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Lax export laws

Oct. 15, 2014 - I have to agree with Brian Frank, the President and CEO of Timberwest Forest Corp that B.C. has strong emotions and opinions on the forest sector. But his ideology that export restrictions have caused grief for B.C. loggers is inaccurate. Having seen the results of current log export policies on communities and workers, I could write an entire article on this alone but would rather debunk some of the ideologies.

The inconvenient truth is that while there are provincial and federal log export restrictions in B.C., they do not go far enough to protect the forest industry. Inflated export prices inflate domestic sawlog prices, putting lumber manufacturing operations at a disadvantage when having to buy on the market. When talking about the “surplus test,” I would like to see the actual impact it has had on TimberWest’s private lands with the multiple mill closures that have occurred on the coast (TimberWest has closed two of its own as well).

In reality, the export laws in B.C. have become rather lax under the current Liberal government of B.C. According to testimony before a 2010 NAFTA tribunal, only 2.4 per cent of all federal booms advertised during ten years were considered by the Timber Export Advisory Committee, which means that nearly 98 per cent of booms advertised were granted surplus status.

Managed forestlands have received major tax exemptions compared to any other property holders, saving Timberwest millions over the years compared to other landowners on Coastal B.C. – yet they complain of subsidies on public lands. There are no stumpage fees on private lands and no penalty for logs left on the ground as their counterparts have on public lands.

Brian Frank talks about Timberwest supporting 3,000 direct and indirect jobs. I’m at a query wondering where all these jobs exist, because only a small portion of them would be coastal loggers.

A study that was done a while back estimated that for every logger that worked supplying a mill with timber, there were five sawmilling jobs. I would not even be able to guess the indirect jobs that would be associated with these numbers.

It is very disconcerting to me when I hear claims that raw log exports create logging jobs when the numbers actually show that there has been no recent increase in loggers. The number of loggers has steadily declined with mechanisation and closure of the mills.

To say exporting logs will increase the amount of loggers is a farce: logging is determined by annual cuts. If export markets are flooded and prices are low and Timberwest decides to watch trees grow, I wonder how having the ability to export all of its logs at the expense of domestic markets will improve the situation. I cannot see much log blocking going on, as I don’t see much of a demand for our manufactured product when they aren’t even cutting our raw logs.

There are many numbers and statistics that contravene what Mr. Brian Frank has to say in his column, but unfortunately there is not enough room in one article to go over every point. But I did take note of something he said at an international convention – that mills don’t make money for various reasons, including unionised labour, and that’s why mills are built south of the border. But mills are built south of the boarder to circumvent the softwood lumber agreement as raw logs are excluded.

Final cut is open to readers with an opinion to share. For more information or to add your own perspective to the debate, contact Amie Silverwood at asilverwood@annexweb.com.

 


October 15, 2014
By Rick Neuwirth