The Forest Industry Has Not Been Heard
VANCOUVER, BC – Today is a disheartening day for the evolution of BC’s forestry sector following government’s announcement about old-growth deferrals.
Make no mistake, based on the limited information provided by government, the deferral of 2.6 million hectares of deemed at-risk forests will in fact result in immediate and long-term impacts on BC’s forestry sector. Government’s estimated 4,500 jobs lost will likely be far higher, plus associated shuttering of multiple sawmills and value-added plants, and will cause billions of dollars in lost GDP to the province along with the associated loss of government revenues.
But that is just part of the story.
This announcement sends the message to the multi-generations of BC’s born and raised forestry workers who have dedicated their lives to running independent, innovative small and medium-sized business that continue to reinvest in BC and support a sustainable industry that they are not a priority to this government. Government appears to have completely ignored that they provide tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity and revenues to help fund health care and education to 140 communities in this province.
For months, the Truck Loggers Association and many others who represent the forestry sector have requested to meet with government and have recommended we work towards having a collaborative discussion with all stakeholders to find a solution that works for everyone. There were many viable options to find a balance that most people in our province could support. Current old-growth harvesting represents only a fraction of the current 11.4 million hectares of old forests, of which over 75% is already protected or outside the timber harvesting land base. This announcement sends a clear message that the forest industry does not have a voice, we have not been heard, and our input is not important.
Furthermore, it is incomprehensible that a parallel socio-economic analysis to quantify the impact to people, families, communities, and the sector had not been done prior to this decision. From our perspective, this is absolutely unacceptable.
Several recent independent reports by highly regarded industry consultants have warned government about the devastating impacts old-growth logging deferrals will have on the industry. Today’s announcement indicates they were not at all taken into consideration.
The truth is hardworking BC residents and communities will be impacted immediately by government’s decision. While today’s announcement indicated some potential support programs, they fall very short of the requirements to support people and communities. Notably, compensation for affected workers and contractors was not mentioned. Our members are good people who want to work; instead, they’ll be faced with losing their businesses, their homes and will be challenged with feeding their families.
In a broader context, today’s decision will decidedly setback the forestry sector’s investment climate and the desire for BC’s entrepreneurs to move the value-added sector forward. Regarding our viability, this decision will greatly exacerbate BC’s already unacceptable cost structures through the ripple effects of a further restricted operational land base.
We will continue to advocate for policies and decisions that move our people, sector, and communities progressively forward. The question is whether government will care to start listening.