Lack of planning is going to kill B.C.’s forestry industry, contends NDP forests critic Norm Macdonald.
Macdonald and the New Democrat caucus’ forestry committee met with more than a dozen stakeholders on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast last week, including Port Alberni, on the first leg of a province-wide tour.
The tour is in response to Auditor General John Doyle’s audit of government management of timber, released last week. The audit found the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has not clearly defined its timber objectives, and as a result cannot ensure that its management practices are effective.
“We heard deep concern about the resource and that so much of it is leaving the area without the opportunity to get the value for it. It’s out of balance,” he said.
The BC Liberals cannot come up with a solution for dealing with raw log exports because they have no idea what the scope of the industry is—something the auditor general agreed with, Macdonald said. The government does not have any data on the nearly two-thirds of 95 million hectares in the province that is forested. If there is no way of measuring the scope, there is no way of getting an accurate picture of the industry, he said.
“It’s clear that people who understand the forest industry know that we need a new strategy for forestry.”
Alberni-Pacific Rim NDP MLA Scott Fraser said a tour of Alberni Pacific Division (APD) sawmill drove home the issue of raw log exports in B.C. and how they are affecting jobs.
“The reality in Port Alberni is for every boatload of finished product, five or six are raw logs. And the best of the best of the logs,” he said.
What the NDP is hearing is the balance between finished and raw log exports is gone, Macdonald said. Thirty mills on B.C.’s coast have closed, yet 82 have opened in China so they can deal with the raw product coming out of Canada.
Macdonald advocates the creation of a job protection commissioner to work with companies and find solutions to keep the wood local.
“We need to find the balance again,” Fraser agreed.
“Only after every job has been squeezed out of that log for British Columbians, only then should exporting be allowed,” Fraser said.
The NDP caucus committee continues its tour this week in Surrey, Merritt and Kamloops.