PRINCE GEORGE - Premier John Horgan was in Dawson Creek today, doing damage control over the process for addressing the future of the Woodland Caribou. The province began the process of discussing the two draft agreements for five and the Section 11 Agreement for the area identified from Mackenzie along the Rockies to as far south as Cranbrook and Nelson.
There have been several public consultation meetings, including one in Prince George on April 10th, where hundred descended on the Conference and Civic Centre. Members of the public demanded to know if their lifestyles and livelihoods were in danger with the draft agreements.
Today, Premier Horgan admitted government approached the issue poorly.
"Governments need to anticipate those issues and address them in a way that doesn't lead to the type of animosity, quite frankly, that we've had at public meetings since this issue broke."
However, he was quick to say this process has been dictated upon the Province from the federal government and there was only an onus to consult with First Nations. However, to redress that, he has brought in former Peace Country MLA Blair Lekstrom to act as the community liaison in future consultations.
Lekstrom will consult with community leaders and local stakeholders on draft agreements, provide input into the economic impact analysis and advise how the Province can meet its obligation to protect southern mountain caribou, while also protecting local jobs and communities.
Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris says he's okay with that.
"With somebody like Blair and his knowledge of the region and his past experience with politics, perhaps he is the right person to do this."
The Province has also added a month to the consultation period; rather than wrapping up April 30th, they will run until May 31st.
"I believe that's adequate time to be where we need to be," Horgan says. "That's bringing the community back together in unison, focused on the economic well-being of everybody in the region as well as the viability of the caribou."
However, Morris says he would have appreciated seeing several months of consultation, adding this is a significant decision that affects thousands of British Columbians.
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