VICTORIA – Auditor General John Doyle’s report on forestry Thursday is an utter condemnation of the failure by the Liberals to address the growing crisis in forest health, say the New Democrats.
“The auditor general’s report clearly confirms what independent experts and even their own ministry officials have been saying for years,” said New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix, “that our publicly owned forests are in terrible shape and that the government has neither the plan nor the capacity to fix the problem.
“The Liberals’ failure to act puts the next generation of forestry in jeopardy, after we’ve already seen deep declines in the number of people working in the industry,” said Dix. “The lack of action on the government’s part is irresponsible, and it risks the future of dozens of communities around B.C.”
The auditor general released a report Thursday morning listing his findings and six recommendations to address the crisis. He calls on the government to put more work into creating long-term objectives and to ensure that tree planting and silviculture matches those long-term objectives.
“Part of the problem is that the ministry itself has no idea what’s actually happening on the land base,” said forest critic Norm Macdonald. “The Liberals have practically stopped doing inventory work, so we can’t tell what the situation is in the forests.”
Through the 1990s, the government spent about $22.5 million a year on inventory; the most recent budget allotted less than $8 million for inventory work.
“How do we fix a problem when we don’t know its extent?” asked Macdonald. “It seems that the Liberals don’t want to ask the question because they are afraid of hearing the answer: their policies have devastated the forests.”
Since 2001, more than 70 mills have closed and the forest industry has shed more than 35,000 full-time, family-supporting jobs.
“The Liberal record on forestry today is a record of job loss,” said Dix. “The Liberal legacy will be a forest in crisis, and unable to sustain an industry of the future. It means more job losses and greater economic uncertainty for forest-dependent communities all around the province.”
Adrian Dix and the New Democrats believe that B.C. logs should support B.C. jobs as part of a forest strategy that respects First Nations, environmental and local needs.