B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks with unemployed forest industry contractors attending rally at B.C. legislature, Dec. 11, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

More than 200 Vancouver Island forest contractors and suppliers gathered at the B.C. legislature Wednesday to call for relief for an industry that has left them out of work for months.

Many have been idled by the United Steelworkers strike against Western Forest Products that has dragged on since July 1. Some contractors say the NDP government’s increased penalties for wood waste have made it too costly to operate, and provincial stumpage for Crown timber remains too high.

Bill Coates, a contractor from Port Alberni who organized the rally, emerged from a meeting with Forests Minister Doug Donaldson after people had waited outside for more than an hour.

“We came to Victoria to have our voices heard on very short notice, and we were heard,” Coates told the crowd, who cheered and applauded speakers who told of family struggles as Christmas approaches. “What we’ve seen is our industry down and our personal taxes up, and we need to get back to work.”

Mediator Vince Ready is scheduled to meet with the union and Western Forest Products management Thursday to deal with outstanding issues including shift schedule changes, long-term disability payments and drug and alcohol testing.

RELATED: Steelworkers, Western to return to mediated talks

RELATED: Interior forest aid on the way, Donaldson says

Geoff Brown, also a contractor, said stumpage rates and harvesting restrictions have affected equipment suppliers, foresters and engineers as well as loggers.

“They’re basically charging triple what the waste penalties were,” Brown said. “Costs have gone through the roof. We can’t operate.”

The rally took place as Premier John Horgan and the NDP cabinet were wrapping up their weekly meeting. Speakers called for Horgan or any government representative to come out and speak with them, but they were disappointed.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and forests critic John Rustad addressed the rally, calling for more government action. Rustad said the government’s refusal to change stumpage rate setting from the current quarterly system to monthly, to reflect lumber prices, ignores the fact that Alberta sets stumpage monthly without sparking protests from U.S. lumber producers.

In November, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett asked Donaldson about a letter to Finance Minister Carole James from Sigurdson Forest Products of Williams Lake, calling for a delay in stumpage payments. The company had just laid off 50 people, with 90 left working in its sawmill and planer, as it struggles with loss of timber from fire that caused it to miss the period of high lumber prices that preceded the current downturn.

“We currently owe approximately $4.6 million in outstanding stumpage,” president Brian Sigurdson wrote.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Morning Start: Hawaiian Pizza is Canadian

Your morning start for Monday, Sept. 28, 2020

Need for housing in Salmon Arm climbs while units being constructed

More demand for temporary shelter and much earlier than in 2019

Okanagan whisky lottery adds new twists

Winners of Okanagan Spirits’ Laird of Fintry lottery announced in four batches beginning Sept. 28

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Fuel Good Day pumps up Okanagan-Shuswap organizations

Thousands raised by annual Armstrong Regional Co-op fundraiser Sept. 15

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

B.C. VOTES 2020: B.C. Liberals vow to eliminate sales tax for a year

From 7% to zero, then back in at 3% to stimulate economy

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Three arrested after Keremeos shooting that severely injured one man

The victim was transported by air ambulance to a regional hospital

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

UPDATE: One dead after motorcycle collision on Highway 97 near Peachland

The collision closed Highway 97 off-and-on throughout Sunday afternoon

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

Most Read