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MP defends gov’t pine beetle response

July 14, 2015

By: The Prince George Citizen

The federal government has been fulfilling its commitment to mountain pine beetle-affected communities, according to a local member of Parliament.

Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer said nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars have gone to B.C. forestry projects over the past number of years.

“I understand the concerns if you only look at that one particular program, but a more fulsome understanding of the money is important,” said Zimmer, citing $726 million worth of B.C. investment spread across four different funding envelopes, including the mountain pine beetle program.

Zimmer was speaking in response to a recent vote by Prince George city council to back a call for the federal government to follow through on an outstanding $800 million commitment to its mountain pine beetle program.

“Over one year ago, after witnessing the effects of the mountain pine beetle, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a commitment of $1 billion over 10 years to address the infestation,” said an introduction from then-Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn in a 2007 government publication about the program.

That year, the government marked $200 million for the mountain pine beetle program, focusing on forestry and economic diversification components.

Zimmer said the reference to $1 billion was made to signify the overall contribution to B.C.’s forestry industry, “not necessarily specific to the pine beetle – although it’s all been done to mitigate what the pine beetle has done to B.C.”

According to Zimmer, the Community Adjustment Fund, announced in 2009, provided $88 million for B.C. According to that year’s budget speech, the money was to “help communities across Canada facing unique challenges, from the mountain pine beetle infestation to the declining global demand for seafood.”

The Pulp and Paper Green Transformation program provided $309 million to the province, of which Prince George saw $100.2 million for equipment upgrades to Canfor Northwood Pulp Mill to improve energy efficiency.

The Community Development Trust gave money to each province to help weather trade uncertainty.

B.C. used its $129 million to help forest workers

The resolution heading to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that city council endorsed on June 29 asks that the group “immediately and publicly call” on the federal government to “fulfill its commitment to invest $800 million in targeted mitigation programs in the region during the next eight years” in consultation with the province, First Nations and local governments.

NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen said he was glad to see local governments taking it on.

“This is something we’ve been arguing with the Conservatives for years where they promise a large amount of money at the height of the crisis of the mountain pine beetle.

“A lot of that money never left Ottawa. It was just for a photo op,” Cullen said.

“We know the climate’s changing, we know the forests have changed, and yet when we try to get support from government to mitigate those known things all we get is resistance and lies.”

By: The Prince George Citizen

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