Government must take action

A column to the 100 Mile Free Press by Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett

My phone starting ringing off the hook from forest contractors, loggers and many more whose livelihoods are directly connected to the forest industry, and they are deeply upset with Minister Doug Donaldson’s announcement that does little to help workers and families through the worst crisis in the industry in the last 40 years.

The vast majority of the $69 million package is aimed primarily at bridge financing to fund early retirement for workers aged 55 and older.

I’m grateful that older workers will benefit, and I’m sure many will be anxiously awaiting the rules for eligibility. However, the fact that government is asking industry and the federal government to come to the table at this late stage of the game, is a clear indication that this plan was hatched at the very last minute.

The first signs that the forest industry was in deep trouble surfaced last January when the first of a whole string of mill closures began.

Since then thousands of workers have been displaced by four permanent mill closures, 13 indefinite curtailments and over 22 communities affected. This whole time Horgan and Donaldson sat idly by and watched the whole crisis unravel without lifting a finger.

The NDP used to pride themselves on defending workers, but they have fallen flat and let down everyone who currently makes a living through forestry.

Donaldson’s announcement only shows older workers the door and demonstrates little vision on how to get the industry back on track and give people hope for the future again.

The NDP’s attitude is that there are too many mills, and they seem satisfied to let the crisis unfold without government intervention.

Well, I’m sorry Premier Horgan but that just isn’t good enough. This is not about politics. We are talking about people’s lives and a central part of the provincial economy that built British Columbia.

Government needs to take action and make our industry competitive again so we can get our people back to work.

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