Steelworkers Welcome NDP Action on Forest Crisis



    BURNABY, BC, April 14 /CNW/ - Today the United Steelworkers welcomed the
BC New Democrats' forest platform, which promises to deal with the crisis that
has knocked out dozens of wood-processing plants and killed some 25,000 jobs
province-wide.
    "At last someone says they will actually stand up for forest-sector
workers and resource-based communities," says Steelworkers Western Canadian
Director Stephen Hunt. "We desperately need a government that listens to our
concerns, takes us seriously and will actually tackle the problems that the
current government has ignored."
    Hunt noted that even before the slump in the US housing market, Gordon
Campbell's Liberal government had failed to address serious problems in the
industry. "In fact, many of Campbell's policies made things worse," he noted.
    Among the Liberals' most damaging policies were the changes to the Forest
Act that removed controls on annual harvest rates and local processing of
timber, eliminated the mill-closure review process, allowed companies to
exchange licenses without ministerial oversight and close mills at will. In
addition, Liberal support for contracting-out and low-bid timber auctions,
coupled with allowing companies to self-regulate timber harvesting, started a
race to the bottom that undermined safety and environmental standards.
    "We've suffered through a failed experiment in free-market forestry,"
says USW Wood Council Chair Bob Matters. "The New Democrats' hands-on approach
can only benefit communities and help restore the industry to health and
sanity."
    Matters notes that the NDP's plan for a phased-in tax on log exports is
consistent with the plan Steelworkers presented to the BC Forest Round Table
last year. "We understand that economic realities say we can't end exports
overnight, especially given how the Liberals have destroyed the manufacturing
sector. But we welcome the commitment to start reducing the quantity of raw
logs leaving the province."
    Under the Campbell government exports soared from a tiny fraction of BC's
total harvest to over 5 million cubic meters in 2005. Even with reduced
harvest levels due to the slump in the housing sector, BC raw-log exports
reached 2.6 million cubic meters in 2008. And companies were allowed to turn
productive forests to real estate.
    "We welcome the NDP's take-charge approach. The Liberals' policy of
allowing industry to do whatever it likes and hope for the best didn't work.
They trusted industry to invest and create jobs' but when they didn't they
were left with no direction and no ideas. It's time for a change," said
Matters.





For further information:

For further information: Stephen Hunt, (604) 683-1117, (604) 816-2554;
Bob Matters, (604) 683-1117, (604) 996-4476


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