In March 1999, the government of British Columbia announced that it was considering privatising and turning over up to 30,000 hectares of public land to logging giant MacMillan Bloedel (MB), and removing up to 91,000 hectares of existing private land from Tree Farm Licences 39 and 44. This deal was an out of court settlement of MB's compensation claim arising from park creation on Vancouver Island. In the settlement agreement the government agrees to pay MB 83.75 million dollars in either land or cash.
The government hired Victoria lawyer David Perry to do a series of public consultations on the settlement agreement. Perry's primary mandate was to answer the question: land or cash? All the consultations were held during a three week period in June 1999. In order to raise awareness about the settlement agreement and to encourage people to attend the Perry consultations, the Campaign for BC's Public Lands worked with local groups to organise information meetings in 11 communities affected by the settlement agreement prior to the consultations.
The Campaign to Save BC's Public Lands is a network of social justice, environmental and labour groups. These groups support a set of core principles about resisting privatisation and promoting community control of forests, in a manner that is fair to all British Columbians, and that respects the rights and title of First Nations.
According to reported statements made by Perry, about 1400 people attended the consultations and he received 1,000 written submissions, mostly opposed to forest privatisation and deregulation of TFL lands. Groups as diverse as the Forest Practices Board, IWA locals, the Council of Canadians, the Wilderness Tourism Association and Greenpeace, as well as various local governments, First Nations and government agencies, expressed deep concerns about the settlement agreement. According to Perry, close to half the people at the consultations felt that MB did not deserve anything at all. Others suggested that perhaps should compensate communities for environmental damage from logging practices.
Mr. Perry's report, the MacMillan Bloedel Parks Settlement Agreement Decision has now been made public, and is available on the Ministry of Forests webpage at www.for.gov.bc.ca. Mr. Perry recommended that none of the proposed land transfers take place.