Column: Action needed for B.C.’s forestry-dependent communities

Notes from the Legislature by Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo

As summer progresses and more weeks pass by with no word from John Horgan and the NDP, hard-hit forestry communities grow ever more discouraged with the lack of action from their government.

Our forestry industry lost 6,600 jobs between 2017 and 2018 ,and in 2019 we’ve seen shift curtailments, 125 weeks of operational downtime announced, as well as seven permanent or indefinite closures.

The stunning lack of support from the provincial government is telling, particularly as there are steps that it could take to mitigate many of the central issues. B.C. is becoming the highest cost producer in North America, largely due to regulatory burden and increased taxation in the form of John Horgan’s 19 new and increased taxes such as the Employer Health Tax. These factors fall within the government’s control, and yet the NDP continue to do nothing to aid the struggling industry and our province’s 140 forestry-dependent communities.

In the 90s, the NDP government strangled the forestry industry with red tape and made us one of the highest-cost producers of timber in the world. They added $1.8 billion per year to the forestry sector’s production costs and it seems they have not learned from the lessons of the past. Families across this province rely on the forestry industry to put food on their tables. The NDP making a crisis even worse by increasing uncertainty, red tape, and taxes is an insult to every one of those British Columbia families.

Read more: Column: MLA says forest industry in crisis, government must act

Read more: B.C. Liberals call for tax relief for struggling forest industry

Read more: Wildsight blames province for damaged forests over the past 20 years

Over the past few months my BC Liberal caucus colleagues and I have been hearing directly from employers and workers around B.C., collaborating on ideas to help the industry cope and recover. As part of our province-wide consultation, members of the BC Liberal Caucus recently hosted a round table in Kelowna. The roundtable was an opportunity to engage with those on the front-lines of this crisis, such as forestry workers and small businesses. We were able to take direct feedback from those workers and turn it into a set of five recommendations presented to John Horgan. As of today, all five have been ignored by the NDP.

Our recommendations were based around providing much needed relief and strengthening the industry for the future. We suggested the province engage with the federal government to establish supports and new opportunities for these workers, and that they set up a forestry competitiveness committee to look at longer-term solutions for the industry. These communities need help and resources now, with a vision and action plan for the future.

We have found our province in the worst forestry crisis in 40 years and our government cannot be bothered to offer relief to dozens of communities devastated by job losses and mill shutdowns. This is a real economic crisis we are facing, with significant impacts to British Columbians – but unfortunately, it is not a significant enough priority for John Horgan and the NDP to address. John Horgan needs to govern for the entire province, not just NDP-held ridings. British Columbians deserve better.

Greg Kyllo is the MLA for the Shuswap


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