Port council protests local job loss

  • Feb. 18, 2004 6:00 a.m.

Port Clements council is writing to the Ministry of Forests timber sales in Chilliwack to protest the awarding of a five-year tree planting contract to an off-island company.
Council members heard about the issue Monday night (Feb. 16) from Jesse Walker, silviculture supervisor at Stephan Contracting Ltd. in Port, who wrote that his company had lost out to a large Vancouver company which underbid the others by 40-percent. Mr. Walker said such a low bid could mean substandard wages and accommodations for workers, which could result in substandard work.
“We have seen this in the past and have fixed much of it at added cost,” Mr. Walker wrote. “In turn more public money will have to be spent down the road to fix this substandard work. Cheaper? I think not!”
Twelve local tree planting jobs will be lost as a result, Mr. Walker said.
Council members were concerned, and agreed to write a letter to the ministry asking that local employment be given more weighting in the awarding of contracts. However, they’ve been sending similar letters for over a year (protesting almost every aspect of the government’s forests policy), with absolutely no response.
“This is ridiculous, but I don’t know where we go with this,” mayor Dale Lore said. “There goes another chunk of our economy.”
Councillor Gerry Johnson said that he himself had lost out on a five-year contract from the timber sales program, which last year moved to Chilliwack – even though he was the low bidder. On another contract, his bid was not allowed because he was not willing to also work down south, he said. This resulted in seven local jobs lost.
Mr. Lore speculated that perhaps the provincial government’s goal is not to help Port, but to kill the community. In that case, decisions like moving the timber sales office to Chilliwack and taking contracts away from locals would be considered successes.