Coastal logging activity is down since the B.C. NDP began implementing its revitalization plan. (Black Press files)

B.C. VIEWS: Forest industry revitalization looks like the opposite

Caribou protection, forest tenure restriction, increasing stumpage

Old-timers remember the last time an NDP government tried to impose its vision of state control on the B.C. forest industry. The 1990s-era Forest Practices Code filled a shelf full of binders, prescribing everything down to inspecting for litter when logging is complete.

As the latest version is pushed through the B.C. legislature this month, that’s beginning to look like the good old days. Sawmills are announcing further temporary shutdowns, and forest companies are preparing for more job losses.

Last year the John Horgan government announced the creation of the Office of Professional Reliance and Oversight, a new bureaucracy to supervise professional foresters, engineers and biologists who develop resource projects of all kinds. This was essentially to appease Green MLA Sonia Furstenau, who is convinced despite a stack of expert assessments that the Mount Polley mine collapse could have been prevented if geotechnical engineers had been watched more closely by government inspectors.

Next came the NDP government’s deal with Ottawa to put vast wilderness areas off limits to industry and recreation, to protect dwindling caribou herds. This was developed in secret and finally put on hold by Horgan after people packed meeting halls around the province demanding answers. Horgan appointed Dawson Creek councillor and former B.C. Liberal energy minister Blair Lekstrom and gave him this month to do the consultation that should have been done first.

READ MORE: B.C. loggers brace for changes in log export rules

READ MORE: B.C. to require permission for timber licence transfers

The latest NDP bill requires ministry permission for companies to swap Crown forest licences, weakening their value as a business asset. B.C. Liberal MLA John Rustad, who followed his father into the forest industry before politics, described the effects of this and other changes to forest policy in the legislature.

Conifex is taking more downtime at its Fort St. James and Mackenzie sawmills. Canfor reported a first-quarter loss, the CEO citing uncompetitive costs in B.C., while its Alberta, southern U.S. and European operations generated “solid financial returns.”

Quesnel-based West Fraser reported its latest results, noting “the myriad of policy changes the B.C. government is planning to implement” is changing its investment plans. West Fraser invested $600 million in B.C. to modernize operations and process pine beetle-killed timber. Like other big producers it has to compete in a global market with Russia, Sweden, the U.S., Brazil and so on.

On the coast, Western Forest Products gave its first quarter results and indicated more mill curtailments are coming, due to high costs and log shortages. Rustad told me that since Horgan announced his coastal “revitalization” plan, among those costs is a 118-per-cent increase in stumpage fees to the province. Monthly cutting permits on the coast are down by a third since this plan began to unfold.

The caribou protection plan is poised to place vast areas of the Kootenay and Peace regions off limits to resource development. As the B.C. Council of Forest Industries has pointed out, caribou have disappeared from Banff National Park, which has been protected since 1885. Herds are also declining in Jasper, Wells Gray and Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in northern B.C., which have seen little or no logging or roadbuilding.

The industry’s “worst case” analysis for the B.C. Interior is a 40-per-cent drop in timber cut, in what may be a futile effort to save caribou herds that are ravaged by predators, notably wolves.

For the Revelstoke region, the timber harvest reduction would be 100 per cent, meaning the industry that employs one out of 10 of Kootenay workers would be no more.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Residential construction activity slows across Greater Victoria

Vancouver Island Construction Association warns of ‘mixed outlook’

Experience automotive classics and more at the Vancouver Island Concours d’Elegance

Motorcar Weekend features Show and Shine, high-end Concours division, all for a great cause

Saanich councillor fears weed could crowd out food as greenhouses convert

Head of provincial association representing greenhouse vegetable farmers not worried about issue

Langford veteran rehab program takes multi-tiered approach to treating pain

Clinic ‘bio-psycho-social approach to healing’ from Victoria to the West Shore earlier this year

Victoria Humane Society needs volunteers after flood of puppies and kittens

Pregnant cats, dogs and their litters are in need of foster care

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab in Surrey

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

B.C. seizes 1.5M grams contraband tobacco, down from 5.75M grams the year prior

The 2019-2020 seizures were a sharp drop compared to the 2018-2019 year,

B.C. Speaker tight-lipped about aide’s legislature security tour

B.C. Liberals question Alan Mullen’s drive across Canada, U.S.

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

Most Read