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Cancelled Land Act Amendment – What A Mess!

An Editorial Opinion – Right From The Stump, March 4, 2024

By now most have heard that the proposed amendment to the Land Act was cancelled, at least until after the October provincial election. What a mess! I have invested a lot of time in thinking about this issue and feel compelled to add further commentary following my initial analysis in the January 2024 edition of the View From The Stump.


For me, the proposed amendment to the Land Act itself was not the problem, rather it was what it represented - yet another proposed policy change that as per usual was without the operational details to understand what it meant. The constant flow of changing policy to meet aspirational intentions has been crushing the BC forest sector.


The proposed amendment quickly became a major political issue, and unsurprisingly so given Minister Cullen’s admittedly poor handling of the public engagement process that offered little to help the public understand what was being proposed and its timing, both of which contributed to a spectre of suspicion.


Instead of holding the Minister accountable, unfortunately, the opposition rallied against this amendment by stoking fear the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act would give a veto to First Nations on 95% of the province, despite the move towards shared decision-making not intended to be a blanket change. Taking such a position was not strategic as did anyone pause to think what the alternative to DRIPA could be? I would surmise it would likely mean even greater uncertainty for the forest industry!


With the amendment cancelled for now, it’s time to start figuring out answers to some of the tough questions on DRIPA, such as what happens when an impasse occurs?


That’s the challenge with shared decision-making – one cannot really call it “shared” when one side always gets its way. Ironically, if the BC government can override opposition, that is actually a veto – something that First Nations have existed under from provincial governments for the last 150 years.


If decision processes arrive at a veto-like impasse, has all that could have been done to negotiate been done? Are there sufficiently developed tools available to support shared decision-making to avoid such impasses? Maybe we should first shape what shared decision-making actually looks like.


Obviously, there is much work to be done based on the recent Angus Reid Institute polling that found seven-in-ten feel that the then pubic consultation was moving too quickly and that 94% of British Columbians see the proposed amendment as “a major transformation of the rules governing public land use…”


The sooner we can collectively figure out operational level shared decision-making, in terms that the public can grasp, the sooner some of the current challenges facing the forest industry will likely find some relief.


This article was originally published in the February 2024 edition of the View From The Stump.


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Written By David Elstone, RPF

Publisher, View From The Stump newsletter

Managing Director, Spar Tree Group Inc.


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