B.C. Liberal MLA holds differing views on fixing forestry in the province

“We’ve got a problem on our hands here in British Columbia that needs to be addressed,” Mike Morris, MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie.

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B.C. Liberal MLA Mike Morris’ recent impassioned public remarks about the need for stronger action to protect biodiversity in provincial forests seem at odds with his own party’s positions on the sustainability of forestry.


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His colleagues don’t look at it as a rift in their caucus, but the difference of opinions has come up at the same time the opposition is taking a strong stance that government’s decision to defer logging in 26,000 square kilometres of forests puts thousands of jobs at risk.

Independent-minded Morris, a longtime trapper, hunter and hiker in B.C.’s central interior, however, argues there is a “bigger picture” to consider, which requires stronger action “before we lose all our biodiversity assets,” after decades of clearcut logging.

“Regardless of what action the government is taking now, or whatever is done later, we are simply out of harvestable wood in British Columbia,” Morris, the B.C. Liberal MLA for Prince George Mackenzie said Wednesday in an interview with CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.


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Liberal MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie Mike Morris.
Liberal MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie Mike Morris. PNG

The statement was in keeping with views on forestry he’d given in the Legislature Oct. 26, but runs counter to the views of colleagues, such as neighbouring MLA John Rustad, forestry critic and representative for Nechako Lakes.

“I have a lot of faith in the forest professionals, the chief forester’s office, who is independent,” who are in charge of maintaining sustainable harvests and enforcing industry standards.

“They all disagree with Mike, in terms of forests and forest management,” Rustad said, though the B.C. Liberal party is a “big tent” that allows differing opinions and encourages free votes.

“That’s what you have to be if you’re representing a broad and diverse province,” said Rustad, whose family has a long history with forestry in B.C.’s central interior.


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To the industry group Council of Forest Industries, Morris’ is “one of many voices,” according to CEO Susan Yurkovich, though she argued it isn’t a position based in fact.

“B.C. is a leader in conservation and we have very stringent rules and regulations around harvesting,” said Yurkovich, who is also sounding a warning that the government’s proposed old-growth deferrals puts some 18,000 jobs at risk.

The apparent schism within the B.C. Liberals, however, gives encouragement those in the environmental movement that individuals on the opposition side might sense a public appetite for “bigger, bolder change,” according to Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee.

“It’s fascinating to see if those individuals continue to look for ways to tap into that and then how much headway (they) make,” Coste said, though he added it is difficult to not be cynical about the possibility the position is more opportunistic.


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Morris, in the interview and his speech in the legislature, said “this has been a passion of mine now all my life,” which led him to read royal commission reports dating back to 1910, hundreds of scientific papers on wildlife and hydrology.

He added that he’s witnessed declining biodiversity in B.C. forests, as a trapper and hunter, with the proliferation of large clearcuts in interior timber-supply areas, which will take generations to repair.

“We’ve got a problem on our hands here in British Columbia that needs to be addressed,” Morris said.

B.C. Green party house leader Adam Olsen was in the Legislature when Morris delivered his 28-minute address in response to the government’s Bill 23, which he called “a remarkable moment, and it shouldn’t have been.”


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“This is how democracy is supposed to work.”

Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, said it isn’t new for the B.C. Liberals, per se, but “I hope what it means is that MLAs are empowered to say what they see, to what they feel,” rather than deliver party-line message statements on issues.


“I’m very encouraged by Mike’s decision to just speak his truth, and I hope it empowers my colleagues to stand up and speak theirs as well,” Olsen said.

Morris wasn’t available for a follow up interview Friday, according to his constituency staff, because he was headed out into the woods where there is no cell service.

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