How can trustees afford junket when they’re closing schools?
To the editor:
I read with interest that the majority of our school trustees are off again on their annual junket to attend the annual general meeting of the B.C. School Trustees Association at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Vancouver no less.
Such irrelevant workshops as “Public Education and the Social License” and “Damned Nations: Greed, Guns and Armies” are on the agenda.
Nothing on “School Closures,” “Government Underfunding,” “Supporting parents of closed schools,” etc., which are the real issues trustees have left at home.
Now, one would have thought that perhaps politically sensitive trustees would avoid this year’s all-expense-paid holiday in one of Vancouver’s finest hotels, given the disruption caused by their decisions to close schools back home. Or at least send one representative to report back to the board, but not pay for the whole group along with district staff to attend.
Trout Creek and West Bench parents must be appalled at this level of expenditure when the majority of these trustees voted to close their schools, citing a huge budget shortfall. Once again, the perception of attending a gala affair at the Hyatt while the concerns back home are left blowing in the wind just does not speak to a concerned group of elected officials.
However, there is one workshop this weekend that could be of value; “What's working well, What’s not and What's next,” Maybe with any luck our trustees will attend this session and learn what they are doing is not working well.
David Perry, Penticton
Lumber mills closing while log exports rise
To the editor:
Premier Christy Clark has earned an unpleasant reputation for not letting the facts get in the way of a good political rant.
In Kelowna the other day, her penchant for aborting the truth got the best of her while pandering to some of her generous campaign donors in the timber industry.
Clark took a run at school students with a bald-faced threat that she’d “have to take more money from your mom and dad” if the timber industry weren’t cutting down our forests. Based on media reports, she made, even for her, some outlandish claims.
For example, we have this statement: “the most sustainable forest industry anywhere in the world.” Sorry, but no.
Take the coast for example; employment fell by over 10,000 jobs from 2004 onwards, even though the number of jobs in cutting and hauling logs remained roughly the same.
The number of mills fell from 155 to 107 in just four years. Here in the B.C. Interior, there are 20 fewer lumber mills than two decades ago.
In spite of the industry cutting virtually the same volume of trees as they have for decades, we rank 14th of 15 industrialized nations for getting value from wood harvested — and we get under half the value the U.S. gets from wood.
So how has Clark responded? By doubling the whole log exports. Industry likes to call these logs “raw.”
Logs exported whole produce one-10th the number of jobs the same amount of wood milled in B.C. does.
Clark’s message is that B.C. citizens get maximum value for our forests. Wrong again. Not even close.
As just one out of many, many situations and examples, stumpage fees (what the private sector pays to cut publicly owned trees) in coastal regions were cut from $20 to $5 per cubic metre in 2009, knocking payments to taxpayers for a truck load of logs from $800 down to $200.
On the B.C. coast, where the swing downward has been particularly acute, stumpage revenue dropped from $228 million annually 10 years ago to just $16 million two years ago.
These kinds of declines in earnings for public resources have somewhat complicated causes, but the losses are disturbing.
Here in the Okanagan, when school boards seem intent on closing schools because they claim they can't scrounge up $2 million, people ought to be hammering Clark and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Steve Thomson for gross mismanagement of public resources.
Clark made the claim B.C. has the “most environmentally stable places in the world.”
World-class environmental protection? Foot in mouth again.
That may explain why B.C. does not have an Endangered Species Act and has never (this alone should scare the pants off British Columbians) completed an environmental impact assessment of any logging program.
Provincewide, 1,597 animal and plant species have been assessed and listed as at risk.
For us normal citizens, that means threatened, endangered and vulnerable to impact by industries like clear-cut logging and road building (a system that would reach around the world 50 times). It may also explain why one of her cabinet, before he got kicked upstairs with the big guns, wrote that critical deficiencies in forest management legislation “significantly lowers the threshold protecting our biodiversity" and “planning decisions are often taken in isolation by individual tenure holders.”
So much for world-class forest management. These contrasts with Clark's version of the world simply expose the reality that Clark is seriously factually challenged.
There is little doubt that for the better part of the last half century the Ministry of Forests has grossly mismanaged one of the public's most valuable resources.
The ministry hasn't done this alone – they’ve been goaded by the timber industry, and been provided political cover by people like Clark.
Now, reality is barging through the front door. Throw in mismanagement of forest carbon stocks in a world suffering from carbon emission excess, burgeoning human pressure for clean water and air and recreation, and this malfeasance just gets more destructive.
We desperately need a premier who can cope with this already changed and dramatically changing world, not one who thinks bullpoop will win the day.
Dr. Brian L. Horejsi,
forester and wildlife scientist,
Committee seeks consistent winter road maintenance
To the editor:
The committee for Improved and Pro-active Highway Maintenance in Service Area 14 Nicola originated from public concerns as to why during a winter storm, there are differences in highway surface conditions north of Lac Le Jeune on the Coquihalla Highway, on Highway 5A north at Stump Lake, on the Okanagan Connector at Pennask Summit, and on the Coquihalla south at Gulliford Rest Area (Merritt area boundaries).
These highways within Service Area 14 are not plowed and sanded to the same standards, even though the maintenance specifications are the same in all the service areas.
Many residents of the Nicola Valley are afraid to venture out on the highways to attend medical appointments, school, employment, sports events, business etc.
Numerous citizens have complained to the local maintenance contractor or to ministry employees, only to be brushed off or given numerous excuses as to why there is a lack of timely plowing and sanding.
We managed to collect about 2,500 signatures on our petition to date; most are residents of the Nicola Valley.
These are all citizens and taxpayers that would like to see improvement in highway maintenance.
The committee contacted and met with Trent Folk and Donalda Richie, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Management.
This meeting was followed by a meeting with Bob Gilowski, owner, and Gary Zecchel, CEO of VSA Highway Maintenance Ltd., who explained and reviewed their maintenance procedures and operations to the committee.
The lack of anyone taking a genuine interest in concerns of the petition numbers led to another meeting with the same ministry management including Mike Lorimer, regional director.
At this meeting, we reviewed the maintenance specifications that were not being met, before and during the winter storm cycles.
The committee asked the ministry staff to review our documentation and respond accordingly.
After two weeks and numerous accidents on the local highways, the committee finally had to initiate contact with Highways.
There was no response from them until Minister Todd Stone announced an increase in funding and stated that he believes that VSA Maintenance was doing a good job.
Our question is: Why would they need an increase in funding if they are doing a good job and maintaining the highways to the specifications outlined in their contract with the taxpayers?
We feel the minister has minimized the concerns of the committee and the 2,500 citizens that signed the petition.
This petition was not meant to criticize the VSA Highway Maintenance crews.
We feel with VSA management adding additional resources to the already hard-working employees, they would be able to perform their duties in a safer work environment.
Highway maintenance contracts are written not only to ensure the highways are safe for the travelling public, but also for the crews that maintain them.
The committee has set the petition aside until next winter. Hopefully the increase in funding as well as the concerns of the travelling public will bring about improved and proactive winter maintenance.
If not we will have no other choice but to continue with our cause.
Thank you to all who supported and signed the petition.
Mayor Neil Menard,
Wayne Schindler, Earl Nygaard, Merritt
Kelowna should have first-class tourism centre
To the editor:
I have been catching up on some letters to the editor over the last few days after celebrating Big White Ski Resort’s most successful season in history. I was interested in some of your readers’ points of views on the proposed Kelowna tourism information centre.
If there is one thing I have learned after spending 30 years in the Okanagan Valley it is that our guests enjoy and value a warm welcome and our unique Okanagan hospitality.
Have you ever checked in to one of those special hotels and you’re in awe of the lobby? That place that makes you feel so welcome that you want to share the story with your friends and family? It is my belief that this is what the current and previous boards of Tourism Kelowna and the visionaries of our city are trying to create with the new visitor information centre.
My responsibilities for Big White Ski Resort allow me to travel to many beautiful parts of the world and talk to numerous tourism professionals. The one thing that I continuously hear is “always put your best foot forward and show them the dream of your region.”
I believe the location is perfect to show off Kelowna, Okanagan Lake and the surrounding mountains. I am reminded by this location of my first impression of the Vancouver Convention Centre when I attended the Canadian Tourist Commission’s annual sales conference — Rendez-vous Canada. All I heard were “oohs” and “aahs” from tourism buyers at the vistas that were created from the floor to ceiling windows with the views of the harbour and the mountains; they sold the city like no brochure or video could.
We are lucky enough to live and work in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We have the opportunity, the funds, and the insight to create a legacy building for future generations of tourists who will visit Kelowna and the Central Okanagan. The numbers of passing visitors through this area are enormous. They deserve the respect of our community to welcome them with a world-class facility.
I strongly support the location and design of the proposed visitor information centre at the Queensway Jetty parking lot. Kelowna, we deserve the best as we have the best that British Columbia can offer.
Michael J. Ballingall,
senior vice president,
Big White Ski Resort