Just think: it was only a couple of years ago that the McBride community forest was operating with a general manager and it was generating a significant income for the village over the previous years and paying out dividends annually to the village. There was the same challenges back then as there are today and it was ensuring that an adequate wood supply for local mills and contractors and any surplus wood could be sold elsewhere.

Fast forward from then to today. There has been no real effort that i can see to replace the general manager’s position and the concern is there doesn’t seem to be any urgency to do so.  Why the delay in filling this important position? What I see is we have a band aid fix with Jeff McWilliams an associate with B.A. Blackwell from North Vancouver hired on to act as the interim general manager back in 2015 and being paid who knows what. I couldn’t find anything in his credentials where he has experience managing a community forest corporation. Having an absentee manager just doesn’t work when you’re trying to get this dismantled community forest back on its feet so that we start seeing  local contractors back working and local mills being supplied with the wood they need.

I don’t buy Mr. McWilliams comments in the AGM report regarding the cutting permits that expired and were not renewed on time. I would think that any manager in his capacity would have done his due diligence and made this his first priority to know when that would be and start planning for its replacement.  Further to that, the chair of the board and the board of directors themselves should have been doing their homework with regards to these permits expiring.   Hell i even knew these permits needed to be renewed and I’m no longer on the board.

If you do a quick search of other community forest corporations in the province you will see that most do have some type of corporate structure. Most have a local general manager and the majority of seats are held by elected officials sitting on the board.  So why is this community forest, not operating in the same type of structure?

Most of you know the local contractors that either work for the community forest in the logging part of the program or there are the mill operators who rely on the community forest to provide wood to their mills.

If you ask any of them today you will find that the mill operators have laid off their workers because they can’t get any wood from the community forests for a variety of reasons,  one being the cutting permits were never renewed and now there is a waiting period until these get approved by the ministry of forests. No excuse for this and definitely someone should be held accountable for this screw up.  But you know that will not happen.

Then as a taxpayer you have to wonder how much was drained from the community forest and village coffers to pay for these auditors that were hired in 2015 to basically conduct a witch hunt to try and find fault in the previous manager’s book keeping of the McBride community forest. You got to ask yourself as a taxpayer how much was the real cost and what findings if any did they discover to justify the auditing costs?

Then you look at the make-up of the community forest board of directors and it seems over the past year or so there hasn’t been a lot of interest from the current councillors to sit on the board as most have stepped down along with the regional district director. Why did they all step down?  I sense it was because they realized this community forest was going sideways and they didn’t want to be a part it.

Now we have four interim board directors that had their interim appointments rescinded at the AGM and each were officially appointed to the board after a motion by the chair. I think prior to the AGM meeting that if you asked anyone on the street who sits on the McBride community forest you probably would get the wrong answer 10 out of 10.

Since the October 22nd  annual general meeting it seems that two of these directors have since stepped down as directors on the board. That now just leaves two directors and the chair on the community forest board.

Community forest boards in most cases have elected officials holding the majority of seats. This is to ensure that decisions involving expenditure of dollars and/or the economic viability of the company would be controlled by the elected officials. Now you have directors who are not elected officials so what does that mean when it comes to voting on expenditures involving a village owned corporation.  As a village taxpayer i would be very concerned.

Finally there was the carrier deal which was ready to move forward prior to the former manager being fired.  Either through poor leadership, inexperience, mismanagement or lack of interest, this proposal from carrier hit the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces. It was never going to be put back together in time to satisfy carriers requirements.  We will never know what the revenue income would have been for the community forest had this deal gone through, however, it would have solved the overcut situation and certainly provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit. You just need to look at the Valemount Community Forest to see the benefits they have achieved from negotiating a deal with carrier.

So we’re now two years into this council’s term and if drastic measures are not taken sooner than later then it might be a dire situation for the McBride Community Forest before a new mayor and council can be elected in the fall of 2018.

Ken Starchuck
McBride, B.C.