Repair List Begins With Resource Sector – NCLC Head
Prince George, B.C. – The head of the North Central Labour Council says the forest sector and working forests are a mess because they’ve been neglected for 16 years and calls on an anticipated NDP government to refocus on the benefits of the forest resource for job stability, growth and opportunity.
NCLC President Don Iwaskow says “making changes to the Forestry Act would be a good start. It was dismantled by the Liberals in 2002 and has not resulted in any net benefit to workers or communities, especially the value-added sector.” Iwaskow also wants a halt to the export of raw logs stating “anytime we export raw unprocessed products it’s a loss to the people of the province and exports jobs out of the country.”
“We can do more with our wood waste and timber, its just more cost-effective to ship out the raw product, which is wrong-headed and should be unacceptable to any government. Government has the opportunity to stop the bleed and create the policies and supports needed to greatly curtail the export of raw logs.”
Still in the resource vein, Iwaskow suggests re-directing all the jobs from the Forest, Environment and Mining ministries back to regional offices; improve the process for mine approvals, inspectors and oversight; and encourage new, emerging industries to locate in the North/Central region.
He says the Liberals have done a poor job on job creation, at least from the Prince George area south. “We’ve seen some employment in the service sector, hotels, restaurants and construction, but they are not long-term, family-supporting jobs. When you look at the mill closures in this region, each one employing 200-plus workers earning $50-60,000 per year and the spin-off loss, there has been no substitute manufacturing growth.”
Iwaskow says as for the Peace Region “you’ve seen an upstart in mining and with the Site C hydro project but the numbers claimed by the Liberals are suspect as to the number of local and regional workers and contractors gaining benefit.”
He says Site C should have undergone a BC Utilities Commission review from the start. “The BCUC was created to be at arm’s length from government and had the ability to bring in a wide range of experts and information and determine the needs of the future regarding hydro demand. Hurry up and build was not necessary and more political than anything.”
Regarding the seemingly never-ending increase in myriad rates Iwaskow says “the new government must stop the practice of the Liberals using ICBC to balance the books and audit the agency. The issue of MSP is not simple and will require some work but its going to take an extensive review as some employers pay the cost for employees, others a percentage and some not at all. Hydro needs to go under the microscope and view their finances and priorities. All this will help lower costs for the people of BC, which should be the priority.”
The North Central Labour Council represents workers from the Prince George, Quesnel, South Cariboo and Peace River areas.