A new report showing a bleak outlook for the lodgepole pine is the latest example of why the B.C. Liberal do-nothing approach to forestry will cost jobs long into the future, say the New Democrats.
A study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon shows the pine – the single most important marketable species in the Interior – is being made more susceptible to pests and disease by climate change.
“What we can expect is a dramatic decrease in the amount of wood coming out of our forests,” said New Democrat forest critic Norm Macdonald. “When you factor in increases in mechanization at our mills, this can only mean a significant decline in the number of jobs in the industry.
“The BC Liberals have done nothing to increase the value that we get from our forests over the past 10 years. In fact, the changes they made to the Forest Act in 2003 have exacerbated the problem by making it harder for small, value-added manufacturers to get access to fibre.”
Making matters worse is that incoming Premier Christy Clark said virtually nothing about forestry during her campaign to lead the BC Liberals, said Macdonald.
“Even her colleague, George Abbott, said Ms. Clark doesn’t understand rural BC,” said Macdonald. “Interior communities that have depended on forestry for decades must hope he’s wrong about her, but we’ve heard nothing to offer any hope for forestry in the future.”
What’s needed, Macdonald said, is a comprehensive strategy to increase the number of jobs per cubic metre of wood logged. It’s a figure the BC Liberals no longer track.
“The problem itself is not a new one,” said Macdonald. “We have known for years that we’d be taking less wood out of the forests, thanks in large part to the destruction caused by the pine beetle. This new report brings it into sharper focus.
“What’s troubling is the forest minister continuing to spread misinformation about how everything is looking up for the industry. Just last week, Pat Bell was in the media talking about how exciting the future is for forestry.
“It’s nonsense and I suspect he knows it’s nonsense. It’s just rhetoric to cover up the fact that the B.C. Liberals contributed to this problem with their Forest Act changes and have absolutely no plan to ensure that we have a healthy, vibrant forest industry for decades to come.”
Among the changes B.C. New Democrats have been advocating for years is increased investment into research of new technologies and processes to diversify the industry. That work has not been done by successive hands-off forest ministers.
“We have an industry dedicated primarily to dimension lumber,” said Macdonald. “That’s an important sector, but a truly healthy forest industry must be diversified to get more jobs per cubic metre.”
B.C.’s New Democrats are working on solutions to ensure that natural resources are used effectively to create jobs in British Columbia, while still respecting First Nations, environmental and local needs.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke.