June and July are generally a time when I get back into the constituency after the Spring Legislative Session, but this year I am spending this time serving as Deputy Chair of the Special Committee on Timber Supply. The meeting schedule for this committee has me travelling throughout British Columbia with little time in my own communities.
While it is difficult spending so much time away from the constituency, the time spent focusing on the challenges within the forest industry is important to rural communities across the province.
These are challenging times. There have been market difficulties since 2008. And the pine beetle infestation has fundamentally changed the industry in the central interior. Climate change will continue to force us to take innovative action to ensure that forestry continues to be a viable industry in this province.
As part of the Timber Supply Committee, I have heard from forest professionals, First Nations, local government representatives and forest workers, and it is clear to me that tremendous wisdom sits in rural communities. We understand best how to manage our forest lands. And we want more say in how our forest lands are cared for.
For eleven years, the BC Liberal government has pursued a very specific forest policy. That policy has resulted in fewer forestry jobs, a less resilient forest and reduced competition. And rural communities are paying the price. So far, 35,000 forestry jobs have been lost. And more job losses are predicted.
The Opposition has laid out a forest policy that will begin to return forestry to its traditional place as one of British Columbia’s most prosperous industries.
Our policy includes a move towards much greater utilization of the resource. That means less raw log exports, more value-added and encouraging innovation to get the most jobs possible out of every log.
We also believe that we can’t have a healthy forest industry without healthy forests. This will mean that we have to make a substantial investment in forest health. Our forest lands are our greatest asset, and that investment will provide dividends in return.
The Opposition supports the return of a job protection commissioner to assist forestry-dependent communities in diversifying and developing new opportunities in forestry.
And an NDP government would invest in skills training. Our forest industry cannot be successful if British Columbia does not have the skilled workforce it requires.
I believe that forestry can once again be a primary economic driver in British Columbia, but it will take a concerted and deliberate effort on the part of government. And I believe that rural British Columbians are demanding that effort from their government, a belief that has been confirmed by the many submissions that have been made to the Timber Supply committee thus far
If you have something you would like to tell the Timber Supply committee, submissions can be received in writing until July 20. You can email your thoughts to email@example.com or contact my office for further options.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River – Revelstoke
Opposition Critic for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Deputy Chair of the Special Committee on Timber Supply