Tolko Industry’s Kelowna mill announced Sept. 12 that it would not be reopening its doors, as planned on Sept. 15. (Black Press file photo)

Cooperative approach urged to resolve B.C.’s forest crisis

Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce calling on elected officials to set aside differences and find solutions

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is calling for B.C.’s elected officials to set aside their differences and collectively find solutions that support the forest sector and communities.

The Chamber has written to Premier John Horgan, official opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.

“Mill operations are either being shut down or curtailed, impacting thousands of workers and their families as well as those associated with private contractors and suppliers. Given the uncertainty, these individuals are less likely to make major purchases such as vehicles or homes, or to visit their favourite restaurant as often. That directly affects small businesses that are the very lifeblood of communities like Vernon,” said Krystin Kempton, Chamber president, in the letter.

READ MORE: 127 workers out of job after Kelowna Tolko mill shuts down ‘indeterminately’

“The Chamber understands that complex factors fuel the current situation, including fibre supply and global competition. However, those complexities should not stand in the way of finding solutions that assist companies, workers and communities over the short and long-term.”

Specifically, a broad-based, collaborative approach could review the current stumpage price in B.C. as well as the process used to determine them, according to the chamber. It also says it is important to look at other factors impacting business, including the Employer Health Tax.

“What we are requesting is that the interests of British Columbians be the priority, even if that means setting aside differences. Now is the time for a broad-based approach to resolving the current crisis and establishing a sustainable forest sector for years to come,” said Kempton.

“We would urge your respective parties to join together with representatives from forest companies, contractors, labour, business organizations, First Nations and communities to develop a made-in-B.C. strategy. British Columbia’s greatest resource is its people. We are innovative, risk-takers and resilient. History has shown that we can overcome great odds when we are shoulder-to­ shoulder. More unites us than divides us, and our Chamber is ready to cooperate with all stakeholders, and particularly your respective parties, to meet this current challenge head-on.”

READ MORE: Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry


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