By John Horgan
British Columbia’s forest industry is facing difficult times. In the Interior, the end of the pine beetle cut, lower prices for lumber and back-to-back catastrophic wildfire seasons have led to a number of sawmill closures. This has created hardship for workers and uncertainty for the communities that depend on forestry for their livelihoods.
These are big challenges, but they aren’t new. Industry experts have been predicting pine beetle related closures for more than a decade.
The previous government failed to help the industry when they had the chance. Little was done to help companies adapt. Little was done to help forest-dependent communities prepare. Their inaction has compounded the difficulties forest workers and communities are facing today.
We can’t change the past, but we can make different choices—choices that support communities and renew the future of forestry in B.C.
Our government is facing up to the challenges in the Interior forest sector. We are going to do everything we can to make sure our industry stays competitive, and the people and communities that count on forest jobs have a more secure future.
We’re putting people first and supporting communities through the transition. Community response teams are hard at work in communities affected by mill closures. These teams meet with workers and line up prospects for jobs and retraining. The goal is to create opportunities for people and help them stay in their communities over the long term.
Earlier this year, I challenged industry, labour, and First Nations and communities to work together to develop a new vision for the Interior forest industry at the regional level. This is not a Victoria-imposed solution. It is a locally developed vision for the future based on local timber supply areas.
If we want to restore public trust in how our forests are managed, we have to start by listening to people and communities. That’s why we are launching a public engagement on renewing the Interior forest sector. This consultation will start later this month and will include local stakeholder meetings as well as online feedback.
Value-added wood products are the future of B.C.’s forest industry. We are moving ahead with taller wood building construction, and we’re going to do more to encourage local companies, municipalities and First Nations to use engineered wood products for their projects.
The industry has renewed itself in the face of challenges before and will do so again. Together we can build a forest industry that creates thousands of good-paying jobs for local workers and First Nations, and supports communities for generations to come.
Change is never easy. There are no quick fixes. If we’re going to find solutions that work for everyone, we need to roll up our sleeves and face up to the challenges together. B.C.’s economy needs to work for ordinary people, not just the ones at the top. By working together to renew our forest sector, we can make sure people and communities benefit from the wealth our natural resources create.
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