Mill workers losing shifts as raw log exports continue to rise

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VICTORIA – Another sawmill has cut back production for lack of fiber, while the B.C. Liberals continue to mismanage forestry by refusing to tackle the growing problem of raw log exports, say the New Democrats.

Western Forest Products’ Cowichan Bay mill was shut down for a week in November because of a lack of fiber; the mill is running with reduced shifts this week.

“Raw logs are being exported even faster than last year’s record numbers, yet the Liberal government has no answer,” said New Democrat deputy forest critic Bill Routley. “Last May, the forest minister promised a review on log exports, and 18 months later, we’re still waiting.

“Meanwhile, workers are losing wages just before the holiday season,” said Routley, whose Cowichan Valley constituency includes the Cowichan Bay mill. “It’s long past time the Liberals took some real action to ensure that B.C. logs create jobs in B.C.”

Routley noted that some Liberal MLAs agree with the New Democrat position that log exports cost jobs. Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon and Surrey-Tynehead MLA Dave Hayer have both been critical of their own government’s inaction.

In 2011, more than 5.5 million cubic metres of raw logs were exported from B.C. Included in that total were more than 40 per cent of the harvest from the coast and Vancouver Island. Numbers from November show that the rate of export is up by more than five per cent so far in 2012.

In the spring, New Democrats revealed that the forest minister overruled his own Timber Export Advisory Committee dozens of times, meaning logs that could have created jobs in B.C. were instead shipped out of the province.

“We’ve heard from mills in the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island that they would create new jobs if they could just get access to fiber,” said Routley. “Yet, the Liberals refuse to take any meaningful steps to reduce log exports.

“The minister needs to tell us why the review he promised 18 months ago has never been made public. And he should come to my community and tell workers why they’re losing wages while truckloads of logs go roaring past the mill, bound for export.”

Adrian Dix and the New Democrats believe the Liberal government is not up to the challenge of managing the economy, and British Columbians deserve better. New Democrats are offering change, for the better, one practical step at a time.