‘I don’t want to be just a rubber stamp’: Whalley

When Western Forest Products’ advisory committee sits down to meet for the first time in nine months, the Strathcona Regional District will not be participating.

Area A Director Gerald Whalley, who has been the regional district’s representative on MIFLAG (Mid-Land Forest Lands Advisory Group) for seven years, said he had no desire to attend the meetings under the new Terms of Reference created by Western.

“Western has changed the Terms of Reference so that it gives them the authority to arbitrarily change the Terms of Reference and it also gives them the authority to remove any member of MIFLAG that they wish,” Whalley said.

“They have no intention of meeting the requirements we need to have a democratic group. I think we’re just wasting our time.

“I don’t want to just be a rubber stamp,” he added. “If you disagree, you’re out. They’ll just appoint members that are sympathetic to them.”

While the new Terms of Reference do allow Western to approve or reject an agency’s representative to MIFLAG, they also include a new code of conduct.

Amy Spencer, spokesperson for Western Forest Products, said the new terms were drawn up after an internal review “determined that MIFLAG was not functional, was getting stuck on issues, and it wasn’t productive use of time for all members.”

The Terms of Reference were drawn up based on that review and an investigation conducted by SAI Global which was triggered by Whalley appealing Western’s clean audit findings.

Whalley launched the appeal following his eviction from a Sept. 22 meeting of MIFLAG – a group that, as part of Western’s certification, advises the company on sustainable forest management practises.

Whalley said he angered the foresters by appealing the audit after an incident at a previous meeting, on July 28.

Whalley said a motion to allow Western to increase its allowable use of herbicides in the Sayward Valley by three times was declared carried following a vote of six in favour and four opposed. Whalley contests that it should have failed according to MIFLAG’s original terms of reference.

Since Whalley’s eviction from that September meeting, MIFLAG has not met while Western worked toward new Terms of Reference and the SAI investigation was underway.

But on Monday, Spencer said Western is in the process of scheduling its first meeting since the incident, for June 14. Spencer said all of the MIFLAG members, other than the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) and one or two that the company has not been able to reach, have agreed to proceed with the new Terms of Reference.

Whalley said an invite to the June MIFLAG meeting was sent out earlier this week to all members except for him.

Spencer, though, said Western intends to keep the lines of communication open with the regional district.

“We are always available to discuss concerns the regional district might have, and we will certainly make an effort to continue correspondence with SRD in the future,” Spencer said.

“We respect their decision to not participate.”