BC’s jobs minister recently addressed media in Prince George about pandemic recovery and suggested more people are working today than prior to the pandemic, and our northern capital is leading the way. What wasn’t addressed in any meaningful way is the very real impact of thousands of potential job losses in the forest sector. These jobs will be lost because of government policy changes that include vast and immediate deferrals of BC’s operating forest land base and concurrent sweeping regulatory changes putting thousands of forest workers at risk with consequential impacts to forest dependent communities.
Mr. Kahlon suggests a future challenge will be creating opportunities for those who will lose their jobs in the forest sector and ensure they have access to skills training so they may be able to take employment opportunities in other industries.
The challenge is incredibly understated. Forestry jobs support families and communities with a living wage that is 60% higher than the provincial average. The impact of these job losses will be immense to each family that is affected, directly and indirectly on businesses, and to the economies of resource communities like Prince George.
The minister also suggested the way we have been harvesting our forests is not sustainable when he should know better. For decades, BC has proudly had more independently certified forests than anywhere else in the world and its own government’s chief forester is who sets that allowable annual cut.
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.
While British Columbia enjoys the luxury of a strong economy today, we all know it’s cyclical and there will come a time when the economy will require 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, today and in the future.
Bob Brash is a Registered Professional Forester and Executive Director of the Truck Loggers Association of BC