Port Alice redux?

Months after the Port Alice community was dealt a devastating blow bygovernment deregulation and slippery corporate shysters, the RCMPannounced its recommendation that seven criminal charges,including fraud and misappropriation of funds, be brought against JohnSullivan, one of the owners that took over the former Doman mill.

Recall, the Port Alice mill was sold to LaPointe Partners for $1 as part of the Doman restructuring. The new owners allegedly stripped $13 million out of the mill, forcing it into bankrupcy.

Thecriminal charges are too little, too late: kind of like shooting thefox after the hens have been eaten. And in the months since the PortAlice fiasco became news, the current BC government has done nothing tofix the problem. Criminal charges may hold a few individualsaccountable, but that is little solace for all those that lost theirjobs. And there are no guarantees that criminal charges will actuallybe brought by Crown Council.

So instead of re-introducinglegislation requiring public hearings and government approval of tenuredecisions, the current BC government continues to leave the future ofcommunities like Port Alice to the whim of investors and the market.

Decisionsabout who operates and controls BC’s public land should not be left tothe private sector. The Port Alice example shows that risks tocommunity stability from the market-reliant approach are too high.

Thatother communities could be left high and dry from corporaterestructuring is not a hypothetical problem. Just lastweek–coincidentally on the same day that the RCMP recommendation ofcharges was announced–the news broke that Brascan was purchasing Weyerhaeuser’scoastal operations. Pundits suggest this will lead to moreconsolidation and mill closures on the coast. So who is going toprotect the communities of Port Alberni, Nanaimo, and Cowichan from afate like Port Alice’s?

Certainly not the BC government underthe current laws. They have washed their hands of the matter, creatingpotential for further disasters. Government is abdicating itsresponsibility to protect the best interests of communities.

Dogwoodinitiative will continue working with community activists, municipalleadership and First Nations to ensure the due diligence is done incommunities affected by the Brascan-Weyerhaeuser proposal. But shouldprotecting the public interest be left to third parties? Isn’tprotecting the public interest and ensuring resources from public landsbenefit British Columbians the government’s job?

It should be. Unfortunately, we as citizens are going to have to demand that government fix the problem they created.

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