B.C. Liberals are once again throwing punches at the NDP government over the plight of forestry workers in rural areas of the province.
In a press release issued today (Nov. 27), Cariboo and Nechako MLAs are calling out Premier John Horgan for his “silence” as the forestry industry suffers with reduced timber supply.
“Every day we are seeing more and more jobs vanish in rural and northern British Columbia with mill closures due to a shortage of timber supply,” said Rural Development critic and Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “I see Premiers Notley and Ford making a lot of noise on behalf of people threatened with either temporary or permanent lay-offs and yet our Premier chooses silence rather than demanding answers and support for the families here in B.C. facing tough times.”
Mills across Northern and Interior B.C. have been forced to close or reduce shifts due to the timber shortage.
West Fraser announced Nov. 13 that it would be permanently reducing production in both its Quesnel and Fraser Lake sawmills as of Jan. 14, 2019, to better align its output with available fibre.
Tolko’s Questwood Division in Quesnel also curtailed operations as of mid-October due to market conditions, and Conifex in Fort St. James announced it will shut down for at least four weeks as of Monday Nov. 12. Canfor in Prince George has curtailed its sawmill production as well.
“When rural B.C. industry suffers, so do our communities,” said Small Business Critic and MLA for Cariboo North Coralee Oakes. “Places like Quesnel and Williams Lake depend on workers and their families to support them. Small businesses like logging contractors, truck drivers, welding shops are all affected when a mill closes or is curtailed.”
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations critic and MLA for Nechako Lakes John Rustad said the Liberals are “disappointed that we have heard nothing from the NDP on any plan to meet with the federal government to ask for support for the mass layoffs due to mill closures this fall.”
In an interview with the Observer earlier this month, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development Doug Donaldson said the NDP government is merely picking up the slack from the Liberals, and pointed to the NDP government’s funding for forestry-sector revitalization initiatives, including projects in Quesnel.
Donaldson said he is headed to Korea, China and Japan in early December with B.C.’s forestry sector leaders to further efforts to diversify the market.