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MLA’S CORNER: NDP needs a clear vision for future of forestry

Lorne Doerkson’s column to the Free Press
Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

It’s been a challenging month for B.C.’s natural resource sector. We recently learned the devastating news that Canfor will close down the pulp line at their Pulp and Paper Mill in Prince George. This news will impact more than 300 workers and their families and will have profound consequences for the surrounding community. My heart goes out to all those affected.

This news is just the latest blow to our province’s resource industry. The current situation in natural resource communities, particularly forestry-dependent communities, is dire. What used to be a looming crisis is now hitting home, and it’s more important than ever for government to step up, provide support, and make the decisions necessary to preserve these vital industries.

Coincidentally, last week was the 20th Annual BC Natural Resources Forum, held in Prince George. I had the privilege of attending the forum with my BC Liberal colleagues. We attended meetings with industry stakeholders, heard from those within the sector and those impacted by changes, and had discussions about the future of natural resource extraction in B.C.

It was an incredibly productive few days, and a vital opportunity for collaboration, innovation, and partnership between industry, government, and First Nations.

During the conference, Premier David Eby announced funding for a new BC Manufacturing Fund, said to support industry transition in rural, remote and Indigenous communities. But while any support for resource communities is welcome, this fund will not address the specific needs of so many communities — particularly those impacted by the recent Canfor closure.

The main problem with Eby’s announcement is that it will do next to nothing for the forestry workers that are, or will soon be, out of a job. It also does nothing to address NDP policies that have added costs, created uncertainty and unnecessarily exacerbated already significant strains on the industry.

The announcements people need from government right now are tangible supports for families impacted by the forestry crisis, or a real plan forward for forest sector workers and forestry-dependent communities.

Government did not present these measures. I increasingly have the unsettling feeling the NDP is completely focused on trying to manage the decline of forestry, rather than breathe new life into it.

What we need is a clear vision for the future of forestry as a sustainable, vibrant, and economically viable sector. Forestry-dependent communities will remain in crisis until government can deliver this kind of leadership.

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