B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks to Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Vancouver, Sept. 26, 2019. (UBCM)

B.C. Liberal leader says forest workers ‘expendable’ under NDP

Log costs out of line, Andrew Wilkinson tells municipal leaders

Local politicians gave B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson their loudest applause for his call to do more for the province’s struggling forest industry.

Speaking to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention Thursday, Wilkinson described the plight of logging truck drivers who drove from all over the B.C. Interior to circle the Vancouver convention centre demanding action from the provincial government. Their horn-blasting protest lasted for hours Wednesday, resulting in a brief meeting with Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

“Those people in those trucks are almost all contractors who owe something between $100,000 and $1 million to the bank, and they have no work,” Wilkinson said. “And many of them have told us they’ve had no work since May.”

Communities that have lost sawmill employment, such as Vavenby and Vanderhoof, have effectively been told “you’re expendable,” Wilkinson said, adding that Donaldson recently said in a radio interview that people who are losing their jobs at Hammond Cedar in Maple Ridge can get a job on the Pattullo Bridge replacement project.

RELATED: B.C. offers early retirement, training fund for forest workers

RELATED: U.S. can’t show harm from Canadian industry: NAFTA panel

Wilkinson said B.C.’s stumpage charges on Crown land logs are up to 10 times higher than in Alberta, contributing to the highest log costs in North America, and the forest industry is shifting there as a result. Protesting truckers also called for reduced stumpage, which Donaldson has warned is a provocation to the U.S. industry that has already imposed import duties of around 20 per cent on B.C. lumber.

Asked about that risk, Wilkinson told Black Press that government is about “best practices,” and Alberta has out-competed B.C. with similar conditions.

“They’re dealing with the same government in the U.S.A.,” he said.

Wilkinson said the pain of rural communities was increased by $25 million that was “stolen” from the province’s Rural Dividend fund to include in a $69 million retraining and retirement package for four Interior communities that have mills closing.

That money and much more has been diverted into the NDP government’s union-only public construction program, which has raised the cost of a short stretch of highway widening near Revelstoke by millions, Wilkinson said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ucluelet reconsiders rejected pot shop

Cannabis Open House coming up in November

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: Courtenay-Alberni candidates address other issues of importance

Other than the topics already discussed, what do you feel is the most important issue in your constituency?

Courtenay-Alberni candidates trade barbs at Alberni all candidates meeting

Crime, climate change, seniors all on slate of questions

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

B.C.’s largest herds turn the corner from extinction

Most Read