Evan Saugstad: Junk news, selective reporting vilifies rural economies


During the first half of July, three separate stories written as news caught my eye. Not because they were great stories or professionally written, but because they all contained half-truths written for the sole purpose of discrediting our rural industries and lifestyles, and to promote the author's personal agenda despite the evidence to the contrary.

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On July 1, in reaction to a Vancouver Sun article that the B.C. forest industry pays the bills, a Victoria social media writer claimed the exact opposite, stating the industry costs the B.C. government more than it receives and thus us taxpayers pay to keep it alive. Many other news media published this same story.

On July 9, the CBC and others, reported on a “new” study claiming our LNG projects and greenhouse gas reduction projections are vastly overstated.

On July 15, the CBC reported on another “new” study that the current wolf control efforts had no effect on conserving caribou, and that other factors (almost all man-made) were responsible for their population declines.

During normal times, one might think, so what, as all three stories draw incorrect conclusions.

A bit of truth mixed with a heathy dose of untruths should not mean much. Surely all who understand the real story will just ignore these. Government will get it right, follow the facts and do the correct things, and we will be OK. Our industries will survive, and we will be able to continue with our outdoor occupations and pursuits.

Unfortunately, in today's political environment, perceptions are everything. Polls dominate and when a voting bloc comes out against something, governments will respond. Got to keep those voters happy, even if it's at the expense of others.

If those who oppose LNG, forestry, mining, hunting, and other such things that keep us rural people alive and prosperous do get governments ear — watch out. What someone in Fort St John, Cranbrook, or Williams Lake needs to survive is not all that important to the majority in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island, where they believe and vote to the contrary.

The three stories above all have much in common. All are written by someone who does not like, agree with, nor rely on their subject matters for their living. All three use selective facts while ignoring others, and all appear to want one thing – to rid B.C. of our industries and the people who stand in the way of B.C. becoming a park.

In the so-called report stating the B.C. forest industry costs us more than government receives, the author compared the amount government collects in stumpage fees to what it takes to operate its respective ministry.

There was no discounting of the cost for services this ministry provides outside of the forest industry — including Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development — and no accounting for what all those other direct and indirect revenues, and taxes and jobs that our forest industry generates and government receives.

Just think — no sawmills, no pulp mills, no pellet plants, no forest roads to be maintained. Instead, we could rely on Sweden and the United States to send us our wood products while we patiently wait for a few tourists to show up and support our forest-dependent communities.

Anyone remember a so-called expert and geoscientist named David Hughes? He wrote the report on LNG greenhouse emissions, just like he has done over the past decades. Remember his stories about fracking, horizontal drilling, and poisoned water, and how the natural gas industry was duping government and the public by telling us we had lots of natural for export?

Remember his “expert” calculations that showed we would soon run short of natural gas? And we are now supposed to believe that he has suddenly decided to use real information?

Unfortunately, many on the Far Left do exactly that — they rely on selected facts to support their conclusions.

It's hard for me to figure out what data the authors from the anti wolf cull crowd used.

What I do know is the report did not use the data that shows caribou have continued to decline in other places such as the West Chilcotin and even in our National Parks, despite no presence of the forest or natural gas industries. The reporters conveniently left that information out in favour of blaming our industries for our caribou woes.

Once again, those who honesty believe wolves should have free rein will believe these stories, no matter what evidence might say to the contrary.

In today’s media, with its scant resources and inability to fact check, many reports such as these are published as if they are true. Our problem is that if such stories are left unchallenged, they will become our new reality, as they are written with the express purpose of swaying public opinion.

The organizations behind these stories fully understand how swaying of public opinion works in shaping government rules and regulations: Write a report critical of our rural industries and occupations, claim the reports are written by experts and others knowledgeable in the field, and then have news outlets such as the CBC declare them as gospel and then begin the questioning on how we can be doing such a terrible job of managing our rural industries, resources, and environment.

And then, as we now see in the ongoing wolf-caribou saga, they will use these same reports as part of the basis to stop the wolf reduction programs by filing more lawsuits against government, just to be sure they are listening.

And eventually, with a sympathetic government in power, up will pop new parks despite the objections of rural communities and users who rely on access to this same landbase and resources for our living, just as we have seen in the South Peace.

It's sad to see, and worse to admit that we are losing. There are just too many ex-environmental-NGOs in senior leadership positions within government, whose dream is for less industry and less access to our public lands and a lot more parks.

It's hard to get my flat-earthed brain to accept this one. It just keeps telling me that we will not see any real support for our rural lifestyles under our current leadership.

Evan Saugstad is a former mayor of Chetwynd, and lives in Fort St. John. 

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