As is usually the case in politics, governing party and opposition don’t agree on much. In the case of the Committee on Timber Supply, the two-party committee consisting of Liberal and NDP MLAs was acknowledged by both sides as bipartisan.
However, with the recommendations issued by the committee, it appears to be back to politics as usual as the BC Liberals claim an active response and the NDP says the response shows the government fails to understand the forest industry’s problems.
“To describe it as an action plan is ridiculous,” said Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald (NDP). “It’s not an action plan. It doesn’t deal with the issues laid out by the Timber Committee. In fact the intent is to cut the budget for forest health by $40 million. However, it’s dressed up, it’s not the dramatic change we need.”
Not so, says Doug Clovechok, who hopes to occupy Macdonald’s legislative seat for the BC Liberals after the next election.
“Our government’s response to the Special Committee includes nine sustained and 11 new actions and is our next phase in responding to the mountain pine beetle infestation,” Clovechok said.
Highlights include: a 10-year forest inventory strategy; innovative silviculture practices to grow more trees faster; and landscape fire management planning to reduce risks to the midterm timber supply, Clovechok says.
Macdonald said the promises made by the forest minister are meant to give the appearance of action, but there are no resources behind the words. He said the promise to increase tree planting sounds good, but the commitment is on behalf of forest companies, when it’s the government itself that has under-planted by hundreds of millions of seedlings.
“The Liberals have undermined the future of forestry by failing to invest in inventory, tree planting and silviculture work,” said Macdonald. “After years of increased harvesting levels and significant destruction of the mountain pine beetle, it’s the height of irresponsibility to not re-invest in our public forest lands,” said Macdonald.
But Clovechok says the bulk of the committee recommendations will be implemented immediately.
“The bulk of the committee recommendations will be implemented immediately and by doing so, our government is seeking to create viable, lasting partnerships that include First Nations, communities and industry.
“As recommended, all financial recommendations are being implemented or followed up on to determine the best approach to restoring the health of our forest.
“Further funding for reforestation, inventory, and fuel management will be reviewed as the fiscal situation improves and the recommendations are fully implemented.”
Macdonald says that the response pointed to a status-quo direction on raw log exports – meaning the record levels we are exporting now will continue. In 2011, more than 5.5 million cubic metres of raw logs were exported from B.C., taking thousands of jobs with them.
“This is the infrastructure of the forest industry, an asset that some estimate to be worth a trillion dollars, but the Liberal government simply has not maintained it properly. Their response to this report shows they still don’t understand the depth of the problem they created.”
Clovechok says the BC Liberal government has always made forestry a priority pointing to a recent move to streamline the permit process for community forests.
“The B.C. government is introducing a single cutting permit procedure to make it easier for local governments, First Nations and other non-commercial organizations throughout the province to harvest timber from community forests.
“Since 2001, this government has committed $884 million in fighting the mountain pine beetle infestation and its environmental and economic impacts.”