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BC Politics

How Christy Clark Talks to Kids about Taxes

'If we don't cut down trees in BC, we have to take more money from your mom and dad.'

Andrew MacLeod 9 Apr

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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Premier Christy Clark: 'We need kids to understand how important it is that our forest industry is not just something that exists in a vacuum.' Photo by David P. Ball.

By her own account, Premier Christy Clark tells children that if it weren't for logging British Columbia's forests, their parents would face higher taxes and require government handouts.

But an observer says Clark does a disservice to children when she oversimplifies the choices governments make.

"There's always one child, no matter where I talk to kids from in the province, who when I ask them what they'd like to do, what their wish would be if they could be Premier, is they say, 'We should stop cutting down trees,'" Clark said in an April 8 speech to the Council of Forest Industries convention in Kelowna.

"I'm glad they say it, because it's a chance for education," Clark said. "I get a chance to say to them, 'You know, if we don't cut down trees in British Columbia, we have to take more money from your mom and dad.'"

Kids understand that parents who pay higher taxes have "less money for hockey equipment, less money for school, less money for trips and all those things," she said.

Besides everyone having to pay higher taxes, she continued, parents who lose their jobs in forestry if there's no longer logging "are going to have to start taking money from the government."

Forest jobs support communities: Clark

The council bills itself as the voice of the Interior B.C. forest industry and includes 18 member companies.

"We need kids to understand how important it is that our forest industry is not just something that exists in a vacuum," Clark told the crowd. "It's something that supports our entire province, schools, hospitals, all the rest of it."

The industry provides 150,000 direct and indirect jobs in B.C., and 140 communities in the province are either fully or principally dependent on it, she said.

"Those are jobs we need," she said. "Those are jobs of people who pay taxes. Those are jobs that mean people can go home at the end of every day and know that they can afford to put food on the table for their kids."

Reaction on Twitter to Clark's trees-or-taxes quote was largely critical of the Premier.

Darlene Heidemann wanted to know, "Is this a joke?... did she really say this?"

Tynan Phillips said, "Wow. Shows the BC Liberals priorities."

Jen Stewart ‏asked, "Aren't kids supposed to be learning NOT to reason in a facile erroneous way?"

Paul Doroshenko ‏said, "It's true that in BC tree murder pays for bike lanes."

Curious George observed, "Low taxes also helps ensure BC has the worst child poverty in Canada. Did she mention that?"

And Sharon Lawrence suggested alternative employment for both the parents and for Clark. "What if Mom & Dad planted trees?" she said "'Premier' Chatty Mouth is abysmal - get her out vote 2017."

Outdated thinking, says activist

"It's kind of a troubling over-simplification," said Ben West, an environmental activist and the executive director of Tanker Free B.C., when reached by phone. "I think kids are pretty sophisticated, and it's not as black and white as whether you cut down trees or not."

There's a big difference between logging the last of the province's old-growth forests and creating a more sustainable industry, he said. "Perhaps a little more nuanced conversation would be more appropriate."

The province has growing tech, film and green development industries, he said. "There's many things we could be doing to create jobs in the province besides forestry," West said. "The province could be doing a lot more than just chopping down trees."

Clark's remarks show an out-dated way of thinking, he said. "It's talking in this very old way of looking at the B.C. economy being about nothing but resource extraction."

The last of the coastal old-growth forests are being logged and sold at bargain prices, often to be exported as raw logs, said Tim Pearson, the communications director at the Sierra Club BC.

"The government's approach is more like a going-out-of-business sale -- everything must go -- than a responsible approach to ensuring the long-term health of our forests and the natural services, such as clean, fresh drinking water, that they provide," Pearson said in an email.

"What we need is a shift to sustainable practices that ensure ecological health and jobs into the future," he added. "There will be no jobs or revenue to pay for government services once the last tree is cut down."  [Tyee]

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