Opinion Column

Christy Clark, not climate change, responsible for B.C. wildfires – through negligence

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Wildfires are tearing through the Red Deer Creek areas of northeastern B.C. (HANDOUT)

Wildfires are tearing through the Red Deer Creek areas of northeastern B.C. (HANDOUT)

“Prevention (of forest fires) is always more productive and cost-effective than responding afterwards.” - B.C. Forest Practices Board, 2015

Climate change is not responsible for British Columbia’s terrible wildfire situation – but former B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark is.

That’s because Clark’s B.C. Liberal government – and that of her predecessor Gordon Campbell – shamefully and negligently refused to take the necessary steps to prevent out of control interface fires that have devastated multiple B.C. communities.

They deliberately ignored key recommendations of the Firestorm 2003 review by ex-Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon – refusing to take necessary steps to remove dangerous forest fuels that cause infernos.

And while environmental groups loudly proclaim that the fires are caused by climate change – a conclusion that conveniently promotes their demands to eliminate fossil fuels – it doesn’t lay the blame where it actually belongs.

That would be with the B.C. Liberals, who over 10 years between 2006 and 2015 spent only $8 million a year – just $78 million – to remove fuels from just 80,000 of a total 685,000 hectares of high risk forest land that urgently needs action.

But at the same time, the government spent on average $182 million annually to fight forest fires – $1.8 billion in total.

It’s the epitome of the old saying: “Penny wise, pound foolish”.

And the consequences of B.C. Liberal neglect are tragic. Choking smoke blanketing B.C. and beyond for weeks, Williams Lake’s 11,000 citizens evacuated, homes and businesses destroyed, livestock killed, and tourism devastated and more.

Fortunately, New Democrat Premier John Horgan last week promised to implement the Filmon review that Clark and Campbell mostly ignored.

Is climate change a factor? Of course. But climate change has been a concern since before the 2003 Kelowna firestorm – and it wasn’t a factor in B.C.’s worst fire season in 1958.

Regardless, it’s clear that the one thing the BC Liberals had control over was the budget for fire prevention – and they fiddled while our forests burned.

CLARIFICATION: Last week I wrote that the B.C. Green Party solicited donations of $30,000 each from individuals in real estate. The Greens say it was a total of $30,000 and not from that sector, though they accepted $20,000 from someone whose family is in real estate.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com. Twitter: @BillTieleman