David Eby supports creating an all-party committee to implement police reform in B.C., but did not say if he endorses the recommendation that a provincial force be created to replace the RCMP on Saturday.
A report published in April made 11 suggested changes to the Police Act, among them that B.C. have its own police service similar to those in Ontario and Quebec.
Eby, who is one of two candidates vying to replace Premier John Horgan as leader of the B.C. NDP, was non-committal when asked about the recommendation during a campaign stop in Nelson.
Instead he promised to act on another of the report’s recommendations, that an all-party committee be established to implement changes.
“I have confidence that if we strike an all-party committee on the implementation of this report that they’ll come to the appropriate conclusions about how best to transition our policing, because we know we have to,” he said.
Systemic racism in policing, mental health training and hiring diversity were among the topics listed by the report as areas to make improvements on.
“These are complicated issues. They shouldn’t be politicized if we can avoid it. Law enforcement, by police and by courts, needs to be non-partisan. And so if we can have all parties around the table on implementing that report, I think we’ll get to the right solution.”
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said at the time of its release that consultation with Indigenous partners, community and harm-reduction groups and police would begin late this summer.
Eby, who stepped down as B.C.’s attorney general and the housing minister to announce his leadership bid in July, is the presumptive favourite to replace Horgan. The premier said in June he would step down following treatment for throat cancer as well as a COVID-19 infection.
The only other candidate running against Eby so far is climate and human rights activist Anjali Appadurai. Voting begins in November prior to the NDP announcing its new leader Dec. 3.
A small gathering of people at Nelson’s Lakeside Park discussed several topics with Eby including forestry.
One speaker asked Eby about the professional reliance model, which was introduced by the B.C. Liberals in 2000s and allows timber companies and their consultants to make independent land-use decisions that had previously been under the authority of ministry scientists.
Eby said professional reliance has its place in certain areas and suggested it was a benefit to the provincial housing file. But he did add the government’s decisions shouldn’t only be informed by data gathered from the forestry industry.
Two scientists told the Nelson Star in early August that some old-growth management areas in the Kootenays have little to no ancient stands, while others nearby are logged despite having old-growth trees.
“I think that our government doesn’t have sufficient information, we don’t have sufficient maps and detailed information about the ecosystems and about our old growth that we have remaining left in the province,” said Eby.
Eby added the government’s current focus is to ensure the protection of 2.6-million hectares of old-growth forest it had previously announced would be deferred from logging.
The forestry ministry has said there are approximately 11.1 million hectares of old growth in B.C., but Eby didn’t say if more forest would be added to the government’s current commitments or if those deferrals might eventually become permanently protected land.
“Forestry is going to be part of our province’s economy for many years to come. It’s a sustainable industry and it’s the pride of our province. But we need to make sure that we’re using logs to create jobs here and we need to make sure that it is truly sustainable.”