A Liberal government would spend $250 million over four years to curb the spread of the mountain pine beetle, part of a larger strategy to ensure the future of Canada's forestry industry, former cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh said Sunday.
The pest, long a scourge in heavily forested parts of British Columbia and Alberta, poses a serious threat to Western Canada's forests, jeopardizing jobs and increasing the risk of forest fires, said Dosanjh, who's running for re-election in the riding of Vancouver South.
"The federal government must respond with a clear commitment to tackling this devastation so that our forest industry and our communities can thrive," Dosanjh said.
The investment would be part of a wider Liberal strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada's forestry sector, he added.
'Canada's forest industry is facing tremendous challenges.' —Ujjal Dosanjh
Homeowners with beetle-infected trees would get financial support to have the trees removed, and the Liberals would also help establish fire protection plans and buffer zones for affected First Nations communities.
The Liberals are also promising to hold a national forestry summit on behalf of a sector they say has been ravaged by a softwood lumber deal forged by the governing Conservatives "that has left $1 billion in the hands of American competitors and resulted in job losses and mill closures."
The summit would involve industry, unions, communities, First Nations and all three levels of government to develop a national forestry strategy for the long-term,
"Canada's forestry industry is facing tremendous challenges," Dosanjh said.
"The development of a sustainable forestry strategy is vital to enhancing the Canadian forestry industry and protecting valuable regional jobs."
The pledge came on a day when Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion took a break from the campaign trail before travelling to St. John's, N.L., for an event Monday.