The B.C. government is backing off from some of its coastal forest industry reforms as Vancouver Island and coastal logging has ground to a halt due to high costs and a six-month strike against Western Forest Products.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has announced that the NDP government’s plan to increase coastal log export charges is being delayed for six months, and new rules to require removal of waste wood from logging sites are also being eased.
Provincial stumpage fees on timber from Crown land are also being substantially cut, and the formula changed to make logging more viable, Donaldson told a meeting of unemployed industry contractors in Port Hardy on Thursday.
“We’re revisiting and revising the stumpage system on the coast, and as of Jan. 1 it will be a lumber-based system primarily, versus a log price system,” Donaldson said. “That means that the average stumpage rate on the coast will be $8.82 cents [per cubic metre] versus $18.73 now.
“We’re able to do that because it’s an annual review process and we want to make sure that the factors that go into stumpage are the same as they are in the Interior, so it won’t be in any way seen as a political intervention in the softwood lumber dispute. But it will make an impact, and we’ve heard that from you and others.”
Donaldson and North Island MLA Claire Trevena have faced demands by forest contractors and workers to do something about the United Steelworkers strike against Western, and to offer assistance to contractors who have no say in the labour dispute, can’t work and don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. Community leaders in North Island communities have pleaded with Premier John Horgan that homes are being sold, trucks repossessed and food banks overwhelmed.
Trevena opened the meeting by pleading for patience.
“There is no magic wand,” she said. “We’re not going to be able to fix everything at once.”
Donaldson said the new penalties for leaving usable wood waste behind are being updated.
“We’re revising the fibre recovery zone boundaries, based on cost data that we finally received from industry on where those boundaries should be more refined,” Donaldson said. “We do want to see more residuals brought out of the forest but we understand we have to refine the boundaries of those areas so they make economic sense.”