Fraser-Nicola MLA says Minister of Forests is ‘missing in action’

Jackie Tegart asks why Doug Donaldson has not visited the riding, which has been hit hard by fire.

Smoke from the Elephant Hill wildfire blanketing Ashcroft on the evening of August 2. The fire is still only 30 per cent contained, and continues to threaten the area. Photo by Barbara Roden.

“My riding has been on fire since July 7,” says Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart. “It’s the second-biggest fire in the province, and is still only 30 per cent contained after four weeks. And the most common question I’m hearing is ‘Where is the Minister of Forestry?’”

To say that Tegart is frustrated would be an understatement. She also tears up when describing the tremendous losses in the region, and notes that many people in the area are anxious.

“My communities have been evacuated, then allowed back in, and now some are evacuated again. Staff on the ground have been exceptional, but as time goes on there is frustration, anxiety, and lots of questions.

“I’ve attended more than half-a-dozen community information meetings. People say ‘We are burning up and we haven’t seen him [new Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson] in my riding, not once.’”

Tegart suggests that no one can get a sense of the devastation left behind by the Elephant Hill wildfire until they visit the area and see how close the region came to losing so much more than it did.

“Until you stand beside the ashes of burned homes, one after another, how can you begin to talk about the impact and how to recover?”

Donaldson takes exception to the claim that he has not been in the area. “I’ve met with the mayor of Cache Creek, which is a major community in the constituency, twice; I’ve been in Kamloops twice and Williams Lake once, and in Prince George twice, visiting evacuees, talking to people on the ground.”

On August 3, the Liberal Party announced its shadow cabinet. MLA John Rustad, the former Minister of Forests, was named as forestry critic, and Tegart says that he will be visiting the area around Ashcroft and Cache Creek on Sunday, August 6.

“This new government has been in place since July 18. The Elephant Hill fire continues to burn out of control,” says Tegart.

“We have a Minister of Forests missing in action. I would respectfully suggest the Interior of B.C. deserves better.”