Cranbrook Chamber joins caribou coalition
The Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce reported this afternoon (April 11) that it is joining a growing list of BC Chambers in a coalition to support a petition started by Dawson Creek Chamber back in November 2018 demanding socio-economic Impact Assessments for the northeast prior to finalization of the Section 11 and Partnership Agreements on Caribou Recovery.
On April 10, the petition was delivered to the Legislature with over 35,000 signatures demanding that all negotiations halt immediately and the provincial government negotiation teams and all government agencies:
1) Consult openly with ALL users, stakeholders, businesses, and local government;
2) Immediately begin economic and socio-economic impact studies on the northeast region;
3) Provide base line data on populations and relevant science-based studies to support closures and recovery plans.
Chambers have been active in the forefront on this issue for many years including the development of a 2017 policy on “Species at Risk: Boreal (Woodland) Caribou.”
This policy called for the provincial government to complete a socio-economic impact assessment, ensure stakeholder interests are considered and implement a multi-species approach.
The province first came forward to work on section 11 with the Federal Government in 2003. While left silent for many years, the conversation around section 11 resurfaced in March 2018 when the provincial government began conversations with local governments in the northeast about what the caribou recovery plans could look like.
In November 2018 a new group was developed to bring the issues identified with section 11 to the public, government and key stakeholders. The Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery group, led by the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce, has been actively working to bring to light the socio-economic impacts that section 11 (in its current form) could bring to our province.
“While the Cranbrook area is not directly affected by the current Caribou closure plans in section 11, it’s the unintended affects that will trickle down to communities all around the province that is of the greatest concern,” the Cranbrook Chamber noted in a media release.
Section 11 sets out the overall relationship between B.C. and Canada, and it gives a sense of where the recovery process may go. Section 11 currently identifies 54 herds across the province and leaves a lot of questions around what potential land management could look like. It doesn’t have clarity and doesn’t currently reflect the socio-economic impacts of the plan.
“A failure to undertake meaningful economic and social analyses, working without communities and sectors to do that will translate into decisions that aren’t fully informed,” said Jason Fast, Cranbrook Chamber President.
In the past the province has requested stakeholder meetings and then cancelled them. Public consultations did not happen until now when the provincial government (after increased pressure) opened up their consultation to public comment at the end of March 2019 with a deadline to submit comments by May 3, 2019, the chamber noted.
The public can submit feedback through the government’s online feedback form. “Concerns regarding this online form have since surfaced by many chambers, calling it cumbersome, very lengthy and convoluted. Some chambers have taken the measures to offer open house events to walk participants through the online forms to ensure they are understanding them completely,” the chamber said.
“We stand by our fellow chambers around the province in calling on the government to halt all negotiations until proper engagement with stakeholders are completed. The current system of consultation for such an important initiative is being rushed and poorly-communicated. The depth of the issues are not fully understood by residents of BC and more time must be spent to ensure all those potentially impacted are consulted with,” said Christine Hoechsmann, Government Affairs Chair, Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce.
“The government should be looking at a collaborative process with communities and sectors to find solutions that will maintain the economy and maintain caribou. The chamber network is here to help with that process,” added Hoechsmann.
“The draft Section 11 agreement is the key document of concern to the Cranbrook Chamber. There have been many other organizations providing input on these documents (including, BCCC, COFI, TIABC and many others). The province has put together a series of public consultation open houses around the province including one in Cranbrook on April 30 at the Prestige Hotel. Members of the Cranbrook Chamber and all residents of the area are encouraged to attend,” the chamber media release concluded.
Lead image from BC Government