As many as 200 logging trucks came rumbling through downtown Vancouver on 25 September, bringing to attention the plight of B.C.’s embattled forestry sector to provincial leaders, reported Global News.
Government MLAs and the province’s mayors were gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre for the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention.
Convoy co-organiser Frank Etchart, who owns Nadina Logging Ltd., said that action to address mill closures and curtailments in the province is needed immediately.
Truckers began departing from various northern B.C. communities early Wednesday morning, and gathered in Merritt before pushing on to the Lower Mainland. The convoy of trucks was estimated to be 14 kilometres long.
Organisers hoped for the rally to highlight an issue that is near and dear to small-town British Columbians who are losing jobs in the forestry industry.
The province says there have been four permanent mill closures in the B.C. interior, affecting between 500 and 700 workers, along with 13 indefinite closures affecting another 1,000 workers.
With curtailments included, the province estimates as many as 3,000 workers could be impacted.
Experts have said high log costs and lack of timber availability are making B.C.’s forestry industry unprofitable, noting there are fewer costs attached to the forestry sector in neighbouring Alberta.
Many in the industry have pointed to the stumpage fees forestry companies pay to the province to harvest trees as a key problem.
Currently, stumpage fees are paid annually by businesses cutting timber on Crown-owned land.
Critics say if the fee was calculated more frequently, it might more accurately reflect the type and amount of wood being cut, potentially reducing costs for lumber companies.
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said without a change in the policy, mills will likely remain shuttered.
“The mills can’t afford to bring the wood out of the bush because the stumpage is too high. So it’s going to sit there until the stumpage rate comes down and they can afford to bring it in,” he said.
“We need the government to listen to us, they don’t seem to understand rural B.C. and the fact that we are the breadbasket, whether it be mining, ranching, forestry. That’s where the revenue comes from.”