Election 2017: Sustainable forestry

What are your plans to both protect the riding’s forestry industry as well as ensure sustainable stewardship over forestry lands?

The candidates for Columbia River-Revelstoke

The candidates for Columbia River-Revelstoke

Revelstoke has two traditional industries that have sustained the community for more than 125 years — forestry and the railway.

The latter is under Federal jurisdiction, but forestry policy is a matter of provincial domain. It’s a major economic contributor to the community, but, as we’ve seen with protests over logging at Mount Macpherson and debates over protecting caribou habitat, it can also be controversial.

This week, we asked the candidates:

What are your plans to both protect the riding’s forestry industry as well as ensure sustainable stewardship over forestry lands?

Gerry Taft, NDP

We need to ensure that more logs are available for processing in British Columbia and that rural communities are benefitting from our crown resources. The 500 per cent increase in raw log exports that Christy Clark has promoted is completely unacceptable.

The BC NDP has committed to increasing the use of B.C. wood products in public infrastructure projects like schools, hospitals, and affordable housing units. There are a lot of opportunities to support and increase the secondary manufacturing and value-added components of B.C. engineered wood products. Locally we have seen some very exciting examples from Canadian Timberframes and Brisco Manufacturing.

Revelstoke has had a great deal of success with its community forest, and this is a model that should be explored and encouraged even further in this region. Instead, the Christy Clark government has completely blocked the establishment of a community forest in the Columbia Valley; an opportunity lost and an example of the provincial government working against the interests of a local community.

We must also ensure that proper reforestation is occurring and that government oversight is taking place. Big forest companies self-policing, the ‘professional reliance’ model, has failed us.

We need to do better managing this resource which belongs to all of us.

Duncan MacLeod, independent

This is an important question but it’s incomplete. The question should be, “What are your plans to both protect what is left of the riding’s forestry industry as well as ensure sustainable stewardship over forestry lands.”

Forestry stewardship might be British Columbia’s busiest political intersection. It’s where logging, wood product processing and manufacturing, wildlife habitat management, outdoor recreation, watershed health, tourism strategy, First Nations’ rights and relations, and environmental leadership all intersect. To effectively and sustainably support the forestry industry, integrated opportunities should be identified and actioned to ensure synergies are leveraged and impacts are mitigated.

I acknowledge and applaud the province’s support of wood use in new architectural applications and innovative structural systems. Emerging building technologies and wood-based product development are an evolving opportunity with the potential to counter the effects of an unfortunate industry shift towards raw log exports at the expense of local processing and manufacturing.

That said, raw log exports should nonetheless be restricted in the best interest of both our economy and the environment, not to mention in support of common sense. Shipping raw logs abroad contributes to Canada’s trade deficit and increases our carbon footprint—at the expense of good jobs in BC’s rural communities.

Samson Boyer, Green

Both B.C. and Columbia River-Revelstoke have long been dependent on the forestry industry. In more than 140 rural communities, 65,500 people are directly employed by the forest sector province-wide.

Yet, over the last 20 years, under both the BC Liberals and the NDP, the province has seen 100 sawmills close and more than 40,000 direct jobs lost, while raw log exports have gone up.

I want to turn this around. I, along with the BC Greens, feel it an important step to remove the PST from the cost of machinery and equipment for modernization, upgrading and new investment in sawmills. We want to support our small resource-dependent communities by building skills and capacity for a future forest industry, all the while, promoting investment in economic diversification.

As we ensure a forestry industry that is strong and growing, we must also protect our forests and wildlife, enacting modern, evidence-based legislation such as the BC Forest and Range Ecology Act. This legislation will promote and implement global best practices in forestry, restoring wildlife habitat, improving forest productivity, reforestation and addressing priority issues regarding forest health.

I want to see further restriction on the export of raw logs. We need to encourage creativity and innovation as we look to value added enterprises to maximize our industry from start to finish.

Doug Clovechok, BC Liberal

I’ve met with workers at the mills in Golden, Revelstoke and Radium. These jobs are critical to our region, which is why our government has worked hard to diversify our forest industry.

Our lumber exports to China have increased 2,000 per cent, which has kept at least a dozen mills in B.C. operating during radically increased world competition. We also invested $150 million this year into reforestation, to ensure healthy forests in the future.

Workers at the mills were clear what they need the most right now is strong leaders who will be their champion in the softwood lumber dispute with the United States. Gerry Taft has made it clear what he thinks last week — Impeach the U.S. President. That’s Gerry’s strategy for the softwood dispute with the U.S. His leader, John Horgan, said “good luck” when asked about the softwood dispute.

The NDP have already given up on our forestry industry. They waved the white flag when asked what they would do.

I will fight for forest workers and our Premier has been clear that we won’t quit on forestry workers in B.C. We’ll stand up to Donald Trump.

That’s the leadership we need for a healthy forest industry.

Justin Hooles, independent

The softwood lumber dispute has created a lot of uncertainty within the forestry industry. Our government needs to be focused on B.C., and on keeping the industry running as smoothly as possible while we adjust to these new circumstances.

I would like to see the updated 2017 budget include some estimates as to how this will impact our economy, before it is approved after the election.

While this dispute is being dealt with, there are some other opportunities we could develop. For example, tall wood buildings are an emerging market for wood. New technologies have allowed us to create seven story buildings, and some even taller, using B.C. wood. We need to be promoting the use of wood projects here in BC, and working to get other jurisdictions to allow them into their building codes.

While trade with the U.S. has been damaged, it is a good opportunity to look at new markets. B.C. has seen an increase in timber exports to China and India over the last few years, and we should do our best to continue grow this market. Harvesting timber affected by the pine beetle should also be a priority, while making sure we are planting new trees in their place.