MLA delegation investigates value-added opportunities

  • Aug. 18, 2015 3:00 p.m.

By Quinn BenderHaida Gwaii ObserverNDP MLAs, well versed in the politics and struggles of logging B.C.’s interior, turned their attention to Haida Gwaii last week to learn of the unique challenges the industry faces in the coastal forest sector.North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice guided Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains, Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley and Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley, all NDP opposition spokespeople for Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, around the islands for stakeholder meetings with worker representatives, logging managers, logging contractors, and municipal officials.The delegation feels the industry is on the verge of an upswing, but the province’s outdated forestry models are ill-equipped to capitalize off the opportunities.”The industry has been stagnant for a while, and it’s starting to come back,” Mr. Routely said. “[But] we’ve only ever managed for volume, and not long-term value. We have to be thoughtful about that and hear from communities; do think it’s okay to continue down this path?”This region [Haida Gwaii] has gone through some huge changes, from big corporations to largely First Nations control. So we’re very interested in how that’s going and whether there are any improvements that can be made.” Overall, the MLAs took away the impression there is an opportunity to more fully develop the Community Forest than was offered to Haida Gwaii communities.”Clearly there is an opportunity to add more value by resolving roadblocks to logging the full AAC [annual allowable cut], and finding more ways to add jobs and value by supplying more wood to local mills and manufacturers,” said Mr. Routley.The delegation criticizes the Liberal government for propping up the LNG industry as the darling of economic growth, while ignoring the problems and potential of a forest sector with a focus on higher-grade product and value added interests. Provincially, the MLAs also contend the province is unable to determine a proper annual allowable cut, due to inadequate inventory information following staff layoffs, pine-beetle infestations and forest fires.”It’s our job to make sure we’re focusing a light on all the dark areas where there might be problems. Some people construe that as us running around being negative, but no, we’re doing what we’re paid to do, and that’sÂ…to point out the areas of deficiency that we think can benefit from some improvement,” Mr. Routley said. “With reforestation, I’m alarmed at how far behind we’ve gottenÂ…instead we’re focused on LNG.”Following the tour, Ms. Rice said the MLAs were impressed with the value-added examples on island with world-renowned carvers and carvings, unique building construction and wood art throughout the communities. They felt if the legal and political hurdles were resolved within the sector, it could bring more jobs and stability to the region.”It’s about finding the right balance,” she said. “I had quite a few conversations with folks around the island that valued the value-added concept. They were really frustrated for not being able to make those dreams come to fruition. So it’s really exciting to have so many MLAs here to look at this. I think it’s unprecedented for so many to tour such a remote area at one time.”

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