Logging equipment waits for auction on Vancouver Island, 2009. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. loggers brace for changes in century-old log export policy

Contractor regulations shifting to stabilize struggling industry

Logging contractors are hopeful that the latest B.C. government changes to forest policy will stabilize a traditional business so companies can be sold as a going concern, rather than winding up in an auction of costly trucks and harvesting machines.

At the recent Truck Loggers Association convention, Premier John Horgan got a standing ovation when he announced changes to improve relations between B.C. forest licence holders and logging contractors. But the loggers were quiet about the NDP government’s proposed changes to reduce log exports, which the TLA has maintained for years is the revenue source that keeps some of them working in marginal-value stands.

“We are nervous about them to say the least, because we don’t know how it’s going to work,” David Elstone, executive director of the TLA, told Black Press in an interview.

“What we’re trying to get is a level of sustainability, so when people exit the business, they’re actually selling the business instead of going into dispersion of their equipment,” Elstone said. “Then there are people who want to come in and reinvest, attracting new contractors to the business.”

RELATED: Export laws threatening Northwest logging industry

RELATED: Mass timber construction a bright spot for producers

Horgan appointed former NDP premier Dan Miller to tackle “contractor sustainability,” the current term for survival in a forest industry facing sawmill shutdowns, a lack of skilled workers and a struggle to reach timber that can be cut and delivered economically.

Changes to export policy are “going to lead to more logs staying in British Columbia and more opportunity to extend mills rather than see the closures and the curtailments,” Horgan said at the B.C. Natural Resource Forum in Prince George this week. “We want to make sure first and foremost that the surrogate bidding that’s been blocking small operators from accessing B.C. logs is stopped, so we don’t have people bidding on behalf of other people and we have a fair and free and open log market.”

Elstone said domestic manufacturers are frustrated because despite a willingness to pay full market price for logs, some licensees are not willing to share the timber supply, keeping logs for their export program.

“The big issue isn’t log exports, it’s control of the timber supply, and having the timber supply in too few hands,” Elstone said. “The same thing happens in the log exporting business. People who should have a fair rate to buy logs are not given the chance, and it frustrates them, whereas others are able to export.”

The TLA is encouraged by a move to industry experts to arbitrate disputes.

“In the arbitration process, the contractor lawyers up and the licensees lawyer up and the lawyers go in front of an arbitrator who typically would have been a lawyer or operated in the legal world,” Elstone said. “If we have forestry experts on a panel as opposed to lawyers, that will expedite things.”

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson acknowledged there is more work ahead as his ministry develops new regulations. He noted that Miller found the most financially stable top 25 per cent of contractors and forest licensees already share information and negotiated rate models.

“By implementing Mr. Miller’s recommendations, logging contractors and their families in communities ranging from Port Alberni and Nanaimo, to Kamloops, Williams Lake and Nakusp, will be better able to count on a stable income to pay their mortgages, put food on the table and repair or replace aging or worn equipment,” Donaldson said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Charitable group seeks new members

100 People Who Care raise $1,350 for local food bank

UPDATED: Police nab suspect who escaped arrest

Man described to have several tattoos and is wearing dark pinstriped ‎pajama-style pants

West Fraser announces the permanent closure of Chasm sawmill

The third shift for the 100 Mile House location will also be eliminated

Winter Waterfalls project brings 7,500 visitors

Pilot project offered a unique waterfall viewing experience

VIDEO: Rare white killer whale captured by drone near Campbell River

The transient orca has been named Tl’uk, a Coast Salish word that means ‘moon.’

B.C. imposes interim moratorium on resource development to protect caribou

The caribou population in northeastern B.C. has dwindled over the last two decades

B.C. sculptor depicts epic eagle battle in latest piece that took 2,500 hours

Clasped in one of the raptor’s talons is each one’s desire: a living venomous diamondback rattlesnake

Students disciplined after anti-LGBTQ signs posted in Kamloops high school

Vessy Mochikas, SD73’s principal for inclusive education, called incident a learning opportunity

Air Canada expects Boeing 737 Max to resume flying by September or October

Air Canada isn’t worried about safety of the planes, says vice-president

‘The Fonz’ gives thumbs up in letter to dyslexic students at B.C. school

Students in Maple Ridge reached out to Henry Winkler after reading one his Zipster books.

PHOTOS: MP Mark Warawa loses brief battle with cancer

The Conservative Member of Parliament and long-time community advocate died in hospice this morning

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Most Read