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Liberals give Horgan five-point plan for forest industry shut downs

Andrew Wilkinson
Andrew Wilkinson

The opposition B.C. Liberals have given Premier John Horgan suggestions for helping the forest industry deal with the recent spate of mill closures and temporary shut downs.

“To date, the John Horgan government has thrown up its hands and told forest-dependent communities there is nothing it can do to help them,” said Official Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson, in a news release. “This is failed leadership on the part of John Horgan– plain and simple. Hard-working B.C. families need help and they need it now.”

Wilkinson and his rural caucus released a letter sent to Horgan that outlines actions the NDP government should take to address the forestry sector crisis facing British Columbia.

The Liberals are calling on government to “immediately engage the federal government to look at multi-level supports for communities and impacted workers, including employment assistance for those workers who don’t currently qualify.”

When Tolko announced the closure of its QuestWood millin Quesnel, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said staff from the regional economic development branch of the ministry and staff from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction will work with Tolko and the community to co-ordinate the delivery of provincial support programs. He said the ministry will also work with the federal government to ensure supports are made available to affected workers.

The Liberals are also calling on the government to establish a forestry competitiveness committee, including opposition MLAs, “focused on how we can ensure a healthy sector in the short and long term.”

In April the government announced an initiative to renew the Interior forest industry. Horgan wrote to the chief executives of Interior forest companies, inviting them to lead the process with government and to partner with labour leaders, First Nations and communities, but not opposition MLAs, to chart a sustainable path forward. While focusing on the entire Interior forest industry, individual strategy discussions will be carried out in each timber supply area (TSA).

The Liberals are also calling on government to re-engage the U.S. “to get B.C. the softwood deal it deserves – John Horgan promised this over two years ago.”

Wilkinson and the Liberals area also calling on the government to immediately reduce stumpage fees and the carbon tax on the forestry sector, including contractors and others dependent on the sector, until market conditions stabilize.

Stumpage fees have long been an issue for the Americans, who want B.C. stumpage rates to go higher, claiming current rates amount to a subsidy of the forest industry. Forestry Critic and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad said, in a Facebook post, that a reduction in stumpage rates would simply be more reflective of current market conditions.

The Liberals are also calling on government to create a fund that impacted communities can access to hire contractors and out-of-work forestry workers on wildfire mitigation projects.

 “John Horgan needs to hold himself accountable, stop making excuses and stop the job losses in this province,” said Rustad, in a news release. “At a time when forestry workers across the province should be hard at work, instead they are facing job losses and no paycheques.”