Clark Challenges BC Timber Industry

Article excerpt

By bankrolling "Share" groups and dubious public relations campaigns, BC forest companies have spent years stoking a phony war between workers and environmentalists, designed to distract their employees from the real cause of job loss while simultaneously distracting the general public from horrific deforestation. Throughout this time BC environmentalists, joined by a small number of woodworkers, have argued that the "jobs vs trees" debate is a false one. The real battle, they say, is to increase the ratio of jobs to logs in this province.

At last, BC has a premier (at least temporarily) who grasps this point enough to deliver an ultimatum to the timber industry. In March, Premier Glen Clark (Mike Harcourt's successor chosen at an NDP leadership convention in February) put the industry on notice: create 21,000 new jobs in the next five years, and with no increase in harvest levels, or lose your timber-cutting rights.

"We are the landlord, we are the owners of the forest," Clark told a press conference following his meeting with industry. "I indicated to the industry that the government is committed to this. Failure to work together means the government would act unilaterally."

The companies were not impressed. MacMillan Bloedel and some of the other majors boycotted the meeting Clark called to discuss the jobs-and-timber accord he wants to achieve with them by September (although an anticipated May election may derail this plan.) Ever the friend to big business, Liberal leader Gordon Campbell chastised Clark. "The way to build a strong forestry industry is not by threatening them," Campbell told reporters.

Oh really? Nothing else has worked on an industry that, through the introduction of labour-shedding technology, has managed to cut the jobs-to-logs ratio in half over a 30-year period in this province. With only one direct industry job generated for every 1,000 cubic metres logged, BC falls significantly below the job levels achieved by California, Oregon and Washington. …