Nothing carves the heart out of a small community like closure of the town’s largest employer. It happened in Quesnel last Friday when Tolko announced it was permanently closing its Quest Wood sawmill and reducing shifts at its Kelowna operations too.
This affects more than 200 workers and their families. News like this sends a chill down the spine of 140 communities in B.C. whose local economies are almost completely dependent on the forest industry, including some in the Peace region.
The Tolko closure has been blamed on a number of factors, especially a lack of fibre supply. Beetle infestations and wildfires have certainly contributed to the problem. But people in the forest industry also cite the fact that B.C. has the highest production costs in North America.
Production costs are exclusively man-made. High taxes like the brand new Employer Health Tax, endless carbon tax increases, and a spike in corporate taxes all weigh down the industry. But what John Horgan and the NDP fail to understand is they cannot return the industry to state-run control, which it is attempting to do with new legislation under Bill 22.
Only a month ago, Horgan called on the industry, First Nations, and local governments to come together and come up with team effort to help turn around forestry. A few weeks later, he blindsided the entire industry by introducing Bill 22, which will give the forest minister extraordinary power and control. In response, the Council of Forest Industries issued a warning to Horgan that he could expect between eight to 10 mills to close as a direct result of the bill.
People in Chetwynd are also voicing their concerns too. First, in reply to the NDP’s botched caribou consultations, and now because Bill 22 is based more on ideology than common sense.
With less than two weeks before Horgan shuts down the current session of the legislature, Opposition MLAs want the government to immediately press pause on Bill 22 before any more mills are closed permanently.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.