Blame BC Liberal Neglect, Not Climate Change, for Year of Fires
Despite warnings, government failed to invest in measures to reduce wildfire risk.
Former government spent just $8 million a year to clean up forests and reduce fire risk to communities. Photo: BC Government.
“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 — former BC Liberal premier Christy Clark is.
Clark’s 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 or threatened B.C. communities.
They 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.
That was clear when then-NDP forest critic Harry Bains questioned then-forests minister Steve Thomson on March 3, 2016, in the B.C. Legislature.
Thomson confirmed the government had spent just $78 million on wildfire prevention, prompting this exchange.
H. Bains: My question was: how many hectares — 80,000; is that correct? — have been treated, out of the 685,000 that were considered high risk? Are those the numbers?
Hon. S. Thomson: Yes. Sorry, I thought I’d already provided that in my previous answer — 80,000 hectares.
H. Bains: So 80,000 out of 685,000, and we are talking about since 2004. You’re looking at 12 years to treat eight per cent — rough and dirty — of what was considered to be high risk by the Filmon report. When you compare that to Alberta, with their big fire at Slave Lake, they committed $1 billion over 10 years. They committed that. We are going year by year, and 12 years later, we’re still sitting at eight per cent. If you go at this rate, you’re looking at 100 years to fix this. I mean, that’s the reality.
Fort Mac Blaze: Brace for New Era of Infernos
And so once again, just a year later, the province is in flames and the necessary work needed to avoid disasters is still not done.
Is climate change a factor? Of course.
But climate change has been a concern since before the 2003 Kelowna firestorm, and wasn’t a factor in B.C.’s worst fire season in 1958, when 8,560 square kilometres of forest were destroyed. This year is B.C.’s second worst with 6,510 square kilometres burned so far — but records only go back to 1950.
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.