Forestry helped build British Columbia and the Peace Region into what it is today. For generations it has created revenue for the province and provided people with good jobs to support their families. Forestry has shaped our communities, especially here in rural B.C.
Because of forestry’s long history in the region, the recent news of the local plant closure in Chetwynd has been particularly devastating. That’s almost 200 direct family-supporting jobs in rural B.C., gone. Over in Houston, 300 jobs are disappearing with the temporary closure of the mill there.
The forestry sector that employs so many rural British Columbians, and supports so many families and communities, has been warning government over the past few years. They have been clear that shrinking access to fibre was threatening the economic backbone of our province. They were clear that the sector and the government could tackle the challenges head-on if they worked together. But they were ignored.
Instead, what we’ve seen is a government that shrugged its shoulders instead of rolling up its sleeves. Their main focus in forestry has been coming up with transition plans for displaced workers and reducing, rather than increasing, the fibre supply for local mills.
That is a recipe for disaster rather than recovery. What’s most unbelievable for a government that claims to be concerned about the environment is that our forests are a renewable resource, especially when managed well. Growing new trees absorbs carbon and contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gases — but this government has made little effort to keep the industry sustainable for the long term.
We see warning signs every day that the current government doesn’t believe in the value of the resource sector. Making sure industries like forestry, mining, and oil and gas are strong is about keeping our province working, our communities healthy, and our provincial coffers full. You’d think the government would get that, when part of the five-billion-dollar surplus the Premier is planning to spend to try to win the next election comes from higher than expected natural gas revenues.
It’s time for the government to roll up its sleeves and clear the path so our resource sector can thrive and support the women and men building lives in rural B.C. Sadly, I expect them to keep shrugging their shoulders and everyone will pay a heavy price for their inaction.
My constituency office in Dawson Creek is ready to help anyone with any problems with provincial government services. If you’ve hit a roadblock, the office can make inquiries. You can also share your thoughts and ideas by email at mike.bernier.MLA@leg.bc.ca