At a time when he is most needed, the man in charge of the forest ministry appears to be missing in action – still.
Doug Donaldson is the NDP Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD). He is also one of the few MLAs the NDP managed to get elected outside of the Lower Mainland in the 2017 provincial election. As such, Donaldson holds one of the key cabinet portfolios and should be the guy who speaks up for northern and rural communities like ours that depend on natural resources for a living. We have presented options to help the industry. These recommendations have fallen on deaf ears.
Unfortunately for us, when the going got tough, Donaldson stopped showing.
The botched caribou recovery plan was the first example, when a frustrated John Horgan was forced to reach out to former BC Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom to shore up a disaster in the making, which is still a disaster in the making. The second major blow to Donaldson’s reputation came in the form of a demotion when responsibility for wildfire recovery was taken away and handed to a more senior minister.
Now, Donaldson appears to be at odds with the NDP’s longstanding opposition to raw log exports when he announced July 19 that export limits would double on the North Coast. This prompted an angry president of Skeena Sawmills, Roger Keery, to write directly to Premier Horgan and complain that the new “selling the best and keeping the rest” policy was in direct conflict with the NDP’s supposed plan to ban log exports and refine more wood products in B.C.
After Skeena Sawmills invested millions to upgrade their facilities and install a new pellet plant operation, Keery has good reason to protest the NDP’s plan to encourage more raw logs exports. In desperation, Horgan has appointed Lower Mainland MLA Ravi Kahlon as Donaldson’s parliamentary secretary, who will be responsible for launching a public relations campaign in communities hardest-hit by mill closures.
Born and raised in Victoria, Kahlon is a nice guy with an impressive background in field hockey, but make no mistake, he doesn’t have enough knowledge of the forest industry or the experience necessary in rural communities to save Donaldson’s skin – or make things better. The question is, how long will Horgan keep Donaldson in cabinet while the forest industry continues to nose dive?
Dan Davies is MLA for Peace River North.