The recent counting of votes in the U.S. has overshadowed a similar process taking place in B.C.
While there was not much of a change here compared to our southern neighbours it did confirm that we have a majority government under the NDP. New majorities bring expectations of changes to be made. A recent Logging and Sawmilling article by Jim Stirling describes the restlessness of B.C. forest communities for changes that will bring more stability to their communities.
Stirling describes the tension between forest companies attempts to remain competitive and the social responsibility for the communities from which the resource is coming. While Mackenzie was mentioned specifically many other cities could relate to the description of the issues they have been experiencing. “They’ve lost jobs and futures as the town’s three major forest industry employers have been alternatively shut down, experienced lengthy closures and been subjected to unrelenting uncertainty. Reasons for the extended misery include shortages of suitable commodity lumber wood sources, erratic markets, high production costs and political interference.”
The author later describes the politics as when the previous Liberal provincial government changed the rules to allow licences to process wood originating from their assigned cutting areas in sawmills most advantageous to them. Canfor and other forest companies are simply exercising that right and they would be reluctant to relinquish that flexibility.
Stirling suggests a couple of approaches for the new majority government. Instruct senior forest ministry staff to re-examine parts of the B.C. tenure system to better address the social contract issues may well as reinforce the forest industry’s competitive foundation to settle on the size of our working forest and lock it in as proposed by the B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI).
While I support some of these suggestions there will need to be some flexibility of movement of forest fibre especially some smaller volumes associated with deciduous trees going to specialty mills and small log sizes and residual material to OSB, pulp mills and bio energy plants.
In my opinion the government could also work on long term plans like infrastructure of industrial level hydro, improved roads and possibly rail to some isolated communities like the Chilcotin. As an example , what is the latest status of the road connecting Anahim Lake to Vanderhoof.
While politics is still fresh in our minds, I have been thinking of how do we educate the voters to see through some of the campaign promises that often lead to situations like the one described above .
The dropping of the processing clause may not have been an election promise but I do recall some recent promises to reduce stumpage as a way to encourage the forest industry and this was at a time when the lumber prices were the highest on record.
Unfortunately getting reliable information may get worse before it gets better which is being made worse with the increasing gap between the rich and poor , the exposure of fake news along with an ever expanding number of information sources. .
While some of the U.S. election issues are unique to them we would be advised to at least become familiar with the potential of fake news and conspiracy theories as described in a Jeff Orlowski film “The Social Dilemma.”
Closer to home author Ron Deibert, (professor of political science and director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto), explains how social media and big tech companies may be undermining democracy in his new book called Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.