If the NDP government hadn’t considered the current situation in the forest industry a crisis, they certainly may now after more than 200 logging trucks descended on the annual meeting of municipalities in Vancouver last week.
Local mayors and MLAs had gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre for the annual convention of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to discuss, among many other things, the NDP’s decision to cancel the $25 million Rural Dividend Fund, and siphon that money off to fund a hastily assembled relief package for older forestry workers.
Logging trucks surrounded the UBCM meeting and snarled downtown traffic in order to prove a point. The package announced by Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson two weeks ago is too little, too late.
We have been fighting for months for a comprehensive forestry recovery plan that would reduce stumpage fees for the industry and stem the flow of job loss.
The Five-Point Forestry Action Plan proposed by BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson last June called on Horgan to immediately engage the federal government to look at multi-level supports for impacted workers, not just in a few selected communities, but for the province as a whole.
Unfortunately, the NDP continued to drag its feet and now that the federal election is well underway, negotiations will have to wait at least another two months before a new government takes office and a new cabinet sworn-in.
In the meantime, municipal leaders are also angry that 338 funding applications to the Rural Dividend Fund are going straight into the trash bin. To deprive local governments of money designed to diversify economies where forestry is often the only game in town hardly makes any sense.
There is a lot on the line for forest contractors who spent a lot of money to drive all the way down to Vancouver just to make a point.
I’ll be sure to re-inforce that message from all forest workers when the Legislature resumes in Victoria next week.