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Farm board chair must resign: watchdog

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

John Les is being criticized for attending a conference about denying climate change is man-made. (FILE PHOTO)

John Les is being criticized for attending a conference about denying climate change is man-made. (FILE PHOTO)

A former BC Liberal minister and the current chair of a board overseeing agriculture in the province attended a Las Vegas conference focused on “promoting skepticism” about climate change — sparking at least one call for his resignation.

John Les is chair of the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board and is the former Solicitor General. The BCFIRB regulates marketing, produce grading, SPCA animal custody decisions, and farm practices.

This week Les — described as a “climate change denier” by BC NDP labour critic Shane Simpson in the past — attended the Heartland Institute’s ninth international conference on climate change.

The institute boasts a quote on its website from the Economist magazine, calling it the “world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”

Now, Dermod Travis of watchdog group IntegrityBC, said if Les doesn’t believe the science behind climate change, he shouldn’t be in any way influencing policy decisions on agriculture.

“The description for his post makes it clear that he and other members of the board are to maintain the highest possible standards of conduct,” Travis said. “The fact that he is at a climate change denial conference ... it is putting into question whether or not he can provide fair and consistent decisions with a balanced judgment.”

The B.C. government recognizes climate change is man-made, but said attendance at the conference by Les was of his own accord.

“The Ministry of Agriculture has no representatives attending the Heartland Institute’s conference in Las Vegas, Mr, Les is attending the conference as a private citizen,” said the Ministry of Agriculture in a response. “The B.C. government’s position on climate change is well-known, as is B.C.’s international reputation as a climate action leader.”

Thursday, 24 hours made an effort to contact Les through the BCFIRB and executive director Jim Collins reiterated the ministry’s response.

“Your message was provided to John Les and he asked me to respond on his and the board’s behalf,” said Collins in an email. “It is our view that the information provided on Tuesday by BCFIRB and ministry communications staff addresses your question.”

The Agricultural Land Commission was contacted for this article, but did not reply by presstime.


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