I have been invited to many meetings from forestry experts and advocates since my election to the British Columbia legislature.
Each and every group has strongly criticized the approach of the Ministry and past decisions. When I have asked Ministry officials about these issues they have assured me that everything is all good. To be clear they are the ONLY stakeholder group to be so confident of our policy direction.
We cannot expect different results from the same policy. We have to change, evolve and innovate. I asked Minister Doug Donaldson what his Ministry is doing to innovate our forestry policy from “wholesale liquidation” to sustainable forestry management.
British Columbia is a leader in low-value raw log exports and mill closures. We’re not producing enough value-added wood products. This summer I posted photos of massive piles of slash on the way to Sooke. This morning I posted those photos of that valuable fibre burning.
B.C. mills are a huge opportunity for innovation. Bioplastics, for instance, can be made from wood and pulp waste. We can retrofit mills to turn wood debris into everything from bioplastic food waste packaging to 3D printer stock. If our forestry industry is going to continue to offer long-term good-paying jobs and if we are going to sustainably manage our forests, it will not be with the status quo. Our mindset needs to change, and mills need to evolve.
To the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, can the minister provide tangible examples of how his ministry is supporting the innovation in mills to embrace these changing times?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
I want to say thanks for the question. Forest management is an important topic in this province, as many of the MLAs in this chamber know, and moving ahead in a new way is important, in light of a changing landscape and in light of climate change and in light of decreasing timber supply.
We have been working with the industry on Vancouver Island and on the coast, with First Nations, with communities, on a coast forest revitalization strategy. We began that in June. We had meetings throughout the three months over the summer. We met again in September.
What it is all about is encouraging new forestry practices to maximize the utilization and get more value out of the fibre currently being logged. So the example that the member brought up around wood waste and wood left in the woods is something that is being addressed through our new coast forest revitalization strategy.
It’s an important topic. We must get more jobs out of every piece of wood that’s being logged and that’s in the forest. It’s something that we’re keeping our eye on, and we’re going to make changes in 2019.
Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
We’ve heard from mayors and councillors, Indigenous leaders, environmental groups, academics and domestic and international sciences. They are united in the criticism of our province’s forest management.
A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report this year highlighted the massive job losses and mill closures under the former B.C. Liberal government, despite being the self-appointed masters of job creation and defenders of rural British Columbia. It called our forest management “a program of liquidation, not sustainable forestry.”
Decades-old forestry policy is not the way of the future. If it was, should I expect my Myspace account to blow up? To the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development, what substantive steps is the minister taking to move away from wholesale liquidation to sustainable forest management?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
While I appreciate the interest in the question, the premise of wholesale liquidation is not happening in B.C.’s forests under this government. There are nearly 500,000 hectares of parks and protected areas on Vancouver Island, and as recently as this year, we added an extra 70,000 hectares of old-growth forest along the coast for the marbled murrelet.
But there is work to be done, and we recognize that. We want to work together with people who are interested in moving biodiversity forward as well as a continued vibrant forest sector that people depend on in rural communities up and down the Island, up and down the coast and across B.C. in the Interior and north and rural areas.
We are working with industry. We’re working with environmental organizations on an old growth strategy and modernizing our land use planning process. That’s an important part of how we’re going to change into the future with new forest management practices.
I also want to point out that we’ve had an incredible amount of investment in the forest sector in the last 15 months under this government.
There have been recent investments by the San Group and Mercer. The San Group’s investment of almost $70 million in a lumber facility in Port Alberni is going to be focusing on a specialized mill in small-dimension wood — so wood that’s available now and into the future, and the kind of wood that will be available in the future. We’ve also had an incredible investment by Mercer in the Catalyst mills on the coast.
So it shows a confidence in this government. It shows a confidence in our management of the forest resource industry.