By TODD STONE
MLA, Kamloops-South Thompson
BRITISH COLUMBIA’S FORESTRY INDUSTRY is in crisis as mills close and job losses mount due to John Horgan and the NDP’s increased taxes, red tape and growing uncertainty on B.C.’s land base. Problems are not being fixed, solutions are not being sought, and now hundreds of families are left wondering what options they have for their future.
Last week came even more bad news for this struggling industry. Canfor announced that it would be commencing shift curtailments at all but one of its sawmill operations, Norbord announced an indefinite curtailment of production at their 100 Mile House mill, putting 160 jobs at risk, and Louisiana Pacific revealed the indefinite closure of its Peace Valley mill in Fort St. John, resulting in the potential loss of 190 jobs.
This news, alongside Canfor’s recent decision to permanently close the Vavenby saw mill which resulted in 172 lost jobs, is adding to the growing list of mill closures and curtailments across B.C.
As you could imagine, this is having a disastrous effect on the lives of hard-working people in the Thompson region. Jobs are disappearing, families are facing increased uncertainty about their ability to make ends meet, and the industry’s long-term competitiveness and viability is akin to an ever-growing dark cloud hanging over the heads of all British Columbians.
Under the NDP’s watch, forestry production costs have skyrocketed and we’re seeing the results of that ineptitude first-hand. Horgan’s rushed, non-consultative passage of the controversial Bill 22 this spring effectively gave the NDP government the power to make decisions previously made by privately-held forestry companies.
This bill came with a grave warning from the forestry sector that its implementation would result in the potential closure of 10 mills across B.C. Unsurprisingly Horgan did not heed that warning, and look at where we stand now.
So where is Premier Horgan during this? He’s either missing in action or wrongfully touting what he deems accomplishments by his failed forestry minister. He is certainly not doing what a premier should be doing – offering tangible actions to support the families most affected, and taking steps immediately to reduce the tax and red tape burden that he and the NDP have placed on the shoulders of the forest industry.
One solution that Horgan continues to ignore and outright obstruct is the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This is a solution that will create hundreds of well-paying jobs in B.C. – largely in the rural Interior and Northern communities most impacted by the crisis in the forestry sector.
It’s a solution that will generate millions in tax revenue for essential services across the province, provide the opportunity for a much-needed fuel capacity increase that could help alleviate crippling gas prices in B.C., provide a safer alternative to the higher-risk movement of oil by rail, and effectively eliminate inter-provincial hostility between B.C. and Alberta – all in one move.
But sadly, Horgan will not end his pipeline obstruction largely due to the fact that he has to continue to pander to the three Green MLAs in B.C.’s Legislature.
It’s clear from here in Kamloops and the Thompson Valleys that it’s time John Horgan and the NDP admit they’ve made a mess of the forestry file, and have jeopardized the livelihoods of countless forestry workers and their families in the process.
It’s time Horgan steps up and takes bold action to save these forestry jobs and our forestry industry. It’s time Horgan governs for all of B.C, not just for his union and NDP insider friends in Victoria and the Lower Mainland.
Todd Stone is the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson.