BEPPLE – Yes, the auto sector is hurting but don’t forget our forest industry

LAST WEEK’S announcement of GM’s Oshawa plant made national news.  Bad news for the 3,000 workers directly laid off.  Bad news for their families, and for workers of other companies who relied on GM and their workers’ wages for their businesses.

Last week’s announcement garnered reactions from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition Leader Conservative Andrew Scheer, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.  There was support for the workers from all the leaders. You can argue as to which leader provided the best support, but there is no doubt, there was support from all sides of the political spectrum.

Oshawa has about 150,000 people.  Their losing 3,000 workers would be equivalent to Kamloops, with a population of 90,000, losing 1,800 jobs.    Or Quesnel, with 10,000 people, losing 200 jobs.  Or Fraser Lake, with a population of 1,000, losing 20 jobs.

While Kamloops has been in a bit of a boom, small mill towns across B.C. have been bleeding jobs.  Small towns across B.C. are feeling as much pain as Oshawa.

Since the beginning of November one forestry company after another announced production slowdowns or shutdowns.

West Fraser permanently curtailed production of their third shifts at Fraser Lake and Quesnel sawmills, with a loss of jobs for 60 employees in Fraser Lake and 75 employees in Quesnel. Big numbers for such small towns. Along with this, four of Tolko’s other mills in Chasm, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, and Chetwynd face temporary slowdowns and worker layoffs in the coming months.

Tolko announced a two month downtime at their Armstrong and Kelowna mills.

Conifex announced a temporary layoff of 70 workers at its Fort St. James mill.

Resolute Forsest Products is halting production for the last quarter at many of its mills.

Canfor is curtailing production by 10 percent at its B.C. mills in the fourth quarter.  Interfor is also curtailing production for its 3 Interior mills.

And in Midway, Vaagen is cutting production from two shifts to one.

And back in October, West Fraser’s Ladysmith mill was shut indefinitely, with 80 workers laid off, in a town of 8,500.

These are not good times for forestry in B.C.

So, as I was apt to do, I went on to Twitter.  I looked at all the tweets for the month of November of Premier Horgan, Opposition Leader Liberal Andrew Wilkinson, and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.

Trudeau, Scheer and Singh came out strongly when GM announced the Oshawa plant closure.  I wondered what Horgan, Wilkinson and Weaver had to say about the shutdowns and slowdowns of forestry mills across B.C, but especially in the Interior.

And what I found, as someone who lives in the Interior, was disappointing.  And that goes for all the provincial party leaders.

Not once over the entire month of November did any of the three leaders mention forestry in their tweets.

It was not that they weren’t tweeting.  The number one topic for all the leaders was pending Proportional Representation referendum.   Horgan and Weaver tweeted in favor, while Wilkinson tweeted for the status quo First Past the Post. After that, there was little if any commonality in tweets.

At the beginning of November Wilkinson tweeted about the BC Liberal convention.  By the end of November, his topic of choice was ride hailing. In the middle of the month, it was mainly tweets on visits to chambers of commerce and mayors.

Horgan uses Twitter to roll out the BC NDP’s policy.  He tweeted announcements such as on healthcare, childcare, affordable housing, gender-affirming surgery, climate change and the First Nations Leaders Gathering.

Weaver tweets out links to detailed legislation.

They’re all free to tweet what they like.

But to go an entire month with no mention of forestry, when scores of small towns are bleeding jobs, shows a complete disconnect on all three leaders’ part.  Mill towns across the province, and especially in the Interior, are hurting.

The forestry industry in B.C. needs as much attention from our provincial leaders as the autoworkers in Oshawa have gotten from their federal counterparts.

Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (6626 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on BEPPLE – Yes, the auto sector is hurting but don’t forget our forest industry

  1. Well said Nancy. The BC forest sector has been in a decline since 2002 when Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberal Party (aka Conservatives) decimated BC forest regulations. They changed the forest regulations ie Tree Farm Licenses to put total control of public forest lands in control of corporations. They also changed the appurtency clauses—ie that stipulated that a tree fell in the local community area should be processed in or near that community—that has resulted in the closure of dozens of small mills around the province and the loss of up to 30,000 jobs. The result of the closure of sawmills resulted in a huge increase in the export of raw logs overseas to Japan and China. Federally a few years ago Stephen Harper sold out the Canadian forest industry through the Softwood Lumber Agreement with the US Softwood Lumber Coalition that further added to the demise of Canadian forest industry with BC taking the brunt of that hit. But your point that Horgan has been silent on the forestry file since they became government is well taken. One of the problems is that we still have the same forest ministry staff that we had during the Liberal dynasty. For whatever reason there was not a purge of ministry staff when the new government took over—perhaps because of the slim edge to hold onto majority in the legislature. We could go on and on but suffice it to say that putting our forest industry in control of a few major corporations with a few super mills around the province is not the way to go. Communities and First Nations have to become more vocal to save what is left of the industry.

  2. BC lumber has some of the highest production costs in Canada and basically have priced themselves out of the market. No softwood deal mentioned at all in trade talks.

  3. With such an ardent construction sector I wonder why such a drastic reduction in wood products production. Not only the leaders seem disconnected but also the people covering business/financial news.

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