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Logger woes could topple B.C.’s softwood lumber industry

May 8, 2017

By: Global News

It’s one of B.C.’s deep-rooted money makers, but there’re some big concerns about the future of the softwood lumber industry.

The United States’ plan to implement a tariff on Canadian exporters, the bulk of which are in B.C., is just one blow to the already bruised sector.

B.C.’s logging associations are meeting in Vernon to talk about the outlook of the industry and they’re specifically focusing on the struggles facing front-line contract workers.

“Over 90 per cent of timber harvesting in British Columbia is done by contractors. If they’re not healthy and not financially viable, we’ve got a problem in this industry,” Truck Logging Association (TLA) executive director David Elstone said.

“If we can’t get the logs out in a sustainable fashion…we won’t be getting the logs out.”

Both the TLA and the Interior Logging Association (ILA) say contractors have quit the business.

“It’s very hard for contractors,” Wayne Lintott, ILA general manager said. “Some of the guys logging now are making the same rate as they were 10 to 15 years ago.”

Lintott is spearheading the Interior Logging Association’s 59th Annual Conference and Trade Show, which will take place in Vernon this weekend. It displays the latest technology and equipment for the industry.

For the first time in years, Lintott said there are “sold” stickers on some of the highest priced equipment before the trade show has even opened, as contractors are trying to turn around as much lumber as they can in the the most cost-effective way.

“Over the last five to 10 years or so, contractors have gone through tough times, have not been able to rebound and repair our balance sheets,” Elstone said. “It leaves us in a more tenuous situation.”

The logging associations hope that change comes from the provincial government, which has launched a Contractor Sustainability Review to try and figure out why the front-line workers are floundering.

It’s too soon to say if there will be any impact on jobs, but Clarence Baggett, who ran his own logging business for nearly 50 years, said he’s a prime example of the deteriorating workforce.

Baggett said he had no choice but to close his contracting business because he just wasn’t bringing in enough money.

Logging associations are questioning why the industry is in such a tough spot, considering Canada is reporting record lumber prices.

They’re hoping the province’s review will provide some answers. There’s no timeline on when it will be complete.

Logging associations warn the entire forest industry is at risk if the situation doesn’t turn around.

By: Global News

Your comments.

  1. George Delisle says:

    It is time to look very carefully at our current tenure system to see if it is functioning the way it was supposed to. The concentration of tenure into fewer hands has not been good for the contractors, independent log suppliers, local communities, and also the health of our forests. The big companies have become too big to fail, something like the car companies. They pack way too much sway with the government and the mill managers are dictating forest management and compensation to the work force. This attitude is what gave us unions for the sawmills many years ago and it appears that that we may have to head that way in some fashion with the logging contractors and independent log suppliers. If we all just say no we will no longer deliver logs for that price and the mills run out of logs, you will see a change in attitude with mill managers. The same goes for the waste that is going on in the bush. Loggers have to go to the expense to get the wood to the landing and then are forced to throw anything but a perfect log into the slash pile. This results in over cutting the timber supply and we will pay the price in the long run, but not before senior management has retired with a healthy pension, unless the company goes bankrupt with an under funded pension plan.
    What did the big companies do with their profits in the last few years??? They took the money south of the border to buy up mills down there. Now they will stand to recover some of the softwood lumber tariff that the loggers in BC will be asked to pay for in poor rates for logging. You can bet your bottom dollar, if any of the tariff is returned to Canada in the future, none of if will be passed onto the log suppliers. The Federal government needs to come up with a policy that ensures a portion of the tariff is passed along to the log suppliers that took the hit because of the tariff. Just my thoughts on the issue. GD

  2. Greg Lay says:

    The evolution of forest management and policy since 1910 has been significantly effected by 4 Royal Commisions of Enquiry and 1 Commisions of Enquiry 1910 Fulton, 1945 Sloan, 1956 Sloan, 1976 Pearce and 1991 Peal Each of these Commisions resulted in changes to forest policy and management Not all recommendations were accepted by governments of the day but generally legislation was enacted which reflected what was required to modernize the current forest sector conditions It is time for Government to undertake another Royal Commisions charged with identifying current forest challenges like determining the relationship between natural forests and managed forests,
    the stumpage system, and a log market which lacks the ability to allocate the right log to the right mill

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