By / Terence Corcoran
In the words of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, the province’s resource backbone is “in transition,” which is business association code for going through hell: employment down from 97,000 to 54,000 in two decades, forest fires and pine beetles destroying the resource, low timber prices, trade wars and softwood tariffs, a carbon tax that rises to $45 on April 1, less demand from Asian markets, high cost structures and regulatory burdens, government fees and stumpage rates, mill closures in B.C.’s Interior, a seven-month strike at a major firm, and a 10-year outlook that suggests no growth in timber harvest allowances through to 2030.
As if all that were not enough for an industry that has been struggling to maintain its legendary role in the B.C. economy, along comes John Horgan’s NDP government with a fancy new forest products intervention to add to the list of industry woes.
In an almost secret Order in Council dated Jan. 21, the Horgan cabinet approved a regulatory change that aims to fulfil the perennial dream of resource strategy bureaucrats, market interventionists and politicians, including Premier Horgan. The export of “raw logs” must stop, he has said. “We will find a way through incentives and regulations, through carrots and sticks to make that happen.”