Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA: B.C. Forestry Emergency Needs to be Declared

The Galloway lumber yard in October 2018. (Supplied by Galloway Lumber)

Following another round of layoffs in the East Kootenay, Doug Clovechok believes the provincial government needs to take serious and immediate action.

Canfor announced this week that it would be curtailing operations at nearly all of its B.C. sawmills, including plants in Radium Hot Springs and Elko. The United Steelworkers Union represents around 930 forestry workers in the Kootenays alone.

"The analysts are forecasting potentially another 12 sawmills in the province, which translates to about 2,500 jobs that are at risk, and basically, what this amounts to at this point is it's a sector crisis in this province," says Clovechok.

The MLA says there are several factors at play that have been hampering the lumber industry in B.C., including a weak U.S. market, wildfires and beetles wreaking havoc on nature, and the fact that a new softwood lumber agreement with America has still not been reached.

Clovechok claims that softwood lumber is no longer on Premier John Horgan's radar.

"This government's gotta step up to the plate and start to do something - they saw this coming, this isn't something that came out of the blue. There's been no pre-emptive strategies that've been put out. All of a sudden, they're trying to put out the fire now that it's started and that's just not acceptable for the people I represent."

He says his constituency offices have been flooded with calls and emails about the impacts the forestry cutbacks have had on both individual families and the Columbia Valley's economy overall.

"It's not only the folks in the forestry industry that're going to be losing their jobs, it's the trickle-down effect that this'll have, so the grocery stores and the list goes on and on about who this is going to effect economically."

The first thing Clovechok recommends is that the B.C. Government will need to re-focus on softwood lumber and strike a deal with the U.S. Government. As far as international relations go, Clovechok suggests that Canada should temporarily forego its carbon taxes for the forestry industry as he claims companies are looking at moving south of the border where no such levies exist.

He also wants to see a forestry competitiveness committee be established that would be comprised of both industry and government representatives.

In the meantime, however, Clovechok will be asking the federal government for financial assistance for the lumber workers who would not normally qualify for EI benefits.

Audio: Doug Clovechok, MLA, Columbia River-Revelstoke

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