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BC's Pine Beetle 911 Emergency
  Aug 14, 2005

ROBBINS callers interviewed by way of random digit dialing 840 respondents throughout 14 regions of British Columbian including Prince George, Fort Fraser, McKenzie, Fort St. John, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Enderby, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Kelowna, Nelson, Creston, Penticton, Peachland, Oliver, Hope, Chilliwack, Langley, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Burnaby, Vancouver, Richmond, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish, Nanaimo, Duncan, Langford, Saanich, Oak Bay, Brentwood Bay, Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach, Comox, Port Hardy between August 9-13, 2005. 35 respondents were callbacks. Callers indicate that well over 75% of ‘potential respondents’ when first reached on the telephone were willing to take the survey when told “it concerned matters important to all British Columbians, taxes, and economic considerations”-and the interview would take less than three minutes-mainstream pollsters take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes). 457 (54.5%) respondents were declared to be women, and 383 (45.5%) were declared to be men. 165 respondents were from Vancouver Island, 292 respondents were from the north and interior of the province, and 383 were from the lower mainland and Vancouver City. Callers are observing that women were more willing to take the interview. This was particularly true in the lower mainland where women respondents were nearly (57%). ROBBINS used two forms of averaging from the three regions in the province outlined as “the first calculation”, then assessing by using two forms of averaging the province generally “the second calculation” and then taking those two sets of outcomes and determining a number by simple division of the two numbers. The margin of error was determined similarly through the three regions and the province generally on a per question basis. Margins of error ranged from approximately 2.5% to 6%. Accordingly, we will determine the margin of error to be 4.25% or a range of 8.5%, although we don’t believe this applies reasonably to Question #1. If during the same news cycle and the same time of years under the current political conditions we conducted this survey 20 times, ROBBINS believes we would receive an outcome within the margin of error considered at least 18 of those times. It is our caller’s estimation that the respondents were competent to the extent of 97 out of 100 or better. This poll has a value to cost of approximately 10.5 to 1.

Question #1
If an election were held one month from today for which federal political party would you most likely caste your ballot?
Paul Martin and federal Liberal Party    29 %
Stephen Harper and federal Conservative Party    31 %
Lack Layton and federal NDP    29 %
Other/undecided    11 %
Question #2
In your opinion which of the following expressions BEST depicts how you expect government to treat your tax dollars when it comes to government advertising?
Government should not use taxpayer dollars to fund advertising; public policy initiatives and notice to the public of government action should be provided FREE in local newspapers, television and radio    12 %
Government should use taxpayer dollars to fund advertising and notification programs ONLY when it is necessary and appropriate    52 %
In today’s world it is necessary for government to allocate some taxpayer dollars for advertising and notice to the public, this is part of practical communication between the government and the public    36 %
Question #3
In your opinion does the government at federal, provincial, and municipal levels spend the people’s tax dollars wisely (Federal)?
Yes    38 %
No    56 %
Undecided    05 %
Question #4
In your opinion does the government at federal, provincial, and municipal levels spend the people’s tax dollars wisely (Provincial)?
Yes    43 %
No    54 %
Undecided    03 %
Question #5
In your opinion does the government at federal, provincial, and municipal levels spend the people’s tax dollars wisely (Municipal)
Yes    47 %
No    45 %
Undecided    08 %
Question #6
Which of the following statements in your opinion would you deem BEST fits the model of a necessary and reasonable taxpayer expense of government advertising and notification?
The ‘Beautiful BC, BC is Back’ style of advertising of the in the weeks and months leading up to the 2004 BC general provincial election    07 %
Taxpayer funded Government general notifications on radio, television, and in local and daily newspapers    76 %
Forestry Minister Rich Coleman’s $79,000 highway signage and Notice relating to BC’s Pine Beetle epidemic    14 %
None of the above, each of the statements is an example of government waste of taxpayer money    03 %
Question #7
Are you aware of and are you reasonably familiar with British Columbia’s pine beetle problem in our forests?
Yes    67 %
No    33 %
Question #8
(only those respondents who answered “yes’ in Question #5)-BC Forestry Minister Rich Coleman is suggesting that the federal Liberal government should commit to a 1 billion dollar investment in BC’s pine beetle problem, while Ottawa has committed 100 million and is waiting a long term strategy prior to pledging more money. In your opinion whose advice would you follow?
BC Forestry Minister Rich Coleman for the 1 billion dollar commitment from the federal government NOW    76 %
Ottawa’s commitment of 100 million now and WAIT to develop a long term strategy prior to commitment of more dollars    24 %
Commentary
BC Forestry Minister Rich Coleman was recently criticized by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation BC spokesperson Sara McIntyre for spending $97,000 on highway signage in 13 different highway regions of the province to ‘educate British Columbians on the problem of the Pine Beetle.’ (Vancouver Province Friday August 5th, 2005-Stuart Hunter Province Reporter).
Ms. McIntyre asserts that the BC Liberal government ‘should put the money toward tax relief or the (provincial) debt’. This poll reveals the possibility that from one perspective Ms. McIntyre may be right. The signage was situated in parts of the province where citizens are already very aware of the pine beetle problem, and many respondents commented that people driving the highway either should not be reading signs while they drive, or could not possibly receive all the information they need on the subject if they are a passenger.
The communication difficulty with the Pine Beetle issue is that people who live in urban areas or the outlying suburbs are less familiar with the issue of the Pine Beetle problem.
Ms. MacIntyre also suggests that the $97,000 advertising is a bit of a ‘delayed reaction’ on the part of the BC Liberal government (toward solving the pine beetle problem), however respondents in this poll would currently place more blame with the federal Liberal government. The overwhelming majority of respondents who are aware of the problem side with Forestry Minister Rich Coleman’s position that BC requires one billion dollars from the federal Liberal government NOW as part of national emergency compensation to the province. Neither Ms MacIntyre nor her Federation takes any position on this assertion by Rich Coleman.
ROBBINS has determined that tree growers in the province have the current capacity to grow approximately 300 million new trees in the province. The requirement according to experts is that 2 to 4 billion new trees must be grown over the next 4-5 years in this province. It is fair to say given the extent of the pine beetle problem in British Columbia that the implications for this problem will be devastating to the economy, notwithstanding the year to year problems with forestry ‘stortfalls’ in new trees.
In the same article the left of center Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives called on Victoria to spend $118 million a year for the next five years on research, reforestation, and restoration of beetle infested forests. This is not enough money, and research although always valuable, isn’t the best solution when time is of the extreme essence. The Pine Beetle problem is a 9-11 emergency.
Prior to 1993 the federal Progressive Conservative government under former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney provided significant federal dollars to British Columbia to help with reforestation and restoration in all areas of the province where there was planting shortfalls, particularly the northern and interior regions of the province, where ROBBINS has observed the devastation of the Pine Beetle. However residents in BC’s north and interior vote Conservative and this could impact on the federal government decision NOT to honour its obligation to the province.
The current Pine Beetle problem exacerbates any potential for conventional shortfalls experienced in the province and should be considered a national emergency for British Columbia, as it will likely take an additional $50 million peryear simply to grow the trees lost to the Pine Beetle forestry harvest alone. New trees generally require four to five years and there are currently no new contracts in place with tree growers in the province. Tree growers will only make provision to grow trees when the money is made available and not before. To solve this, a one-quarter of a billion dollar contract for tree growing alone is required TODAY to avoid a BC economic catastrophe TOMORROW.
Prime Minister Paul Martin could boost his ratings in this province by 5% (ROBBINS professional estimate) announcing a $200 million package over 4 years for new trees in the province. An initial investment to tree growers of $50 million dollars will provide significant political dividends for the Prime Minister. This money could be tied to emergency funding owing to the Pine Beetle infestation and contracts could be created directly with tree growers in this province. The Prime Minister could not be accused of snubbing the BC Liberal government because these funds would form part of an overall emergency program and would be similar to the type of funds provided by the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney.
If the Prime Minister does not seize this opportunity than conservative BC Liberal and Forestry Minister Rich Coleman can place virtually all blame on present and future economic implications relating to the Pine Beetle infestation, the softwood lumber issue, and forestry generally squarely on the federal Liberal government, leaving the door open to separate negotiations with Congress and the U.S. President’s Office. This sense of nationalizing BC’s economic interests will boost morale in the province, and make the federal Liberal government the scapegoat for any future economic problems, with negative implications for federal Liberal ambitions in the province during the next federal general election.
It is important to note that the U.S. Southern Democrat ‘lobby’ is mostly responsible for the softwood lumber fight, not U.S. President George W. Bush. The U.S. President was in no position to do anything prior to the last U.S. election because President Bush required the southern states to win. This is his last mandate and opportunities exist for provincial interests to be advanced at this time. It is also important to note that U.S. elected officials ‘on both sides of the aisle’ are not very pleased with Canada’s unwillingness to discuss ‘mutual security issues’ surrounding the border and coastline. This consideration also includes the recent Marc Emery extradition consideration on selling marijuana seeds to the U.S. What the U.S. wants to do is extradite Mr. Emery, try him in their courts, find him guilty and then get Canada to agree to let Mr. Emery serve the sentence in a Canadian jail, thereby de facto controlling the legalization of marijuana debate in this country. British Columbians are dumping hundreds of millions of dollars of pot in the U.S. and that country is as serious as a heart attack about securing its national interests at our border. The time for serious political diplomacy is at hand for BC, and Mr. Pettigrew and McKenna are not the people to get this job handled, as the U.S. Administration will continue to ignore the federal Liberal government.
Insight-The BC Liberal government has been the author of some of its own difficulties in terms of advertising and notification in this province. In terms of communicating with British Columbians they have performed terribly. Young people with communications degrees may not always be the best people to develop overall strategies to get the message out to the public. BC taxpayer money wasted in the run-up to the spring election has made the BC Liberal government overly skittish with regards to government advertising when it needs to get a 9-11 message regarding the pine beetle catastrophe out in the public domain IMMEDIATELY.
To be fair BC’s economy would be in even better shape if we had not lost billions of dollars to the U.S. relating to softwood lumber. The federal Liberal party did not do well to on this file. The softwood dispute is provoked by Southern Democrats not Republicans like President George W. Bush. An unwillingness on Ottawa’s part to discuss America’s strategies for national security plus insolent behaviour on the part of federal Liberal ideologues under Prime Ministers Chretien and Martin has made the U.S. government even more stubborn on this file. Appealing to World organizations that have also shown an unwillingness to negotiate with the United States will not help BC’s ability to recover billions and billions that could be lost forever, and taxpayers do not respond well to promises of accounts receivables. The BC government requires a made in BC solution to the problem. With many of BC’s new millionaires making their fortunes from the drug trade, and the United States completely fed up with Canadian policy on border security and other security measures between the two countries the BC Liberals should seriously consider sending Solicitor General John Les to the United States to visit with Congress.
Lost revenues to the BC government is in the hundreds of millions (billions). Lost revenues to forestry (our number one industry) is in the multiples of billions. If the pine beetle problem is not addressed immediately (this means federal government assistance not tokenism) we are in for a potential collapse in our economy in the next five years. Is a federal Conservative government more likely to BC get back those billions of dollars lost than a federal Liberal government is? Perhaps they could advise us?
Forestry Minister Rich Coleman needs to develop a notification and advertising strategy on the Pine Beetle file, beginning with an address on television outlining the whole of the pine beetle problem. This message should be followed up and continued through all elements of medium including radio, television, and newspapers. The Internet should also be employed more strategically as a form of communication to ensure that all British Columbians are aware how important this issue is.* In return for paid advertising, BC broadcasters should allocate a portion of their ‘goodwill’ time to assist with ‘getting the message out’.
A federal election is coming up in six months or so and with the Bloc Quebecois set to take most of the seats in that province, the federal Liberals and Conservatives are set to fight over the remaining seats, (net of the NDP), or 210-230 seats. The federal Liberals are likely to lose one half of their seats in Quebec and the gains they might make in Ontario and the Maritimes are likely to be insufficient to make up for the losses in Quebec. Gains for the federal Liberal government in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are slim to none making BC a ‘must gain’ province for the federal Liberals. There are approximately 5-6 additional seats the Liberals might win in BC and most of these are located in Vancouver,and Coquitlam, Burnaby, and Surrey.
The federal Liberals need to come up with at least another 250 million dollars linked (at a minimum) to securing tree growing contracts (not general revenues), and Forestry Minister Rich Coleman needs to force the federal government’s hand with the aforementioned campaign which would require at least $250,000 of BC taxpayers money. There are hundreds of millions to billions of dollars of British Columbia economic interests on the line.

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