B.C. replaces top Forestry Ministry official

The B.C. government has abruptly replaced its top forestry official amid what it calls changing priorities for its forest policies.

Tim Sheldan, deputy minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, was removed from the job on Monday by Premier John Horgan’s deputy minister, Don Wright, who is head of the civil service.

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“Making changes at the deputy minister level are always difficult calls to make,” Wright wrote in an internal email obtained by Postmedia News.

“Sometimes, as circumstances and priorities change, a change in direction is required. Sometimes that means changes at the executive level. In that context, by way of mutual agreement and as part of Tim’s overall career management plan, it is with very mixed emotions that I let you know that Tim Sheldan is leaving the B.C. Public Service.”

Sheldan’s departure was effective immediately, Wright wrote. Such a quick change, with no transition time for a successor, is often the sign of termination, though Sheldan spoke of retirement in his own internal message to colleagues.

Sheldan spoke on behalf of the province at the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers in Halifax last week on the issue of Indigenous partnerships in forestry. His public service career spans 30 years in B.C., Alberta and Ottawa.

The government would not comment on the nature of Sheldan’s departure, citing personnel privacy, but said changes in leadership are a normal part of running an organization.

John Allan, a former deputy minister, most recently under the NDP government in the 1990s, was appointed the new deputy minister of forests on Monday. Allan is a former head of the Council of Forest Industries, B.C. Lumber Trade Council and a past executive of the Canadian Lumber Trade Alliance.

The B.C. NDP government had employed Allan in 2017 as a lobbyist consultant to talk with federal government officials on the issue of the softwood lumber dispute with the United States. This year, the province hired Allan to begin consultations on a new coast forestry revitalization plan.

The shakeup at the top of the Ministry of Forests signals shifting policies in the Horgan government.

The speech from the throne in February signalled that the government will begin restoring the requirement that timber harvested from Crown land be processed in a mill near that community. That policy would tie the location of the trees to nearby mills, thereby providing local jobs and economic development. The NDP government tried the policy in the 1990s, but it was abolished by the Liberal government in 2003. The Liberals argued wood should not be forced to locally designated mills if it could be put to better use elsewhere.

“We have lost, I believe, the connection between resources and communities over the past number of years,” Horgan said in February. “I want to re-establish that relationship.”

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