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Question Period (14 May 2008)

From Hansard - 14 May 2008

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Forest Fire Fighting Policy

Mr. Belanger: — Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Agriculture recently confirmed what many people had been thinking about the Saskatchewan Party. He said, and I quote, “In opposition I could say just about anything I wanted and I did on a lot of occasions for 12 years.”

Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Party had a lot to say about forest fire policy when they were in opposition. They said that the government’s policy was dangerous and needed to be changed, but now that they’re in government it hasn’t, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of the Environment. Why did you fake concern about forest fire policy in northern Saskatchewan for votes?

Hon. Ms. Heppner: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I thank the member for his question. I have looked at the fire strategy that’s in place, and under the previous administration there’s a 20-kilometre buffer that was used as a wall. No action was being taken before that 20 kilometres.

I have ensured the fire branch that they understand that there is flexibility to act before that 20-kilometre radius is breached. Our main focus is the safety and protection of communities, and we have made sure that the fire branch understands that they have the flexibility to act when they see fit and don’t have to wait for the 20-kilometre buffer, as opposed to the practice under the previous administration.

Mr. Belanger: — Mr. Speaker, some people trusted the Saskatchewan Party and some people experimented with them, and now they’re finding out that that experiment was terrible and it’s over, Mr. Speaker.

In an article prepared by the Missinipe Broadcasting Corporation titled “Let It Burn Policy Still Mostly Intact,” the reporters observed that, Mr. Speaker, quote, “Despite repeatedly criticizing the previous NDP government’s forest fire policy, it appears [that] the new Saskatchewan Party government has made minimal changes . . .” This is from the media, Mr. Speaker. Suddenly the Saskatchewan Party doesn’t see northern forest fire policy as such a burning issue.

To the minister, Mr. Speaker: will the Saskatchewan Party just admit that their complaints are all smoke and mirrors? Will they admit that on forest fires, like in so many other areas, they are all talk and no action, Mr. Speaker?

Hon. Ms. Heppner: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I appreciate the member’s concern over the North and the forests that are there. And I would point out that I was pretty shocked to be approached by a First Nation community not so long ago about jet fuel tanks being dumped in the forest under the previous administration. And when they approached the NDP government to clean up those fuel tanks, they were told no, that it was far too expensive. That’s the former government’s approach to our northern forests and protection of those forests. I can assure the member opposite that under this administration those fuel tanks were cleaned up, and that practice will not happen here.

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