VICTORIA – Premier John Horgan says the relationship between British Columbia and the forest industry has fractured over outdated government policy that hurts communities and threatens many small business contractors.
He told delegates at the Truck Loggers Association’s convention on Thursday that the once solid social contract between the industry, government and communities is in need of repairs.
The premier didn’t promise any changes in policy during his 30-minute address, saying his government is awaiting recommendations of an industry sustainability review from former Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott within the next month.
“We want to try and reconnect the social licence that existed over the decades in B.C.,” he said.
Horgan said previous Liberal government policy introduced in 2003 allowed forest companies to ship timber to mills of their choice. The result was industry bypassing communities and small contractors even though the timber is located close to their homes, he said.
“Clearly, 14 years later it’s not working for you,” he said. “It’s not working for communities, and it’s not working for the province.”
Horgan said the conversation about reconnecting the industry with B.C.’s towns will not be easy but it’s one the province must undertake.
“It’s a certainty in many communities that the relationship between tenure holders in the community has been broken. It’s in all our interests to make sure we re-establish that relationship in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
Horgan said he’s deeply concerned about increases in the export of raw logs from B.C. since the policy changes.
“When we see raw log exports, log exports from public land, rise from eight per cent in 2003 to 23 per cent last year, that raises questions and concerns in communities,” he said. “It raises questions and concerns with me.”
He said that amounted to 1.6 million cubic metres of raw logs exported from the province last year.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly said raw log exports from the province were 1.6 billion cubic metres.