B.C.'s Opposition New Democrats say the governing Liberals are shipping raw logs out of the province even while local processing mills are scrambling for timber.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix said Tuesday that Forests Minister Steve Thomson allowed raw log exports to increase, even though a government advisory committee decreed they should be sold locally.
He said Thomson overruled the government's Timber Export Advisory Committee after it directed that logs being considered for export should instead be sold to independent manufacturer Teal Jones of Surrey, B.C.
'More B.C. mills will be gone if this level of raw log exports continues.' —B.C. NDP MLA Bill Routley, quoting mill managers
Thomson said the logs were approved for export due to cost issues associated with the calculations over the local cost of the logs.
He said the advisory committee did not factor in the cost of shipping the logs from Vancouver Island to the Lower Mainland in the final price evaluation of the timber.
Dix says Thomson's decision to overrule the government's own advisory committee adds to the government's problematic record numbers of raw log exports and the loss of B.C. forest jobs.
"They specifically intervened to stop jobs from being created in British Columbia, and in this case, to see the export of raw logs over the recommendation of the committee they put in place to advise on that question," he said.
Export numbers double
Thomson also said log export policies are under review and the government is trying to strike a balance.
"What we've been saying, and we've been saying it consistently, is part of the equation that ensures that harvesting takes place. It's part of the mix."
A growing part of the mix, said NDP MLA Bill Routley.
"I've been told by mill managers that more B.C. mills will be gone if this level of raw log exports continues," Routley said.
Recent statistics show the government exported a record 5.5 million cubic metres of raw logs last year, more than double the amount sent out of the province two years ago.
Dix said B.C. law stipulates that only logs deemed to exceed provincial needs are permissible for export.
Last month, NDP forests critic Norm Macdonald described the quantity of raw logs being exported as so vast, they would stretch from the B.C. coast to Thunder Bay, Ont. if stacked one after another.