Free Press Editorial: Summing Up The Summit

January 28, 2009

By Bill Phillips – Prince George Free Press

Published: January 27, 2009 4:00 PM

There is no doubt that Janine North gave the speech of the Summit.

The Northern Development Initiative Trust CEO’s ‘decade of the North’ line was perfect. She also outlined, better than anyone, what some of the challenges and opportunities are for us to thrive here in the North. And, she clearly outlined what needed to be done in a 15-point plan that includes cutting regulatory burdens for the mining industry to highways upgrades to dentist training centres.

Yes, Premier Gordon Campbell gave a rousing speech too, but North’s was better. Mayor Dan Rogers also gave a pretty good speech Friday morning pointing out that aboriginal land title issues need to be resolved and that diversification must be linked to the resource economy.

But one of the best lines from the summit, at least as far as I’m concerned, came from the agriculture panel Friday morning. We all sat through Campbell’s rousing speech about a ‘wood-first’ policy. It’s one suggesting that we use British Columbian wood for large public projects (the proposed new performing arts centre in Prince George perhaps?).

It’s a good suggestion and a good policy, but it isn’t new. The Liberals have been touting it for a while now.

The real proof will be when the province puts out a tender to build something and stipulates that wood must be used. Then it goes from policy to practice.

But the line from the agriculture panel came from Ken Huber, who is a director of the B.C. Agriculture Council. He said it’s good to have a policy saying we should use wood in public projects wherever possible. However, wondered why the powers that be aren’t promoting, or mandating, that British Columbia food products be served in public institutions like school cafeterias and hospitals.

It’s a good point.The other good line from the seminar came from rancher Dave Merz: “When we look at the forest industry, it doesn’t hold a candle to what beef producers faced.” Another good point.

It’s a shame to think that we’ll get more and more burger joints in the province but have fewer and fewer cattle producers (okay I’m a little biased here because I still have an interest the family farm).

It’s the same for the forest industry. It would be a crying shame to see our mills sitting idle when we are about to embark on probably one of the largest public infrastructure spending sprees in history. And, the more lumber we can utilize right here in British Columbia, the less we have to depend on the U.S. and its protectionist ways.

And, in the ‘where are they now’ department. I ran into former mayor Colin Kinsley at the summit, who was handing out business cards. He has started a consulting firm called Kinsley Consulting Services. We’re likely going to continue to hear more from Kinsley, depending on who hires his services.

The other fun part of the summit, at least for me, was that there were lots of people attending from Williams Lake and Quesnel (my old stomping grounds), so I got to do some catching up (gossiping). Lots of fun.

Bill Phillips – Prince George Free Press

Bill Phillips is the editor of the Prince George Free Press. He was the winner of the 2007 Best Columnist award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Associations Ma Murray awards. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist awards and, in 2003, placed second.