Bob Simpson is mayor of Quesnel. He is the former NDP (then independent) MLA for Cariboo North.
OPINION: Quesnel, and the rest of B.C., experienced more permanent mill closures and forest-sector job losses during the B.C. Liberal’s time in government than at any other time in the province’s history,As the mayor of a community experiencing the permanent loss of over 200 forest sector jobs, I’m disheartened by the recent letter the leader of the opposition sent to the premier.If Andrew Wilkinson’s letter reflects the Liberal’s forestry agenda, it proves two things: One, the Liberals still don’t understand what the real issues are and, two, they would rather play petty politics than support the deep policy shifts needed to tackle the underlying issues that created the crisis.It’s important to note that Quesnel, and the rest of B.C., experienced more permanent mill closures and forest-sector job losses during the B.C. Liberal’s time in government than at any other time in the province’s history, including those we are experiencing today. Make no mistake, Liberal forest policy created the conditions for the current crisis by enabling corporate concentration, eliminating oversight of our forests, marginalizing community and First Nations’ participation in decision-making, failing to address climate impacts on our forests, making B.C. a costly jurisdiction to operate in and creating the conditions for increasing log exports and decreasing value being created from our forest resources.Admittedly, Wilkinson wasn’t premier when the Liberals made a mess of the forest sector but the approach he demands that Premier John Horgan take to solve the current crisis is contradictory, hypocritical and stale. It suggests that the Opposition leader wouldn’t offer forest-dependent communities and workers any respite from the previous Liberal administration’s disastrous forest policies.Wilkinson’s letter demands that Horgan, alone, solve the softwood lumber dispute — something Wilkinson ought to know is not possible — while simultaneously demanding that the provincial government politically interfere with B.C.’s stumpage system, which the Liberals created, and single out the forest sector for a break on the carbon tax that the Liberals imposed.If the provincial government reduces stumpage and the carbon tax for the forest sector, it would only prove to the Americans that we can and do subsidize our industry to make it more competitive, negating our ability to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. That’s why the Liberals never gave the forest industry relief from the carbon tax or reduced stumpage in weak markets, and why Wilkinson’s demands are both hypocritical and contradictory.More telling, the other demands Wilkinson makes in his letter are not innovative, suggesting he has no idea how to address the crisis in the forest sector. The sum of his demands imply that all the province needs to do is get the sector over the current market downturn and all will be well, proving he doesn’t comprehend or want to admit that we’ve run out of commercially available timber and that a significant number of sawmills must be shut down permanently in order to avoid overharvesting our forests.Despite repeated warnings from as early as 2005 that this day of reckoning would come for our forest sector, Wilkinson’s party steadfastly refused to address the underlying causes of the current crisis. Now, rather than engage in meaningful dialogue with the government, he and his MLAs are resorting to the worst kind of petty and alarmist politics — hypocritically blaming the NDP for a crisis the Liberals created while offering no real solutions.Unlike the former Liberal government, the B.C. NDP is taking deliberate steps to address the systemic issues in the forest sector and is working with communities like mine to help us manage through this transition period. They may not have all the policies right, but they are certainly moving in the right direction.Bob Simpson is mayor of Quesnel. He is the former NDP (then independent) MLA for Cariboo North.Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at email@example.com.CLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.