BC Politics with Hubert Beyer

Archives of British Columbia's most well read Political Columnist




Hubert Beyer, Biography

Hubert Beyer was widely known as one of Canada's most read journalists. His columns were published regularly in most BC Community Newspapers, and his perspective sought on the Federal level as well as by NORAD in the US, Beyer lived up to his reputation as the "Fairest of them All."

Born in a small village in West Germany, Beyer immigrated to Canada in his 20s where he married and had 4 children.

A German Language publication in Winnipeg was Beyer's first foray into writing in Canada, it was soon followed with work at the Winnipeg Free Press as a Reporter covering many different beats. more

Click to read the Eulogy for Hubert Beyer

Top Search: Forestry

Find out what Beyer had to say about Forestry in BC through the years. With the forestry industry supporting a large segment of employment and opportunity in British Columbia, it's no surprise that it's a top search.

Top Search: Elections

Election are always a hot topicAnytime the faintest hint of a provincial or federal election announcement draws near, the search for quotes and history on past British Columbia elections starts to climb.

Top Search: Budget Release

When is the Budget not a hot searchProvincial Bugets are introduced with fanfare and fraught with talk from pundits, experts and critics. Take a few minutes to see how BC Budgets of the past were often projections of the future. 


VICTORIA -- The other day, I had coffee with Jack Toovey. Toovey is the kind of guy who makes me feel guilty for writing nasty things about multi-nationals, like Fletcher Challenge. That's because he's a genuinely nice guy.

But Toovey isn't only a nice guy; he's also very knowledgeable and competent in his field. He's vice president in charge of timberlands and forestry for Fletcher Challenge.

Fletcher Challenge is the New Zealand-based company that has applied for the Mackenzie tree farm licence, covering about six million hectares, nearly twice the size of Switzerland.

A hearing on the application had originally been scheduled for November 21, but in the wake of growing opposition to the proposal, the government went on damage control alert and postponed the hearing until March 7.

Toovey was going to be in Victoria on business and phoned me ahead of time to say he wanted to discuss the Fletcher Challenge application with me. He had read my previous column on the issue and wanted to make sure that I really had all the facts. It was Toovey's typically gentlemanly way of saying that, in his opinion, I was talking out of a cocked hat.

Toovey seemed genuinely surprised by the negative reaction to the tree farm licence application by the media and the public in general. He wanted to know what the company did wrong. He also wanted to give me the company's side of the story.

I told him why I thought the reaction was so negative. The application labors under a number of handicaps. First, Fletcher is a huge company; what's more it's foreign-owned. The public tends to distrust both. Second, the sheer size of the area to be managed by the company. Third, the public's scepticism about the government's ability or, indeed, willingness to monitor the company's stewardship of the land.

Toovey offered a sincere defence of the application. He said there wasn't much the company could do about public distrust of the government, but as for Fletcher Challenge, he'd like to say a few things.

He said Fletcher doesn't have a heavy-handed headquarters approach. The Mackenzie operation, he said, has maximum autonomy. He also stressed that B.C. Forest Products had been working in the Mackenzie area for 20 years prior to the Fletcher takeover, and had a reputation for being responsible land managers.

Fletcher Challenge, Toovey said, had shown its good intentions by agreeing to invest some $500 million in the area over the next 10 years. That was hardly the modus operandi of a company which plans to move in, skim off the cream and get the hell out.

Toovey said the public was, for some reason, under the false impression that once the TFL application is approved, the company can do whatever it pleases in the area. Not so, he said.

"We don't just go in and cut every tree in sight. The government has to approve out management plan. We have to replant the trees we cut down. Right now, we're planting nine million seedling a year and will continue to do so.

Under the terms of a tree farm licence, Toovey said, the company must assume responsibility for total management of the area covered, including fire protection, wildlife protection and recreational uses.

"And there has never been any disagreement in the past that TFL land is the best-managed forest land, better than private land and better than land looked after by the government. Even Peter Pierce acknowledged that in his Royal Commission report 14 years ago."

Toovey said he dares anyone to inspect the company's Mackenzie operations and form their own conclusions about the company's role as responsible land managers. Even now, he added, the company did nothing without consulting numerous branches of government and organizations such as the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

The people of Mackenzie, he said, are solidly behind the application, and they resented the interference from people whose jobs and future aren't at stake. "It's almost as if people in the Lower Mainland don't care about the 5,000 residents of Mackenzie,"Toovey said.

And there it is. I can't say that Toovey made a Fletcher torchbearer out of me, but his views are compelling and deserve airing and consideration. Some points make a great deal of sense but have, so far, been lost on the public. And that gets me to Fletcher's information package sent to the media and to interested members of the public. It just didn't cut it.

The colored booklet, prepared by two well©meaning company foresters was too slick, too lovely to believe, and the rest too dry and legalistic. Something straight©forward and informative is needed if the company hopes to get its case across to the public.

If Fletcher could sent an army of Tooveys on the road to talk to people, it might just have a chance of making it past the reef of opposition to the safe harbor of its coveted tree farm licence

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