Island logging contractor, set to close, pins hopes on review

 

The owner of a 90-year-old logging firm that expects to close its doors for good this fall believes there is still hope for other logging contractors in the industry if the province acts to open up the playing field.

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Graham Lasure, who announced this week that W.D. Moore Logging of Winter Harbour will shut down for good in November, said he expects the logging contractor sustainability review, which is underway, could offer a means of keeping small contractors in the game.

“I have huge hopes for that,” said Lasure.

He said the stories contractors have been telling about an unfair system will be laid bare for the government in that review. “It will all come out and it will be up to the government to [determine] what they are willing to do with it.”

The review, being undertaken by former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott, is designed to improve the competitiveness of forest-sector contractors and strengthen relationships between logging contractors and licensees. The review is to be completed in January.

Lasure said he’s not holding out hope for a major move such as timber tenure reform, which would change the way Crown land is managed and the rights to log it are handed out. But he said there are likely to be some minor wins for small companies.

Lasure would like in particular to see changes to Bill 13, which was designed to improve security for the province’s logging contractors.

Lasure would like contractors to have the right to stop work until they have steady rates established with tenure-holders such as Western Forest Products. He would also like to see a competitive rate that is defined rather than determined in court by tenure-holders using low-ball examples. And he wants to see a limit on large tenure holders bidding on timber sales to allow contractors to compete.

Any changes that come as a result of the review will come too late for W.D. Moore Logging.

Lasure said he made the decision to shut down operations because it was no longer viable.

“It’s not a good investment. We can still make money, but for the amount of investment and risk the risk-reward ratio isn’t good enough.”

Lasure said with timber tenure in the region controlled by one company — Western — it was difficult to negotiate reasonable financial terms.

“And we have no power in negotiations. We can’t just go and work for someone else,” he said.

In a statement, Western noted it has managed Tree Farm Licence No. 6 since 1951 and shares a long history with contractors on the coast. “In fact, we depend on them and their success. While we are saddened by W.D. Moore’s decision after such a long and shared history, we understand that their long-term contract was purchased by another company,” it said.

Western also said it has invested in the long-term viability of the coastal forest industry. “Despite significant challenges, WFP has invested $300 million in infrastructure, new equipment and in modernizing our manufacturing facilities since 2012.”

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