To the Editor:
When Christy Clark said she would make a new softwood lumber agreement with the United States her top priority with a new federal government, New Democrats voiced support. We believe that a vibrant forest industry is vital to our economy. Forest dependent communities in the province, BC forest companies, and those over 25,000 citizens directly employed in the forest industry deserve strong support.
Unfortunately, either Premier Clark forgot to mention it, wasn’t very forceful in making the case for softwood lumber, or the new prime minister simply ignored her. There’s no evidence that trade consequences for the softwood lumber industry have registered with the federal government.
The Premier writes mandate letters to her new ministers. Those letters express the most important and urgent priorities of the government and order the minister to act on them.
The new prime minister’s long mandate letter to the federal minister of international trade fails to mention the trade consequences of softwood lumber at all.
It talks a lot about the Canadian-European Trade Agreement and about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It talks about the auto sector, about clean technology, about energy, but doesn’t include the words “wood,” “forest” (or “forestry”), “timber,” or “log.”
Forest-related products remain British Columbia’s largest single export, with a value of nearly $13 billion in 2014, which is more than a third of all our exports. Maximizing the health of our forest industry is crucial for business, workers and communities around the province.
Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberal government’s record has been to the detriment of forest-dependent communities, with the closure of more than 200 mills and the loss of more than 25,000 jobs. Meanwhile, raw log exports – which cost British Columbia jobs – are on pace for yet another record high this year: close to seven million cubic metres.
So much for Christy Clark’s so-called first priority. Forest-dependent communities in British Columbia deserve better than Christy Clark’s empty words.