At last weeks tourism industry conference in Vancouver, Tourism BC announced a new 3-year strategic framework. The goals are to continue to grow tourism in BC but do it in a sustainable way. Also, inclusivity, accessibility, and reconciliation are key components.
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association CEO Glenn Mandzuik spoke to Q101 about how it will affect the region.
“This plan is extraordinarily complementary to what we are trying to accomplish here in the Thompson Okanagan region,” said Mandzuik. “We are a biosphere certified destination. A destination that is committed to ensuring not only economic sustainability, but sustaining our environment, our culture and our social eco-systems across the region.”
“We don’t want to sell our soul to tourism for the sake of tourism, but we actually want to develop a values-based tourism industry that respects our residents first,” said Mandzuik.
The BC tourism industry is a 9 billion-dollar industry and is growing at a rate of 41 percent over the last decade.
More specifically, Mandzuik spoke to how the new plan will affect Merritt.
“Things in the Merritt area for example would be looking at rail trail initiatives and developing sustainable programs with our indigenous communities,” said Mandzuik.
Sustainability is a key message within BC tourism, something Mandzuik feels is an incredibly smart decision.
“When you look at it, it positions BC as a world leader when it looks at this early and puts sustainability at its core,” said Mandzuik. “Destinations like Iceland and Barcelona and the Philippines didn’t put sustainability at the core initially and they’re paying the price now for that. Places like BC are taking this to heart and making sure we protect our own first, before we try to attract new visatation.”
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Dan Albas, Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, is joining Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in calling for Justin Trudeau's resignation.
“To me when someone says that something is false or tries to shift the blame it’s usually because the truth is coming out. That’s the reason Andrew Scheer and myself have called for the Prime Minister to resign,” said Albas.
Recently some NDP MP’s have joined the Conservative calls for Trudeau’s resignation following Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony on the SNC-Lavalin controversy.
“I’ve watched all of the testimony and it was shocking in what was reveled,” said Albas. “These allegations are incredibly troubling and incredibly serious.”
Official Opposition leader Andrew Scheer has also called for a formal RCMP investigation into the matter.
“Canadians should be concerned that the Prime Minister has not shown any accountability. It’s one thing to say that an allegation is false, usually then you provide your side,” said Albas. “We need to see more evidence coming forward. And that's why Mr. Scheer has called for a RCMP investigation.”
“Some people cited they want to see more, well, I expect there will be a lot more to come out in the days and weeks ahead,” concluded Albas.
Recently Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa he was still contemplating whether Wilson-Raybould would remain in the Liberal Caucus. For her part, Wilson-Raybould has come out to say she will be seeking re-election in Vancouver-Granville under the Liberal banner in this year’s general election.
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The proposed Walters Street development was one of the most debated items in recent months at a Merritt City Council meeting. Two separate issues arose from the discussion, the first being the encroachment, and the second being what exactly defines ‘affordable’.
Councillors Kurt Christopherson and Adam Etchart both spoke to the possibility of expanding Voght street in the future and how this project could interfere with that.
“I do have concerns about the encroachment for parking purposes, because eventually if and when Merritt gets to the point when we need that land and we’re ripping it away to build a highway on, where does that parking go,” questioned Christopherson.
The other issue that was discussed at length was what exactly defines affordable when referring to affordable housing. The Developer wants to sell 19 ‘affordable’ units in the 94-unit development at cost.
“We want to make it where it makes sense and we want to go open book. And not to pay money from our pocket on those affordable units,” said Ervan.
The units would come in at over 60 percent the median income for a bachelor suite and 80 percent for a one-bedroom.
Mayor Linda Brown did not agree that the rate was affordable for Merritt.
“We know that affordable housing is not this high in Merritt,” said Brown.
Councillors Christopherson, Etchart and Tony Luck all agreed that more discussion will be needed.
“I really admire that somebody wants to step forth in this community to put some kind of affordable housing. It is a risk that this developer is taking, and even though we have decided it’s not affordable, eventually the marketplace will decide that”, said Luck.
Council did read the approval through two readings, with the reasoning behind the approval being to allow for public input. A public hearing regarding the proposed development will be scheduled.
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“I find it amazing that we have a Government in BC, that is using our tax dollars to fight a pipeline that the Federal Government has bought with our tax dollars,” stated MLA Jackie Tegart.
Last week the National Energy Board recommended approval for the Trans-Mountain pipeline. The approval was accompanied by 156 conditions including 16 new recommendations that relate to marine shipping practices.
Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart has long been a vocal supporter of the project.
“I’ve been pretty vocal about support for the project and the jobs that come with that,” said Tegart. “When we look at BC and we look at the alternatives to how we ship the product, I believe pipelines are the safest way to do that.”
Immediately after the approval environmental groups went back on the offensive in their campaign to stop the pipeline.
“We need to get that product to the water,” said Tegart.
The approval comes following the project being struck down in a Federal Court of Appeals in August of 2018.
MLA Tegart believes BC has an obligation to other Provinces to help get their product to market.
“How important it is that a fellow province gets their product to a place where they can ship it out,” said Tegart. “We have a role as the port to take a look at how we can help people in central Canada get their product to the countries they want to get it to.”
“The pipeline is one of those issues that we as British Columbians we not only look at jobs and the advantages to us as it comes through BC. But we have to think about who we are as Canadians,” concluded Tegart.
The Federal Government now has 90 days to approve the project. The decision is not expected to be made until more consultation has been completed.
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In the Legislature on Thursday, Premier John Horgan came under increased scrutiny from the official opposition about the softwood lumber dispute after telling MLA Jackie Tegart quote “stop whining about it.”
“There are 140 forestry-dependent communities in our province that are suffering without a softwood lumber deal,” said Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart. “I have had constituents come into my office literally in tears because of rolling layoffs at the local mill. I am appalled the Premier of this province called MLAs ‘whiners’ during Question Period today for putting pressure on the government to act. The Premier said nearly two years ago that he would be directly involved in negotiations, but we haven’t seen or heard anything since.”
“To have the Premier suggest that it be inappropriate for us to call them to account on promises they made two years ago, to me is more than disappointing,” said Tegart. “He has been in the states a number of times. He should bring it up every time he’s there, it should be a top priority as far as I’m concerned.”
“I just want the constituents in Fraser-Nicola to know, that the BC Liberals are asking the appropriate questions. But unfortunately, the response from the Premier suggests in his own words that we are whining,” said MLA Tegart.
“British Columbia is responsible for 50 per cent of all softwood lumber exports to the United States; Horgan should be on the forefront of Canadian efforts to resolve the dispute,” said Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Critic and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.
The softwood lumber dispute has been a trade irritant between the two countries for decades.
One underlying issue is the difference in land ownership between the two countries. In the U.S., about 90% of forest land is owned and managed by private entities, whereas in Canada about 90% is managed by provincial governments on behalf of the public.
Another underlying issue leading to the continuation of this dispute is that the U.S. lumber industry has been successful since the mid 1980’s in having its government impose tariffs on Canadian lumber, even after Canada has demonstrated in international appeals that the tariffs were unfounded.
Currently with no deal in place between Canada and the US, America is free to implement duties on the lumber being imported from Canada. Two of these duties are the countervailing and antidumping duty. The BC government describes the duties as the following.
A countervailing duty is a duty assessed by the U.S. government on Canadian exports of lumber to the United States. The U.S. argues that the duty is required to offset unfair subsidies that Canadian and provincial governments allegedly provide to lumber companies.
An antidumping duty is a duty assessed by the U.S. government on Canadian exports of lumber to the United States. The U.S. argues that the duty is required to offset unfair selling practices by Canadian lumber companies that are allegedly selling lumber into the U.S. at a price below their costs or sales value in Canada.
“Premier Horgan held a joint news conference with Governor Inslee just weeks ago and never even raised the topic of softwood lumber,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “We have a premier who appears in lots of photo ops but seems afraid to act on behalf of the forest industry.”
“I use every opportunity to get this government’s attention when it comes to forestry and supporting the families who depend on this industry to make a living,” said Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes. “The softwood lumber dispute can only be solved through leadership that this premier is sadly lacking.”
In early 2018, high demand for Canadian softwood drove lumber prices high enough to mitigate the impact of these tariffs on Canadian exporters. However, in the second half of 2018, market prices collapsed, and many sawmills in Canada – particularly in BC – have been curtailing operations or closing for extended periods of time to save costs.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt