Black Press file photo

Province not doing enough for forestry sector, say Liberals

Although Minister of Forests says government working to diversify industry, rural economies

The B.C. Liberals have called out the provincial government for not doing enough in the wake of the Interior’s declining timber supply and log prices.

In a news release issued today (Nov. 15), Cariboo and Nechako Lakes MLAs said the local forestry industry has been “ignored.”

“There are already hundreds of forestry workers out of work in the Cariboo, and I know those who are still working are very worried about their future,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “The last two wildfire seasons have been devastating and we are in desperate need of an economic recovery program for the whole of rural and northern B.C.”

Forestry workers across the region have seen layoffs due to both decreased timber supply and market conditions. Most recently, 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.

READ MORE: West Fraser to permanently reduce production in Quesnel, Fraser Lake

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.

The decrease in timber is largely due to the now dwindling supply of salvageable logs affected by Mountain Pine Beetle, as well as the Interior’s forests being hit hard by two years of wildfires. The lumber market has been hit by high tariffs from the US.

“Punitive tariffs on softwood lumber are a bad recipe for the industry going forward,” said Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes. “Workers in my riding have been hit the hardest so far and I am afraid of more to come. We need to stabilize the industry in the interim and have a long-term strategy to deal with the challenges that come from nature including wildfires and beetle infestations.”

“The current government has virtually ignored the softwood lumber dispute largely because of demand south of the border,” said Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad. “We are now paying the price in terms of layoffs. While NAFTA was being renegotiated, the steel, aluminum and auto industries had a voice in government but the forest industry was left largely ignored.”

Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development Doug Donaldson refuted the claim that the current government has ignored the softwood lumber dispute, saying the previous Liberal government allowed the agreement to expire.

“It’s inaccurate to say that we’ve been ignoring the softwood lumber agreement. It’s something that expired under the watch of the BC Liberals, and we’ve picked up the slack since then,” he told the Observer.

“We are doing a lot of work on the softwood lumber dispute front. We are pursuing litigation through the World Trade Organization and the NAFTA process. We’ve won in the courts before, that the tariffs are unwarranted and unjust,” he said.

With regards to the recent mill layoffs, Minister Donaldson said his thoughts go out to the workers and their families.

“We’ve initiated, through our Rural Development Branch, measures to help workers out,” he said, explaining that his ministry has been working closely with the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction, which oversees WorkBC centres.

“There’s definitely retraining opportunities and I know, for instance, many mills – even as they lay off staff in the regular mill jobs – they are still short on tradespeople, so that’s the focus; we want to look for opportunities for people to stay in the community,” said Donaldson.

Donaldson also pointed to the recent Rural Dividend Grant awarded to the City of Quesnel to help fund its forestry-sector revitalization initiatives, saying his ministry is aware of the need to revamp the sector, as well as to help rural communities diversify their economies.

“We have allocated $1.6 million to promote tourism in the Interior areas affected by forest fires in 2017, the same areas where we’ve expedited 2.4 million cubic metres of fire damaged timber and fire salvage licences.”

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.



editor@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

`

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

IH requests funding support from CCRHD for Williams Lake and 100 Mile House

$1.355,420 request would support projects at CMH, OMH and Fischer Place

$10,000 for Gold Rush Trails marketing video and Billie Bouchie Day celebrations

‘We were very impressed by the calibre of both projects’

Walmart pharmacy offering free blood pressure and glucose screening tests Saturday

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Walmart pharmacists will be answering lakecity’s health realated questions

Williams Lake Spinners, Weavers and Fibre Artists to host knitting event Saturday

Knitting group meeting Saturday, Jan. 18 at the arts centres in Williams Lake

Cold weather has School District 27 cancelling some Chilcotin bus routes Friday

It is -30C at Tatlayoko Lake Friday morning, Jan. 17

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Crown won’t appeal sentence in child sex assault case of former Burns Lake mayor

B.C. Prosecution Service said sentence doesn’t meet standard for appeal

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

B.C. offers $5 million equipment loan program to help ailing forest contractors

Local politicians in Port McNeill and Campbell River says local economies are struggling

Vancouver Island distillery wins award for best Canadian rye whisky

Shelter Point cleans up at Canadian Whisky Awards

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Most Read