No doubt John Horgan cracked a beer and sat down last Friday for the season opener of Big Timber. Consider it the BC Premier’s dirty little secret.
This History Channel series follows Ken Wenstob, owner of Sooke-based Wenstob Timber, and his crew as they blast logging roads and log old-growth trees off steep slopes about 30 km northwest of Port Alberni.
There’s nothing new here. Big Timber continues in the tradition of other reality TV shows that glorify the macho, nature-conquering pursuits of their mostly male stars.
You’ve seen it before with the Alaskan crab fisherman on Deadliest Catch or gold miners on Yukon Gold.
This time, it’s Wenstob’s crew logging on Klitsa Mountain, which rises above the west end of Sproat Lake just south of the highway between Port Alberni and Tofino.
The timing of the show’s release could not be more ironic, given how Premier Horgan’s thin green veneer is slowly being pealed way.
Despite his election promise, Horgan has failed to act on the 14 recommendations made by the Old Growth Strategic Review, a two-person panel that his government created. Instead, he appointed yet another panel.
While waffling on old growth, Horgan is also quietly overseeing one of the biggest – and most expensive – deployments of police power in Canadian history. All to help one company log old-growth trees in Fairy Creek.
It’s literally in Horgan’s backyard, the riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca, that he represents in the legislature.
Though he likes to talk green, Horgan’s true colours are more Big Timber.
The show’s ridiculous yee haw, get ‘er done dialogue is, not surprisingly, sprinkled liberally with bleeped out F-bombs. That’s just in case viewers need to be persuaded that these heroic lumberjacks are engaged in a courageous and colourful battle with the rugged forests of Vancouver Island.
The choice of Wenstob as the focus of Big Timber fools nobody.
He comes across as a poor imitation of the cigar-chomping Colonel Quaritch who led the assault on the sacred forest in Avatar. Big Timber depicts him as a small-scale logger and owner of one of the last independent sawmills on VanIsle.
But sadly, it’s business as usual on the ground—a bunch of dudes whacking down big trees on steep mountainsides. As a result, the slopes are left prone to future landslides, erosion, and ecological destruction.
Big Timber is meant to be a gritty celebration of hard work in the backwoods of BC.
Instead, it comes off as a cruel parody—an indictment of John Horgan’s failure to show any leadership on old-growth.
Big Timber presents a snapshot of an outdated, whack ’em down-as-fast-we-can model of forestry. It captures it well.
Although it’s showing on the History Channel, unfortunately, the world it depicts is all too real in the present.