Forest minister’s changes will increase raw log exports, kill B.C. jobs, New Democrats say

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VICTORIA – Changes announced by the forest minister Thursday show the Liberal government is comfortable allowing increased raw log exports even at the expense of B.C. manufacturing jobs, say the New Democrats.

“It took nearly 20 months for this review to come out, and the minister’s only substantive change was to slightly increase the tax on raw logs off public lands,” said New Democrat forest critic Norm Macdonald. “Meanwhile, the change to the formula for what’s deemed exportable could essentially mean every log taken off of public land in the western and northern edges of Vancouver Island will be bound for foreign mills.

“Mills that have relied on logs in the Vancouver Log Market have been asking for ways to get fiber to their yards so they can create jobs in B.C.,” said Macdonald. “The government has been overriding their own expert panel and this change cements in policy that direction, and it will kill jobs.

“British Columbians have said clearly that public resources should have public benefits, and that means getting the most from our natural resources. We should be taking steps to increase the amount of jobs we get from each log. B.C. logs should be used to create B.C. jobs.”

In 2011, more than 5.5 million cubic metres of raw logs were exported from B.C. The 2012 numbers have not yet been released, but preliminary figures in November showed exports were actually increasing over those record numbers.

Meanwhile, independent manufacturers such as Teal Jones in Surrey and Coastland Wood in Nanaimo have said they would add shifts and create jobs but they can’t get fiber.

“B.C.’s forests are a tremendous natural resource, and used properly, it’s possible to support the current employment levels in logging while encouraging primary and even secondary manufacturing jobs as well,” said Macdonald. “But that’s not what the Liberals are doing.

“It was May of 2011, in question period, that the minister told us that he was initiating a review to see if we had the ‘balance’ of raw logs right,” said Macdonald. “Twenty months later, and the result is changes that will in fact make it easier to export raw logs.

“The premier claims she wants to fight an election on a so-called jobs plan, but her government enacts policies that will kill jobs. It makes no sense.”

The B.C. Liberals are not up to the challenges that face B.C. today, and British Columbians deserve better. It's time for a change to a new government with new priorities. B.C.'s New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time.