WHENEVER the northwest political history of the last decade is written, provincial Liberal cabinet minister Pat Bell, who announced last week he won’t be running again in May because of a heart condition, will go down as the best friend the region never knew it had.
And that stems from Mr. Bell’s so-far unrealized plan, when he became forests minister in 2009, of stimulating the northwest forest industry by pooling wood supplies in order to attract customers.
It was an ambitious plan, some claim perhaps too ambitious. At its heart, the plan would have resulted in a supermarket of wood supplies, a one-stop shopping centre of all types of wood gathered in central places to make it more easily available to large and small value-added industries of various kinds.
Mr. Bell took a non-partisan approach to the project. Until he became a cabinet minister Mr. Bell never had cause to even visit here. Since then, it’s a safe bet to say Mr. Bell has probably visited here more times than any other provincial cabinet minister since the Liberals were first elected in 2001.
More cynical political observers will point out there’s every reason to believe the provincial Liberals will be defeated this May, meaning Mr. Bell’s days of being a cabinet minister would end regardless. But he was probably the only one sitting around the cabinet table who could find northwestern B.C. on a map.