Reforms to the Forest and Range Practices Act are absolutely essential to begin to shifting B.C.’s forestry industry towards sustainable management. And we need to immediately pause logging in our critical old growth areas while a strategy for science-based old growth management across B.C. is developed – I had hoped to get a clear yes or no answer from the Minister today.
FOREST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND SUSTAINABILITY
I think it’s important to get on the record that the $5 billion that was approved was approved by every member of this House. It was a multipartisan effort to ensure the people of British Columbia were supported during this COVID-19 crisis.
This government has promised to bring in reforms to the Forest and Range Practices Act that governs how forestry is done in British Columbia. The regulations and legislation that govern forestry in B.C. are entirely focused on maximizing timber supply. Values like biodiversity, water quality and wildlife can all be managed for, yes, but only without unduly reducing the supply of timber. This fundamentally undermines our ability to manage forests and our forestry industry sustainably.
Reforms are absolutely essential to begin to shift our management regime away from an exclusive focus on timber supply to the detriment of all other values and towards sustainable management of our forest for all the values they hold. Yet, so far, the government won’t bring them in.
My question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Will he introduce the necessary changes to the Forests and Range Practices Act by this fall session to begin the shift towards more sustainable management in our forests?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
Thank you to the interim Leader of the Third Party for the question. I’m happy to discuss our plans around forestry reform. We’re committed to reforming the forest sector and that’s to improve public trust in how we sustainably manage forests — public trust that was damaged under the previous government. We’re committed to ensuring that the publicly held natural resource, the forests, benefit first and foremost communities and workers.
We’ve taken policy, regulation and legislative actions in the three years we’ve been government. We’ve created fibre recovery zones so that less waste is left on the forest floor after harvesting. We focused on increasing value over volume out of the forest with our mass timber initiatives. We’ve ensured that forest stewardship plans must be updated at minimum every five years. We’ve also embarked on five forest landscape planning pilot projects around the province.
We are committed to introducing more positive changes, including legislation, as a government and as the unpredictable events created by COVID-19 permit.
Leader Third Party on a supplemental.
PROTECTION OF OLD-GROWTH FORESTS
Thank you to the minister for the response. Working around the edges is not enough on this. Forestry in B.C. is broken, and it needs fundamental reform. Over the past number of decades, we’ve seen the loss of tens of thousands of forestry jobs as well as the continued liquidation of some of our most pristine highly productive old forests. Yet this government is delaying bringing in the basic, preliminary reforms to legislation to start us down a better path.
We’ve spent this past week asking the government what steps it’s taking to reform the industry, protect old growth and support workers in communities to transition. While the minister has acknowledged some of the problems before us, nothing has changed on the ground, and we don’t see a plan for the future. In fact, a friend recently recounted to me that he personally witnessed recently old growth being “hammered on our coast.” The longer that this government delays on changing course, the worse the outcomes in our forests and forestry-dependent communities are.
Once again, my question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development. We’ve heard lots of words in the last couple of days. I’m looking for just one. Will his government pause logging in old-growth ecosystems at the highest risk until a plan is in place, yes or no?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
Once again, I am happy to answer questions around the management of the forest resource in the province. Our government is absolutely committed to implementing a new sustainable and comprehensive old-growth management strategy. That’s why we commissioned the old growth strategic review. The panel toured the province and provided a very comprehensive report.
As I said in my response to the member’s question on this topic on Monday, we’ve committed to publicly release that report within six months of receiving it. We received it at the beginning of May. We’re on track to meet that commitment.
As for any actions that will arise as a result of the report, it’s important to remember that the terms of reference clearly outline that we will engage in a government-to-government consultation with First Nations before setting policy direction in response to the report. That’s in the spirit of respect. Acting unilaterally without first conducting the government-to-government discussions would not be respectful.