Tom Fletcher and Barry Coulter
NDP leader Adrian Dix released his party’s forestry platform in Prince George Monday, including a pledge to double the number of trees planted on Crown land.
Dix also promised to increase spending on forest inventory research and establish a “jobs protection commissioner” to manage the reduction in timber supply that is expected across Interior areas depleted by beetle infestation.
Kootenay East NDP candidate Norma Blissett praised leader Adrian Dix’s announcement Monday that an NDP government would invest money in the B.C. forests.
“B.C.’s forests represent a trillion-dollar asset that has been badly mismanaged by the B.C. Liberals for more than a decade,” said Blissett. “The volume of raw logs exported has doubled since 2009, and since 2001 the BC Forest Service has been cut by over 1,000 positions — one quarter of its workforce — meaning fewer boots on the ground to manage B.C.’s greatest resource.”
Blissett said in a release that the party’s five-point plan will:
• invest in skills training to address the critical shortage of skilled workers in the forest sector as part of a broader skills training plan;
• implement a five-year forest health plan that will increase funding by $400 million over the next five years;
• provide support for industry-led efforts to identify new global markets and grow forest product exports;
• use B.C. logs to create BC jobs, working with stakeholders to reduce raw log exports and create more value-added forestry jobs in B.C.;
• establish a Jobs Protection Commissioner to support communities in transition due to the impacts of the pine beetle infestation.
“As a former forester, I am happy to see my party presenting a five-point plan to revitalize the forest industry in B.C.,” Blissett said. “It’s beyond time for investment in our forests to happen.”
Dix said if the NDP form a government after the May 14 election, forest spending will increase by $30 million in the first year, with further increases up to $100 million beyond current spending over five years.
B.C. Liberal candidate for Kootenay East Bill Bennett said the NDP forestry plan promises action but offers no specifics. “NDP forestry critic Norm Macdonald has said the public would have to wait until after the election to learn the NDP plan,” Bennett said.
“Our commitment to the forest industry is upfront and the results are obvious,” Bennett said in a release. “Canfor just made a decision to invest $40 million in the Elko sawmill, a clear sign that they have confidence in the future. Good news for workers and their families here. In 2012, 56,400 workers were employed in the B.C. forest sector, up from 53,400 in 2011.”
Dix said the federal and provincial governments have done a good job increasing lumber exports to China, and as premier he would continue the trade missions and marketing efforts that have led to the growth.
Bennett said the Liberal government “recognized almost a decade ago that B.C. is too dependent on the U.S. market and we started investing in the development of the Chinese market. Since then, our exports of softwood lumber to China has risen by over 400 per cent.”