British Columbia

Province to assist communities impacted by logging shortfall

Forest Minister Steven Thompson says some communities will need to diversify their local economies.

Reductions in logging operations will impact some communities more than others

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson and former Speaker of B.C. Legislature during B.C.'s last Liberal minority government says he won't run in the next provincial election. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Despite an announcement to keep the province's forest sector competitive, the government is readying to help logging-dependent communities affected by an impending timber shortage.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson appeared on CBC's Daybreak North to discuss measures the government is taking to ensure communities affected by reductions in the annual allowable cut remain economically stable.

"People know this day has been coming," said Thomson. 

"As part of the plan, we will be consulting directly with communities, and we're looking at how we help diversify the economies in those communities."

According to the province, harvest levels are expected to decrease substantially in the Cariboo, Omineca, Thompson/Okanagan and Skeena regions. The decline comes after a surge of logging operations that were meant to extract timber that was devastated by the mountain pine beetle.

The province now expects a 20 per cent decrease in the allowable cut from pre-infestation levels, and says it could last for nearly five decades.

Thomson says the government has committed $75 million to communities with a population of 25,000 or less that will be the most adversely affected by the reductions.

Raw log exports

NDP forestry critic Harry Bains says the string of recent government announcements surrounding the B.C. forest sector are simply election talk after 15 years of mishandling the renewable resource.

"We have lost 25,000 jobs since 2001 in the forest sector, and over 150 mills have been shut down," said Bains, adding the province continues to permit the export of raw logs overseas which has led to the widespread closures of B.C. pulp and paper mills.

NDP forestry critic Harry Bains says exporting raw logs overseas isn't "the right economics." (CBC)

"We've seen mills here that are not running at full capacity, and at the same time we're seeing record raw log exports from the province," he said.

"Either you process the raw material in the province and create jobs in the province for the people of the province — or you ship the raw material overseas and have those jobs created in those counties, and then we buy back the finished products," said Bains.

"That's not the right economics," he added.

Thomson says the raw log exports are essential to the province's forest economy and add significant value to the coastal forest harvest, which forms the the bulk of log exports.

With files from CBC's Daybreak North

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: NDP forestry critic Harry Bains says B.C. Liberals have ignored the forestry industry for 15 years