wildfire
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West Shore

How will Langford-Juan de Fuca candidates protect communities from forest fire?

We sent MLA candidates your election questions. Here's what we heard.
Shalu Mehta October 21, 2020

“How will Langford-Juan de Fuca candidates protect the community from forest fire?” That’s a question we at The Discourse heard from you after we launched a poll asking what you think should top the B.C. election agenda. Our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat of the election conversation because we believe you should guide it, not the candidates or the parties.

Leading up to the election, we’re publishing answers to questions you sent. Today, the question is: What immediate measures need to be taken to protect our community from potential forest fires?

As of Oct. 19, The Discourse received answers from all four candidates for this question via email. I’ll be rotating the candidates’ order of responses with each story we publish. Here are their responses. I’ve copied them directly from the emails they sent.

Gord Baird, BC Green Party

I have been advocating through farming and as a councillor to develop vegetation management strategies for different bioregions. Cutting all the trees, which seems to be the present-day plan, is not a strategy.

  • We need to ensure first that FireSmart programs are a mandatory requirement for all interface areas, virtually my entire riding. 
  • Second, we need to understand why we are seeing dead and dying trees and acknowledge that climate has changed. This is already a topic being discussed in the Highlands and the Capital Regional District. 
  • We need to introduce controlled burns where appropriate, something we can learn from our partner Indigenous governments. 
  • We need to stop spraying herbicides on cut blocks and allow for mixed species and natural succession of species to occur. This actually heals the landscape.
  • Finally, we have to begin transitioning our beloved forests into new ones that can handle a 4 to 6 C warmer climate because research predicts that our present species cannot survive.

Tyson Riel Strandlund, Communist Party of BC

We need to cut hydrocarbon emissions now, prioritizing renewable energy and environmental conservation. I would fight to stop the Site “C” Dam, LNG, the Coastal GasLink fossil fuel project, and  the Trans Mountain expansion, as well as provide free public transportation. Guidance should be sought from local Indigenous peoples, who possess a wealth of knowledge on this subject having sustainably managed our forests for thousands of years with traditional methods which should be utilized.

Kelly Darwin, BC Liberal Party

While forest management and controlled burns help in the immediate de-escalation of forest fires, we need to start making fundamental changes to fight against climate change. This increase in forest fires is a symptom of an unbalanced environment which needs to be addressed in a serious way with common-sense solutions before it is too late.

John Horgan, BC New Democratic Party

Our community has seen several worrisome wildfires break out in recent years. Following wildfires that devastated parts of B.C. in 2017, our government commissioned independent experts to review the provincial response and make recommendations to improve how B.C. prevents, prepares for, responds to, and recovers from wildfires and floods.

Since then we have implemented nearly all of the recommendations in the Abbott-Chapman report. In 2019 our Government increased funding to fight and prevent wildfires by 58 per cent to $101 million annually. The additional funding is helping the BC Wildfire Service add to its fire response capabilities – adding more crews, enhancing aerial capacity and including innovative technology – and spending more on fire prevention activities.

Communities like ours are now in a better position to manage the risk of wildfires, but there is more to do.

Our platform makes a number of commitments to build on our work. A re-elected NDP government would update emergency procedures and infrastructure to keep our province safer: from wildfires to, now, COVID-19, British Columbia’s emergency preparedness resources are being stretched further and further. We will work with communities to identify holes in existing emergency response procedures and resources, with the goal of updating and future-proofing our province-wide ability to respond to crises.

We are also committed to making our forests less-vulnerable to wildfires. We’ll continue to make significant investments in forest health, wildfire protection, silviculture, and revitalizing our forests.

Further reading:

  • In the BC NDP platform, one of the commitments the party has made is to tackle climate change and protect nature. This includes increasing the protection of B.C.’s wildlife habitats and protecting old-growth forests. Updating emergency procedures and infrastructure is part of the platform as well.
  • Making the province a leader in clean energy and the environment as well as protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife are some priorities listed in the BC Liberal Party platform, which can be found online.
  • Under the BC Green Party platform, the section on carbon neutrality highlights prioritizing natural climate solutions and protecting and restoring the province’s forests and wetlands. Another section on managing natural assets addresses this issue as well.
  • Climate justice, including stopping projects like the Site “C” Dam, is part of the Communist Party of BC platform as is prioritizing renewable energy and conservation.