A new forest sector

Our need to have a definitive plan to revitalize B.C.’s forest sector has been lost in the political noise reverberating around us just now.

Our need to have a definitive plan to revitalize B.C.’s forest sector has been lost in the political noise reverberating around us just now.

As a result of forest-policy changes, the pine-beetle epidemic and changes in the marketplace, B.C.’s traditional forest sector is returning minimal benefits to government and communities and is employing the fewest workers in its long history as one of B.C.’s key economic drivers.

Fortunately, an exciting opportunity exists which can revitalize the traditional forest sector, add whole new manufacturing opportunities with good paying jobs, and enable us to re-invest in our forests. This new opportunity is also one of the best ways to truly address the challenge of climate change.

In a recent study commissioned by the Forest Productions Association of Canada, FP Innovations presents a “blueprint that would see the (forest) industry lead the world in innovation and give Canada an advantage in world markets.”  A world market estimated to be as much as $200 billion.

The opportunity: bio-products made from wood fibers. In addition to traditional forest products, potential bio-products include: clothing, plastics, aerospace components, tires, fuels and oils, pharmaceuticals, and bio-active paper products for the health industry.

The benefits would also extend to our forests, as this new bio-industry would allow us to maximize the use of wood waste being left in the bush while enabling us to manage forest ecosystems in a way which could make them more adaptable to a changing climate.

What we need is the political leadership to seize the moment.

This week I wrote to the premier and the leader of the Opposition asking them to put partisanship aside and host a leader’s summit on the bio-economy as soon as possible. Taking a deliberate, non-partisan approach toward seizing this opportunity would send a very positive signal to investors that B.C. is seriously committed to becoming the world leader in this emerging sector.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.