In the last two years there has been approximately 6,600 job losses across BC in the forestry industry.
In 2019 alone there has been 96 weeks of operational downtime announced, various curtailments, and six permanent mill closures.
Locally, Aspen Planers was forced to reduce from two shifts down to one at the beginning of June and at this point are barely accepting fibre over their scales due to the economics surrounding the cost of logs.
This week, Andrew Wilkinson, Leader of the BC Liberals and the Official Opposition was in Merritt speaking with the industry and he stopped by Q101 to discuss the issues forestry is facing.
“The Interior industry is the one that has been hit hard in the last ten weeks and they’re nowhere to be seen, that is the Provincial Government and John Horgan are just absent from the framework,” said Wilkinson. “Back in 2001,02,03, when the Americans hit us hard with tariffs, we we’re then in as the Provincial Government and we dragged in the Federal Government to talk about changes to employment insurance programs and job supports and a whole bunch of investment in community futures. The NDP have done nothing with the Federal Government and partly it’s because they’ve antagonised Ottawa so badly that they can’t ask for any favours for BC. So, we’re just left adrift here.”
While there has been plenty of finger pointing in Victoria as to who is to blame, workers sitting at home and their families need action.
“We’ve said that they should probably take a strong look at stumpage because it’s done on a one-year lag. A year ago, lumber prices were double what they are now, they’ve gone way down but the stumpage has stayed high,” said Wilkinson. “So, we’ve said they have to address that, bring in the Feds and probably look at reducing the carbon tax in forestry operations while we’re in this rough spot.”
With a Federal Election scheduled for this October, Wilkinson spoke to making sure the candidates in the riding feel pressure to focus on forestry.
“We have to look out for ourselves and we’re going to have to make more noise as a people with the Feds during this federal election. People here in Merritt should be pushing it as an election issue federally because the Provincial Government out of John Horgan will do nothing. But the Feds will come to the table with support and with funding for these transitions in the forest industry if they're pushed and now is the time to push them.”
“Interestingly John Horgan is at the annual Premier’s conference in Saskatoon right now and that’s an opportunity to build up a big coalition across the country,” began Wilkinson. “I spoke with Jason Kenney ten days ago and said look we need your help pushing Ottawa on the softwood lumber agreement with the US. We can do better if we work with other Provinces, but John Horgan has burnt the bridges with all the other Provinces, so he has no favours to pull in.”
“People are very concerned about the forestry industry and I think the core concern is that John Horgan and the NDP are nowhere to be seen. They just seem to take no interest whatsoever in these deep concerns of people throughout the Interior,” concluded Wilkinson
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt