North island community leaders discuss solutions to BC's forestry crisis

Community poll identifies deep concern over state of BC forests

VANCOUVER, Feb. 25 /CNW/ - In the shadow of 3 mill closures over the past three years, more than 30 community leaders from north Vancouver Island communities attended a community dialogue session to discuss solutions to the forestry crisis in their region, amid deepening public concern over the state of BC forests.

The working session, titled 'BC Forests. Our Future.' was organized by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union and included Vancouver Island MLA's Claire Trevena and Scott Fraser, along with Campbell River mayor Charlie Cornfield and representatives from local governments, forest sector unions and non-profit stakeholder groups in the region.

BCGEU president Darryl Walker set the stage for the dialogue by outlining the challenges facing BC's forest sector - noting that over 15,600 forest jobs have been lost in the Vancouver Island coastal region since 2000.

"More than 70 mills have closed across BC and over 40,000 forest sector jobs have been lost since the BC Liberal government came to office," says Walker. "Over 1000 forest ministry jobs have been eliminated. Compliance and enforcement has been dramatically scaled back, while changes to legislation allow forest companies to effectively regulate themselves.

"We came to Campbell River to consult with local leaders, identify key issues in this region, and work toward positive solutions to help revitalize our forest sector and generate long-term benefits for local communities."

The BCGEU also shared results from a recent poll of local residents showing a community deeply concerned about the effect of forest policy on their lives.

Of the Campbell River and Courtenay-Comox area residents polled, 95 and 87 per cent respectively agreed that the forest industry was vitally important to the economic health of their community, while 52 per cent of Campbell River and 39 per cent of Courtenay-Comox respondents have experienced job loss in their family in the last 2 years. A staggering 92 per cent of respondents who were aware of forest ministry layoffs said they were a bad idea.

"There is a clear disconnect between the B.C. government's sunny forestry rhetoric and the real experience of the people on the North Island," says Walker. "People who live in resource communities have to live with the results of government neglect every day."

Walker noted that the BCGEU will conduct community dialogue sessions in 2 other BC resource communities in coming weeks as part of a 4-city tour, consulting with community leaders to develop positive solutions to revitalize the forest sector and re-assert government control over this valuable public resource.

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Chris Bradshaw at 604-369-8411

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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