Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett and Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb embrace local logging contractors at the Rally to Vancouver protest last year. Dozens of residents from the Cariboo took part in the truck rally to bring attention to the struggles and job loss of forestry workers in the region. (Scott Nelson photo)

COLUMNS: Forest workers need help not restrictions

When the NDP went to great lengths to announce a $69 million fund aimed at assisting forest workers

When the NDP went to great lengths to announce a $69 million fund aimed at assisting displaced forest workers through the current crisis, most workers took the government at its word.

Little did we know that none of this was new money, but rather a re-allocation of existing funds from other programs and government departments.

What’s worse, is that the program is not what was previously advertised.

The vast majority of the funds were to establish an early retirement bridge program for older forestry workers.

When the program was announced, applicants were told that they couldn’t work in the forest industry for a period of 18 months.

Then all of a sudden, the NDP changed their minds and the program quietly adopted new rules that prevent applicants from working any job as an employee – period.

Read More: Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Barnett will not run in 2021 B.C. election

For those who have had to struggle financially through this crisis, the government’s move is another devastating blow.

I made a point of raising the issue with Labour Minister Harry Bains during Question Period at the Legislature.

Unfortunately, I didn’t receive much of answer, other than the minister telling me that less than 250 people have benefitted from the program.

What this says to me is that people want to continue working in the industry and are not ready to give up so easily.

I am therefore asking people to write or call my office and let us know if you have been adversely affected by the rule change.

I will do my best to try and convince the government to allow people the right to work, even if it is outside the forest industry.

What we need is a much more effective program that will actually help people rather than hold them down with further restrictions.

It is the fair thing to do.

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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