Black Press file photo

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

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Design work continues for planned new hospital

Construction contract still in the works

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Some Canadians are finding butter harder than usual, resulting in an avalanche of social media controversy around #buttergate. (Brett Williams/The Observer)
#Buttergate: Concerns around hard butter hit small B.C. towns and beyond

Canadians find their butter was getting harder, blame palm oil in part one of this series

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Anti-pipeline protests continue in Greater Vancouver, with the latest happening Thursday, March 4 at a Trans Mountain construction site in Burnaby. (Facebook/Laurel Dykstra)
A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer

The group arrived early Thursday, planning to ‘block any further work’

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

(Government of B.C.)

Most Read