I recently had the honour of attending the Mackenzie Matters Rally in support of our local forestry communities. With almost 1,000 people in attendance, it was great to see so many come out to support Mackenzie and have their voices heard.
At the rally I challenged the BC Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson to remember that decisions that are made in Victoria and Ottawa have real and lasting effects on our rural communities like Mackenzie. The non-scientific based decisions being made like the caribou moratorium, which wildlife biologists have said will have zero impact on the caribou population, is already having adverse “on the ground” effects on jobs in Mackenzie and across the Interior.
Over the past few months, approximately two dozen mills in our province have been closed or curtailed temporarily. This has led to thousands of jobs lost across British Columbia as a direct result of these closures. It has also led to heavy impacts to other industries that rely upon the forestry sector. For example, the Truck Logger’s Associationhas predicted that the industry will shrink by 25 per cent in the coming months. This has been a devastating time to many communitiesthat rely heavily on our forestry industry with some, like Fort St. John, calling it an economic emergency.
I had also been in Mackenzie earlier in August for my ‘Coffee with Bob’ event and met with residents who had expressed their concern about what was happening to our forestry industry. It was a frank and open discussion about what we as a community, and what we as lawmakers, can do to help those affected.
In July, my Conservative colleagues Cathy McLeod, Todd Doherty, Shannon Stubbs, Dan Albas and I sent a letter to the federal Minister of Natural Resources and the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development calling on them to take immediate action to support our forestry workers and the communities affected by these closures and curtailments. The reply we received back simply listed programs that the Liberals had implemented in the past with nothing about what is being done for our communities during this current crisis. I have since written back demanding to know what is being done to help our communities specifically.
In Ottawa, the Liberals have failed to make a new softwood lumber agreement a priority. British Columbia also continues to pay the price for Justin Trudeau’s mishandled NAFTA negotiations and his failure to defend our trade interests around the world. This has put our rural way of life in Canada at risk and made it harder and harder to get our natural resources developed.
The Mackenzie Matters Rally was an important reminder to those in Victoria and Ottawa that the decisions that they are making behind their desks are having a huge impact on our communities.
I would like to recognize and thank the president of the Mackenzie Matters Rally, Kim Guthrie, as well as Shannon Bezo and Trish Jacques for their tireless efforts on behalf of Mackenzie and the community that they all represent so well.
Bob Zimmer is the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.