Opinion

EDITORIAL: Greatest hits (and misses) of 2007

Tom Fletcher

Before I get to the top B.C. political story of the year, let’s open the envelopes for some other categories.

n Non-story of the year: Lottogate.

Revelations that a few lottery retailers were “set for life” set off a media frenzy that triggered a fat buyout for the B.C. Lottery Corporation CEO and began a classically Canadian cascade of expensive inquiries. In one of these, accountant Ron Parks of Bingogate fame (now there was a proper scandal) sifted the records and pronounced that the main reason retailers win more is that they play more.

Number of confirmed B.C. lottery frauds: Zero.

n Non-story of the year (runner-up): Women flee Campbell cabinet.

Finance Minister Carole Taylor and Labour Minister Olga Ilich compare their impressive business careers to the circus of question period, and both announce they won’t run again in 2009. Ilich in particular is visibly uncomfortable with the political gotcha game.

Deputy premier Shirley Bond, Community Services Minister Ida Chong and Minister of State for Childcare Linda Reid soldier on.

n Lost story of the year: The forest crisis.

Folks in the Interior ask me why the media pay so little attention to mill closures that now threaten whole towns. Those on the coast watched a futile strike and a lurch toward recreational land development, which spread to the Kootenays as Pope & Talbot’s breakup began.

The government’s efforts to develop alternatives to dimensional lumber look shaky at best. Big harvest licences for pellet and oriented strandboard plants are going nowhere, and a wood-waste cogeneration project proposed for Mackenzie depends on production at mills that are mostly down.

Also lost in the market collapse is a crucial salvage year for the pine beetle epidemic. The industry can’t afford another lost year.

n B.C. Liberal win of the year: Treaties.

My 2006 selection for top story reached a new level with the adoption of the Tsawwassen and Maa-Nulth treaties, amid genuine hope for the future. Even the Tsilhqot’in Nation, probably the government’s hardest foe, emerged from an exhausting court case to talk.

Even if the failed treaty with the Lheidli T’enneh can’t be salvaged, the prospects for 2008 look brighter than ever.

n NDP win of the year: Fish farms.

A processing plant closed in Port McNeill at the end of June for lack of fish, just as Agriculture Minister Pat Bell green-lighted one new net-pen salmon farm. Eighteen applications remain in the pipeline, awaiting Bell’s decision.

The NDP’s demand to have the salmon farm industry reinvent itself in five years with floating concrete pens is looking better. The year ends with another study warning of the hazards of farm sea lice, and a federally funded test of closed containment underway near Campbell River.

The NDP’s Robin Austin challenged the government to invent the future right here in B.C., showing the world that farmed and wild salmon can both stay healthy.

It sounds a lot like Premier Gordon Campbell’s bold and risky pledge to invent solutions to climate change, which is my pick for top story of 2007. I’ll tell you why next week.

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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