Cam Fortems – Kamloops This Week
With the governing B.C. Liberals rolling out pre-election announcements as the May 9 election nears, the NDP countered in Kamloops on March 27 by outlining a forest strategy to reverse job losses.
NDP Leader John Horgan was in the city to highlight a New Democratic requirement to use B.C. wood in government-funded projects. He pointed to the 18-storey Brock Commons building on the University of B.C. campus as an example of a made-in-B.C. success that could be replicated elsewhere.
“It’s an example of where we want to go with forestry,” Horgan told KTW.
The election campaign officially begins on April 11 and all parties are moving into full election mode.
The New Democrats point to 30,000 jobs lost in B.C.’s forest sector since 2001. Those include former Weyerhaeuser sawmills in Kamloops and Vavenby and the former Tolko Industries mill in Louis Creek, lost to fire in 2003 and never rebuilt.
The nearest dimensional lumber sawmills to Kamloops are now in Adams Lake and Chasm. Tolko’s Heffley Creek operation is a veneer and plywood plant.
“We haven’t done enough to encourage value-added,” Horgan said.
The pioneering UBC building was designed in the province using engineered wood products. It was constructed in the South Okanagan, then shipped to Vancouver for assembly. The third floor of the Old Main Building at Thompson Rivers University also features engineered wood products.
The B.C. Liberal government introduced the Wood First Act in 2009, but Horgan said it doesn’t go far enough. He said an NDP government would legislate requirements for engineered wood products in government buildings, including schools and hospitals.
Horgan said that use would drive domestic demand and engineering and showcase technology for export.
“They don’t mandate it in capital projects … We say if you’re building schools, which we desperately need in some fast-growing areas, let’s use wood products,” he said.
The election comes as Canada continues to strive for a new softwood lumber deal with the United States. Horgan said the B.C. Liberals share some blame for delays that have led to new negotiations with a more protectionist Republican administration.
Under the NDP government of the 1990s, mills were tied to local communities under a social contract called appurtenancy. The Liberals stripped those rules, allowing companies to build centralized supermills and get rid of local operations.
The latest example was Tolko’s decision last year to close its Merritt sawmill and ship timber to the Okanagan.
Horgan declined to discuss whether the party would bring back any appurtenancy rules, noting it has not released its election platform.