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Forest workers rally in Victoria

There was another demonstration in front of the provincial Legislature Tuesday, although not quite as raucous as last week’s rally.

The B.C. Forestry Alliance Save the Working Forest rally was in support of the forest industry in the province, which has been hit with scores of temporary and permanent shut downs over the past year. It drew an audience with Forest Minister Doug Donaldson.

“I spoke with members of the B.C. Forestry Alliance today because I wanted to hear about their concerns,” Donaldson said in a statement. “ I told them that our government will support the thousands of people who rely on the forest sector for their jobs and livelihoods. We will continue to work with the sector to address challenges and ensure a bright and sustainable future. This includes our hard work on our Coast Forest Sector Revitalization plan to make sure more logs are processed in our province and reducing wood waste by redirecting it to our pulp and paper mills.”

On the Coast, the government has committed $5 million in bridging loans to help contractors impacted by the labour dispute make payments for their logging equipment, he said. This is in addition to $69 million to assist workers impacted by the downturn in the Interior.

“We know there is a greater need, which is why we have been pressing the federal government to bring resources to the table, as they did during the 2008 downturn,” he said, adding he has spoken with Seamus O’Regan, federal Minister of Natural Resources, and let him know that British Columbians believe that worker support is a shared responsibility.

“The B.C. Forestry Alliance and others have made it clear to us that they are concerned about how old-growth forests are managed,” he said. “That’s why we commissioned an independent, two-person panel to hear people’s perspectives on the economic, ecological and cultural importance of old-growth trees and forests. We expect to hear back from the panel later this spring.”

BC Liberal MLAs, who joined the hundreds of rallying forestry workers called Donaldson’s comments “empty words,” followed by an “emptier” budget.

“The audacity of this government to wipe their hands of this crisis is constantly eye-opening and disheartening. For months, the NDP have served up empty rhetoric and when given a chance to stand up for forestry workers and commit a part of their budget to their plight, they don’t,” said BC Liberal Forestry Critic John Rustad. “Communities have been devastated, lives uprooted and families forced to fight for their survival amidst a forestry crisis that shows no signs of slowing and a government that simply pretends like they can’t do anything to help.”

He said the budget contains no new money to help forestry workers.

“I fail to understand how the premier and his forest minister can look these workers and their families in the eyes and simply shrug their shoulders,” said Rustad. “As this crisis continues, more and more British Columbians are facing the reality of losing their homes, vehicles, savings and livelihoods. This government needed to act a year ago and I am appalled to see that they are still sitting on the sidelines watching things get worse.”

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