For the past few weeks I’ve been travelling around the Peace talking to forest families and folks from forest communities about how things are going. What I’ve heard is concerning.
Families—those with someone working in the forest sector, and those with someone working in the businesses and services supporting the sector—are worried about their futures. They have already seen temporary shutdowns triggered by a wide variety of factors. Now they are troubled, wondering if what is a temporary shut down today could turn into permanent closures without a concentrated effort to bolster the sector.
Forestry has rightly earned its place as a backbone and a builder of British Columbia. Our forests have filled public coffers with immense revenues. These dollars helped pay for the infrastructure and services that have benefitted each and every British Columbian, no matter where they live. Forestry has helped build communities in every corner of B.C., including the Peace.
The financial impact stretches far beyond local families. Forestry generates between 30% and 35% what B.C. earns exporting its products. Just one segment—softwood lumber—has exports totalling $6 billion a year. By comparison, the exports from B.C.’s clean tech sector are one tenth the size.
But the industry is facing tough times, and that’s generating a lot of worries for forestry families. The amount of fibre available has been declining, a lot of it driven by the pine and spruce beetle infestations. Mills have shutting down, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes forever. We’ve felt it here it in the Peace with the temporary shutdowns of the Taylor and Chetwynd mills.
Instead of helping, the provincial government seems to be taking steps that are having the opposite effect for the families and businesses that depend on our forests. The government has increased taxes on the forest sector. They have imposed new rules that will impose increased bureaucracy and costs on a sector that is already struggling. The carbon tax is piling on new costs.
Forestry families also told me they are worried about the actions being taken on mountain caribou recovery. They want the caribou protected. But they want their livelihoods protected too. They are concerned about there being no expansion of forestry for the next two years under the current plan, which translates into a slow shrinking of the timber available for local mills. And there remains an underlying concern that the entire sector may ultimately be tossed out of large swaths of forest lands, something that would kill hundreds of jobs in our region.
More needs to be done to help our local forest sector remain strong. It’s essential for families. And it is critical for our communities.
If you have ideas or suggestions, send an email to my office at mike.bernier.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call
(250) 782-3430 or 1 (855) 582-3430.
Your ideas and your voices will help me, and my colleagues, deliver the message to Victoria that more needs to be done. The forest industry built our province in the past, and can keep building it for decades to come, if the Province acts today.