In 2007 the Province privatized 28 000 ha of land with an estimated commercial value of 130 million dollars. This created the windfall of controversy and after three years of protests, critical media coverage and a scathing report from the Auditor General’s office the Liberals have limped in with a laughably small two million dollar contribution to solve the problem that they created.
This “privatization” was achieved by a decision to remove extensive tracts of land from Tree Farm License agreements and allow Western Forest Products (WFP) to put some of the most iconic areas of Vancouver Island on the market for urban sprawl. It spurred protests from every corner of our community that could have been easily avoided if the liberals had secured compensation from WFP for their 130 million dollar gift in the form of covenants and park dedications for high value areas, but they didn’t even pause to consider the community’s interests in the matter.
Three years of arguments and reasoning later with no response from our Provincial Government the CRD has stepped in with a historic commitment to purchase almost 20 million dollars of land with some of the highest conservation values. 3700 ha were purchased in the Jordan River and Sooke Potholes areas and to finance the deal they have had to turn to individual community members for donations.
With the CRD devoting the next five years of its park acquisition fund to the project and thousands of people being asked to make personal contributions out of their own savings accounts for land that the Province could have protected with the stroke of a pen Ida Chong and the rest of the Liberal cabinet were finally shamed into taking action.
Last week in a very self congratulatory press release the Province announced that it would donate two million dollars to the CRD. Two million dollars sounds like a big number at first but its a small consolation for the $130 million give away three years ago. After three years of protesting, critical media coverage and a scathing report from the Auditor General the Liberals have agreed to fund about ten percent of the CRD’s purchase of less than ten percent of the privatized land. Effectively the government has chipped in with a solution for one percent of the crisis it created two years ago.
If our local MLAs Ida Chong and Murray Coell are waiting for a thank you, I hope they don’t hold their breath.