constituencies of my colleagues from Prince George and in other areas of the province. We are just starting into it. It is primarily on the west side of Kootenay Lake and it can clearly be seen. There are other patches throughout the east Kootenays. It will fully engage the pine in Kootenay National Park and Yoho National Park. It will then carry on through Banff and Jasper National Parks and end up in my colleague's constituency in Yellowhead and in the constituency of my other colleague from Wild Rose.
At that point, we will have engaged so much wood it will be hard to even comprehend. With all due respect to my friends from the NDP and all the people who are involved on the farther edge of the environmentalist action groups, I say that they should give their heads a shake. Two years ago in the summer, we had forest fires in Kelowna that were directly related to this infestation. In fact, what we have in many parts of the interior of British Columbia at this point is not forests. We have matchsticks complete with phosphorous on the top, figuratively speaking. Our whole province is about to burn up as a result of this infestation and the standing dead wood.
Some environmental groups have become very exercised about the fact that even with a low level satellite in terms of being able to take a look down on the province of British Columbia, that one can see the area of clear cut. Of course we can but that beats the heck out of having all of that fuel sitting there just waiting to turn into an absolute inferno.
Why am I describing it this way? I see my friend from Yukon. He has much of the same kind of topography. Although his trees grow at a much slower rate, he region has many of the same species and, to a lesser extent, the same kind of industry that I have in my constituency and in the province of British Columbia. He would know that when this happens we will see, over the next 5, 10, 15 years, changes in our province that even at this point are unimaginable to us. We have only seen a taste of it as a result of the fire at Kelowna. In fact, the forest fire in my constituency came within only 10 kilometres of the southern boundary of the city of Cranbrook.
If this disaster, and I say again, disaster, was in Ontario, if this disaster was where Liberals get elected, they would have been falling all over themselves to get the situation corrected or at least to come up with some form of mitigation. It is to that extent that this is a political debate. It is to that extent that when they see problems with the auto pact and the auto industry that they turn up with many tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. When they see the problem in the Canadian aerospace industry they turn up with loan guarantees and export plans. They turn up with all sorts of resources but somehow in the province of British Columbia, where this happens to be on the other side of the Canadian Rockies, they cannot see it. They do not understand it.
I really value the input that we have had from my colleague from Kamloops. It is true that in her presentation she was somewhat emotional but maybe we do have to get a little emotional in this chamber. She was a little emotional on behalf of her constituents. She said that the people in her constituency, the people in my colleague's constituency and the people in the Prince George--Peace River constituency are living with this at this point. They are seeing the starting edge of this disaster happening.
It is with that frustration that I, having the privilege of being B.C. caucus chair, am fully aware and engaged with this on behalf of the B.C. caucus because our B.C. caucus speaking for the people of B.C. are the only ones who are trying to put any kind of pressure on the federal Liberals.
We heard the chirping of the natural resources minister earlier tonight when we was saying, “You didn't give me a phone call”. I do not know what all was going on. Mr. Chair, obviously you were not there but I am sure with your expertise that all of that chirping would not have happened. However, the point was that it became a back and forth debate. The reality is that we are dealing with a disaster at this particular point.
I say to the federal Liberals that they should wake up and smell the forest fire because that is exactly what we are into at this particular point. We need action, not more words from the federal Liberals.