An “evolving” three-point NDP plan to renew the forest sector will include raw log export restrictions, the re-instatement of a jobs commissioner and aggressive reforestation, North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena says.
Trevena made her remarks at a United Steelworkers (USW) sponsored town hall meeting in Campbell River at which the Liberal government’s “neglect” of forest sector issues was a recurring theme. The NDP has come under fire for not being specific enough about its policy agenda.
Trevena’s plan was in lockstep with a USW five-point plan outlined at the meeting by union officer Scott Lunny.
Trevena said: “On the North Island we can see the effects of 11 years of government policy. We have an immensely wealthy resource in our forests and we have no control of it anymore. The companies control the (Crown) land base and they have been allowed to get away with closing all the mills. Gold River is gone, Tahsis is gone, Campbell River went…what’s left north of Nanaimo?”
With respect to raw log exports Trevena said the Liberal forests minister has overruled his committee no less than 85 times in cases where it was recommended that raw logs be processed domestically rather than shipped to Asia.
Lunny, who is the only union representative on that committee, confirmed that the minister has not followed the committee’s recommendations “a whole bunch of times.” In one case, he said, there was a domestic company prepared to pay a fair price to purchase a shipment of raw logs, but the minister rejected the committee’s desire to keep the logs here in B.C.
The USW five-point plan includes: An “equivalency fee” to discourage raw log exports and encourage domestic manufacturing; a measure to capture raw logs on private forest lands; a reform of the stumpage system to shift “resources rents” down the processing chain; an investment fund using Softwood Lumber Agreement revenues and other fees to renew manufacturing capacity; and, reforestation strategy to renew the resource and create jobs.
Darrel Wong, president of USW Local 1-1937, told the meeting B.C. must reform the forest sector if it expects to take advantage of a U.S. housing rebound.
“The projected housing starts in the U.S. over the next two years are up in the range of 1.5 to two million,” Wong said. “That is where we start making significant money. Now the issue for us is actually getting more manufacturing jobs out of that because we have reduced the number of manufacturing facilities on the coast.”