Re: Joe Sawchuk's letter in Merritt News, June 22, 2010:
Unfortunately, Mr. Joe Sawchuk sounds more like an apologist for the BC Liberal Government than he does as a legitimate critic.
The reality is, during the decade of the New Democrat government, forestry was well and alive and thriving in British Columbia, and especially in small rural communities like Merritt. There was an overall increase of 30,000 jobs in the forestry sector in B.C. between 1991 and 2001, especially in silviculture/forestry health and value-added remanufacturing – there were 200 more people working in the forestry sector in the Merritt Forest District by 2001 than there are today.
By contrast since 2001, deliberate in-action, mismanagement, and punitive forest policies by the BC Liberals has resulted in the closure of over 80 sawmills and pulp mills and the elimination of 43,000 permanent, family-supporting jobs across forestry-dependent communities, including Merritt. The systematic destruction of the forest industry by the BC Liberals was achieved by deliberate government policy that eliminated all supports that kept mills open, such as:
- Elimination of the independent office of the Jobs Protection Commissioner that helped to save mills and jobs;
- Elimination of the 90-Day Mill Closure Review Process that formerly brought industry, workers, elected community officials, First Nations, and senior government together to find solutions to keep mills open;
- Elimination of the Appurtenancy Clause or the Social Contract that for decades ensured the flow of the people's timber to industry if they kept local mills open in the local area mills;
- Elimination of the independent office of the BC Chief Forester that was historically charged with completing the province's forest inventory;
- Massive Legislative changes in 2002 that gutted the Forests Act to allow the concentration of 90 per cent of the province's timber rights into the hands of four major forestry giants, thereby ensuring the destruction of hundreds of small, family-run mills and operations under the Small Business Forest Enterprise Program, the Small Scale Salvage Program, and the Value-Added Remanufacturing Program;
- Abandonment of Silvicultural and Forestry Health Programs while B.C. tops two million hectares (government's Forestry Practices Board figures) of Non-Sufficiently Restocked lands and growing alarmingly;
- Deliberate underfunding and inaction to fight the mountain pine beetle since 2001;
- Increase in the export of raw logs (and jobs) to the U.S.A. and China from less than 500,000 cubic metres in 2001 (with a surplus test) to an arbitrary and astronomical 8 million cubic metres today (with no due process whatsoever) while British Columbia's very own family-run forest companies are deliberately put out of business;
- The softwood sellout to the U.S. by Gordon Campbell and Steven Harper only one day before Canada was going to win a major victory in the International Court against the Americans' 27 per cent Countervailing Duties on our lumber exports to the U.S.;
- The list goes on and on.
For the last eleven years, forest policy in this province has been written in the secret corporate boardrooms of British Columbia and not in the chambers of the Legislative Assembly. Had Mr. Sawchuk bothered to do his research, he would not have made so many glaringly misleading statements or cooked up imaginary "facts" and propaganda.