PRINCE GEORGE – New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix pledged today in Prince George that an NDP government will invest new funding over five years to help grow the forest industry and improve the health of BC forests.
The plan will invest in skills training, improve forest health, support industry-led efforts to expand global markets, reduce raw log exports and enhance value-added activity, and establish a Jobs Protection Commissioner.
Dix says the NDP will invest $30 million in 2013/14, $40 million in 2014/15 and $60 million in 2015/16, increasing to $80 million and $100 million annually by the fourth and fifth years of the plan.
“Our top priority – one that’s shared with the industry – is to solve the shortage of skilled workers in the sector by making significant investments in training and apprenticeships,” stated Dix. He added that the NDP will make added commitments on skills training early in the election campaign.
The plan also provides for a significant re-investment in forest health. Updating forest inventories – critical for sustainable forest management decisions – will be a key priority. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Dix. “To provide certainty, we need to have more precise knowledge of what timber is available to harvest sustainably and where it is.”
The BC Liberals have badly mismanaged BC’s trillion dollar forest asset for more than a decade.
Much of the current inventory is 25 years out of date. In February 2012, Auditor General John Doyle issued a scathing rebuke of the government’s mismanagement of BC’s forests, saying that it is leading to lower timber supply and less species diversity.
Since 2001 the BC Forest Service has been cut by over 1,000 positions – one quarter of its workforce – meaning fewer eyes on the ground to manage BC’s greatest resource.
The 2013 budget cut $35 million from forest health which supports critical activities like replanting and inventory management.
Other NDP forest health initiatives include:
- Doubling seedlings planted by government on Crown land to 50 million annually over five years;
- Enhancing Ministry of Forests research capacity; and
- A renewed emphasis on land-use planning engagement at regional and local levels.
The NDP plan offers support for industry-led efforts to identify new markets and increase exports. “Market development takes time and success is the product of forest companies and government working together,” said Dix. “We are committed to working with the industry to continue to grow global markets for our forest products.”
Dix says an NDP government will work with industry to reduce raw log exports – a record six million cubic metres were exported in 2012 – and get more value from harvested timber.
Finally, the plan creates a Jobs Protection Commissioner to support communities, workers and industries in transition due to timber supply shortages caused by the impacts of the pine beetle outbreak.
New Democrat forest critic Norm Macdonald said the five-point comprehensive forestry plan contrasts with 12 years of neglect by the BC Liberals of one of the province’s most important resources. “We are committed to a competitive, profitable and increasingly high- tech forest industry and the good-paying, family-supporting jobs it provides.
Adrian Dix and the New Democrats are bringing about change for the better, one practical step at a time.