Few countries have been blessed with such an abundance of natural resources as we have here in Canada. The forestry industry alone supports more than 140,000 jobs in the province, including one in five local jobs in Northeast B.C.
It's also why the recent, almost daily news of mill closures and curtailments throughout the province has been so devastating for our communities. I know that many of our residents have been directly affected by these announcements and my thoughts continue to be with those workers and their families.
So why is this happening? Many within the industry are pointing to several issues that have led to a growing sense of uncertainty within the province’s forestry sector, including low lumber prices, a declining annual allowable cut, increasing log costs, and uncertainty around ever increasing over-regulation. There are also concerns about the lack of progress on the softwood lumber file.
These issues have now only been exacerbated by the province, along with their federal Liberal counterparts, imposing a two-year moratorium on new natural resource development in our region as part of their caribou recovery plans.
I am deeply concerned that this interim moratorium will lead to permanent restrictions and I fail to see how pushing pause on natural resource development will "limit economic impacts" as Minister Donaldson would have us believe.
There's no denying that all of us care about the caribou and bringing the herd back, however, we have heard from local experts that a moratorium would not necessarily be effective in seeing caribou numbers increase. Instead, this decision will surely have a greater negative impact on our local mill operations, with more closures likely to come.
Unfortunately, we are seeing the real-world consequences of the Liberal’s failure to act on the softwood lumber file and a provincial government that wants to increase regulation and red tape at a time when the industry is already on its knees.
In these uncertain times, Conservative Members of Parliament from British Columbia, including myself, have been briefed on these closures and curtailments and possible next steps.
It's clear that both the federal Liberal government and provincial NDP government are simply not doing enough to support the forestry sector and its workers. Instead both seem content to leave an already battered industry to languish.
This is simply unacceptable, which is why we continue to fight this government’s desire to keep our resources in the ground and why we fight to protect our way of life and the jobs that go along with it, all while developing stronger conservation measures.
We need a federal and provincial government that fights for us.
Bob Zimmer is the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.