Parties' forestry platforms show few differences, industry insiders say

The province’s forests — long a cornerstone in political debate — are unlikely to provide much in the way of a wedge issue in the coming election, based on the platforms of the two main parties, according to industry insiders.

While both the Liberals, who unveiled their entire platform Monday, and the NDP, which unveiled its forestry platform at an event in Prince George the same day, consider the $10–billion industry a foundation for the economy, neither strayed from the “motherhood issues” of skills training, marketing and dealing with pine-beetle aftermath.

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“We just don’t see any wedge issues in forestry,” said Rick Jeffery, president of the Coast Forest Products Association. “To me, it looks like a matter of timing and scope — the NDP wants to spend $100 million in inventory and reforestation in pine-beetle areas, and the Liberals are spending similar amounts over a different period of time.

“They’re both talking about skills and training, they both talk about marketing, great, and both say they realize log exports are part of the forest economy — it’s a matter of the proper amount. The NDP wants less and the Liberals want more.”

New Democrat leader Adrian Dix announced a five-point forestry plan that would see $310 million invested in the industry over five years if his party wins the election in May.

Dix says the NDP would invest in skills training, improve forest health, expand global markets for B.C. lumber and cut raw-log exports, while it reinstates a jobs-protection commissioner.

The party’s commitment to improve forest health includes an emphasis on increasing the province’s research capacity, updating forest inventories and doubling the number of seedlings planted annually.

The Liberal platform includes promises to continue growing export markets in China, Japan, Korea and India, to provide up to $500,000 for research into new products that could be produced from B.C.’s timber resource, to increase money for reforestation in pine-beetle areas, and to implement a recently announced 10-year, $80-million plan to ensure 35 million hectares of forest are inventoried in mountain-pine-beetle-affected priority areas.

“There’s not a lot of difference in the platforms,” said Jeffery, adding the parties offered few specifics about skills training and marketing.

Jeffrey also said most of the money being talked about — much of it earmarked for reforestation and dealing with pine-beetle-affected land — will be focused on the Interior forestry industry rather than the coast. “From a coastal perspective, there’s just not a lot in there.” aduffy@timescolonist.com

 

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