By David F. Rooney
Forestry Minister Steve Thomson was in Revelstoke this week to meet local BC Liberals and others and discover which issues are most important to residents of this part of Columbia River-Revelstoke riding.
The MLA for Kelowna-Mission was agriculture minister under Gordon Campbell after he was elected in 2009 and was shifted to forestry under Christy Clark earlier this year. While this was his first visit here as forestry minister he had been here before as agriculture minister and — many, many years ago as a high school basket player locked in a rivalry with RSS.
Over dinner at Zala’s Restaurant on Monday evening, he urged local Liberals to remain ready for a possible election. Premier Clark has not yet made up her mind to hold one this autumn or hold off until next year. He also fielded questions from local BC Liberals and friends of the party on a raft of issues ranging from the HST and forestry to fixing the Trans-Canada Highway.
With regard to the HST, which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a referendum whose results were revealed last week, Thomson acknowledged that the previous Liberal government’s rollout of the tax was badly managed but maintained that, overall, the tax was good for the economy.
Former BC Liberal candidate Mark McKee urged Thomson to work to improve the climate for community-based forest corporations such as RCFC, noting that “prior to RCFC’s creation 92% or 94% of timber cut here was shipped out… now about 88% is processed here.”
“The health of RCFC is hugely important to our community,” McKee said.
The former mayor also plugged efforts to promote long-desired improvements to the TCH between the Alberta border and Ashcroft.
He told Thomson that members of the Campbell government had promised to support a plan that would see the province and the federal government each spend $150 million a year for 10 years. However, that provincial support was contingent on federal support. McKee, who has for years lobbied Ottawa and Victoria on this issue, said he is deeply concerned by apparent flagging support in Victoria.
Vacillation in Victoria could not come at a worse time as McKee is going to Ottawa with Revelstoke Mayor David Raven and Golden Mayor Christina Benty in September to appear before a House of Commons budget committee to discuss possible federal financing for major improvements along the TCH.
“We’re not connecting the dots very well,” McKee told Thomson. “If we no longer have support from Victoria there is no point in going to Ottawa. We’d look foolish.”
Thomson, who was to tour Downie Street Sawmill today (Tuesday, August 30) promised to discuss the issue with Premier Clark and other ministers.