By Bob Brash
There appears to be a sense of complacency among many politicians and residents in British Columbia that the province no longer needs to rely on the forest sector as it traditionally has – when it fact, it remains a key contributor to the provincial economy.
As British Columbia’s population has experienced significant growth in urban areas, an increasing number of residents are disconnected from the forest sector. For many, the industry is viewed through a lens of the early days, decades ago when harvesting was not as sustainable as it is today. And of course, there are those who have succumbed to the misleading information advanced by some environmental lobby organizations.
So, when the government defers 2.6 million hectares of old growth and gives itself the power to change or end timber licences, determine what compensation may be paid to forest companies – if any, and redistribute Crown logging rights to community and Indigenous land title holders, it’s no surprise that the only cries of outrage come from those who are being impacted. But BC’s residents should be outraged too.
The recent BC Budget showed revenues from forestry are expected to decline by nearly $1 billion over the next few years, during which the allowable annual cut will be reduced from 45 million cubic metres in 2021 to 38.5 million cubic metres by 2023 — a decline of 6.5 million cubic metres.
We understand and support the desire by government to establish a new vision for forestry and address society’s expectations of BC’s forest management, particularly when it comes to establishing a real partnership between industry and First Nations. However, we have serious concerns about what appears to be a sense that thousands of forest sector jobs can be eliminated and there won’t be significant financial and social implications.
Natural resources account for more than 50% of BC’s economic base, and forestry leads all other sectors in contributing 18% to BC’s economy, supporting vital government services and programs for all British Columbians. Forestry jobs also support families and communities with a living wage that is 60% higher than the provincial average.
While British Columbia enjoys the luxury of a strong economy today, we all know there will come a time when the economy requires all sectors to be firing at capacity, and it is then that the decisions being made today may come back to haunt us.
A strong forest sector is essential to BC’s strong economy.