BC’s New Democratic Party (NDP) has organized a forestry tour to discuss proposals to reduce raw log exports, obtain more value from forests and stabilize the industry.
Two members of the party’s forestry committee, Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali and North Island MLA Claire Trevena, along with Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons, visited Rick Hopper, owner of Country Woodworkers, in Powell River during the first leg of the tour, which had stops on Vancouver Island and the Lower Sunshine Coast as well. They discussed what provincial government policy could support Hopper’s business.
The overall goal of the committee is to see how existing jobs in the forest industry can be protected, Lali said, as well as at the same time find out how more jobs can be created in value-added manufacturing and other areas. “It’s a two-way dialogue,” he said. “We want to find out what are the issues, what are the problems that they’re facing and what are some of the solutions that they’re proposing. At the same time, we’ll be giving them information, what our stand is on various issues.”
Data released by the government indicates that raw log exports went up by 58 per cent between 2010 and 2011, with the bulk of the increase going to mills in China. More than 40 per cent of logs from the coast in 2011 were exported.
As well, John Doyle, BC’s auditor general, issued a report about the government’s management of provincial forests. The report concluded the government failed to properly monitor and maintain BC’s timber supply and hasn’t properly replanted the forests or halted the loss of species diversity.
Lali said the auditor general’s report is “a damning indictment of the record of the BC Liberals over the last 11 years. It’s very specific in actually pointing the finger at the lack of resources in the forests’ ministry, that is the stewardship of our forests, and maintaining the sustainability of our forest resource.”
Even though they are just at the beginning of the tour, Trevena said one of the issues that is coming out very clearly is the need to have a solid apprentice program again in BC. There are people on the coast who want to work, but have to leave their communities because of the lack of jobs, she added. “One of the reasons there aren’t jobs here is that people aren’t being trained,” she said. “People working in the bush are aging out. We need to get young people trained there, we need to get young people trained for value added, so businesses like this really can thrive.”
There are a lot of things that can make the forest industry renewed and strong, Simons said. “We continue to exchange ideas with people in various sectors,” he said. “I hope that members of the forestry working group will come back and talk to others, because there are so many people that could be part of renewing our forest industry.”
The forestry tour will travel the province over the next four months.