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Woodworkers May Fight Liberals Forestry Reforms
The BC Liberals have ordered the removal all primary and secondary manufacturing requirements for corporate Tree Farm License holders, giving them the power to export unlimited quantities of raw logs, and the IWA-Canada may go to court to fight it."They have removed one of the most fundamental policies that's kept the industry alive here without any consultation what so ever," says IWA Canada Executive Member Jim Parker. "This government is sacrificing our economy and forest communities to satisfy the wish list of Weyerhaeuser and other Liberal Party donors."
The scrapping of this requirement has been a demand of major forest companies for many years. Its removal, ordered last month by the Liberal cabinet, is expected to devastate resource communities, already hard hit by the US government-imposed Softwood Lumber Agreement and mass public sector lay-offs by the Liberal government.
"It's a complete cave-in to the corporate sector," Parker said. "Maybe it's just a plain hatred of working people. What they have done is remove any provisions to protect work and let the companies do whatever they want at our expense."
For the last fifty years, the BC government has based the operation of crown forest lands on the issuing of long-term harvesting permits, or licenses, to private corporate interests, giving them what is referred to as Tenure over dedicated areas of forest land. In return, the firms have been required to maintain primary manufacturing facilities, such as saw and plywood mills, to create lumber and other primary wood products. This has guaranteed a reasonable degree of work opportunities for resource dependent communities in BC.
This move follows on the heels of another exemption to this requirement, which is allowing forms to export over 35,000 long truckloads of raw logs from northwestern BC this year. The government insists it has no choice in doing this in order to keep the local industry competitive under the restrictions of both the softwood tariff and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"There are already raw log exports happening on private forest lands. If this is expanded to public lands, who is going to want to buy our lumber, when companies can just export raw logs?" he said.
He adds that the era of so-called "free trade" has more to do with corporate power politics and satisfying the agenda of the US government than about open markets and level playing fields. "It's a farce," he said, adding that BC's skilled union workforce generally produces better quality wood products at more affordable prices than their US counterparts. "We haven't been able to sell our lumber freely in the US for years. These deals (NAFTA, Softwood Lumber, etc.) have been used to make us artificially un-competitive to appease the US corporate sector."
Parker says it's obvious both the federal and BC Liberals, who are openly pro-NAFTA, are happy to go along with this destructive situation, especially considering a recent proposal to impose an export tax on BC lumber products as a way of pacifying US corporate interests.
"This would just make our mill more artificially un-competitive," he said. "It like having someone come in to rob your house, and in order to stop them, you agree to pay them $1000 a month or whatever just to appease them. It's racketeering, and nothing else."
The Columbia Journal
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