Opinion » Editorial


Imagine the uproar if the government imposed a tax on environmental groups, promised that all the money from that tax was going to be used to buy land for parks, and then a couple of years into the program said it had more money than it knew what to do with and was looking at other options for the fund, including turning some of it over to general revenue. Forest Renewal BC was set up to revitalize the forest industry through environmentally and economically sustainable programs. It is funded by the forest industry, which includes small contractors as well as large corporations, through an additional stumpage fee. That the fund has grown so fast — $900 million in two years — may say something about the rate of logging the government has permitted in this province, but that is a separate issue. There’s a more fundamental matter at hand: the province is looking at ways of getting out of its commitment that the additional stumpage fees would be spent on the forest industry. Forest Minister David Zirnhelt and Environment Minister Paul Ramsey explain on the next page that it is the FRBC board that has asked staff to explore options for dealing with surplus funds, "including an option of returning a portion of it to the government." What do they mean by "return" a portion of it to government? It wasn’t the government’s money to start with. For those who don’t care that the forest industry is being gouged, consider that much of the FRBC fund is spent on watershed restoration, silviculture and forestry recreation programs. The ministers write that despite their "best efforts to accelerate our investments in B.C.’s forests, workers and communities," they still have buckets of money left over. Yet funding for a couple of watershed restoration programs in the Squamish area was deferred this year. Less than three months ago these ministers and their government were campaigning on a promise of a balanced budget and no deficit. After the election they found they had miscalculated forestry revenues; the budget wouldn’t be balanced and the deficit could be anywhere from $400 to $700 million. In the wake of that financial fiasco why would anyone expect this government to keep its earlier promise that the FRBC funds would only be spent on forestry? The FRBC board members will discuss options for the surplus funds at their September meeting. Don’t hold your breath.

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