Premier John Horgan has announced that the Province has appointed Blair Lekstrom as community liaison tasked with engaging residents of the Peace region on draft partnership agreements on caribou recovery.
Premier Horgan has also extended the engagement period to May 31, 2019, in order to give Lekstrom time to work with local leaders.
“People want to see the continued strength of our resource communities. As we meet a federal obligation to recover caribou, our government has been working to support workers and industry. Today’s announcements are part of that work,” said Premier Horgan in a media release.
“Blair Lekstrom has earned the trust and respect of residents in the Northeast. I can think of no one better to consult directly with, and fairly represent, the interests of people here.”
In his role as community liaison, Lekstrom will consult with community leaders and local stakeholders on the draft agreements, provide input into the economic impact analysis and advise how the Province can meet its obligation to protect southern mountain caribou, while also protecting local jobs and communities.
“People here care about the land, the caribou and each other. We can find solutions, but that requires adequate consultation,” said Lekstrom. “The actions taken by the provincial government today give me hope that we can make sure everyone’s voices are heard and find solutions going forward.”
The extended engagement timeframe and Lekstrom’s appointment were welcomed by Brad Sperling, chair, Peace River Regional District.
“I’m pleased that the Province is taking the time to ensure that local voices are heard,” said Sperling. “Blair knows the people and the issues in the Peace well, and I’m sure he’ll be able to help find a path forward.”
While in the area, Premier Horgan held meetings with Peace River Regional District board members, Chief Roland Willson from the West Moberly First Nations and Chief Ken Cameron from the Saulteau First Nations. The premier thanked Chiefs Willson and Cameron for their work to restore caribou while minimizing economic impacts to communities. He reiterated the Province’s clear expectation that the federal government come to the table with financial resources to support people, communities and industry impacted by the federally mandated measures to recover caribou.
Lekstrom is a former three-term MLA, former cabinet minister, long-time municipal mayor and current councillor in Dawson Creek.
- Southern mountain caribou were listed as a threatened wildlife species federally in 2003.
- The federal minister of the Environment and Climate Change determined in May 2018 that southern mountain caribou were facing “imminent threats to their recovery.”
- In the absence of a negotiated agreement with the Province, a federal emergency order would not be able to consider socio-economic impacts and could result in billions of dollars of economic losses.
- The Province stepped in to negotiate agreements with the Government of Canada and West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations to protect jobs and caribou.
- The B.C. government has also commissioned an independent regional economic analysis to be completed with input from local governments.
- The Province is seeking feedback from people in the region on these agreements and engaging with local industry, First Nations and community members.
- Public engagement on the draft agreements to conserve southern mountain caribou populations taking place throughout April 2019 has been extended to May 31.