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Resource Development

Reinvesting in British Columbia’s Forest Sector

Despite today’s announcement that $150 million will be invested in reforestation, a wave of unemployment is sweeping across rural B.C. because of government policies that have devastated the province’s once-great forest resource.

Premier Christy Clark now says the appropriate response is to put forest industry people to work building roads and bridges. B.C. really needs a bigger vision than that – especially since the provincial government is complicit in the sector’s mismanagement in the first place.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, a pine beetle infestation erupted. The pandemic was exacerbated by successive B.C. NDP and Liberal governments who pursued policies that created largely monoculture forests.  Pine trees grow fast and the government encouraged their use as the “preferred” species for replanting huge swaths of land that had been clear-cut. At the same time, the government’s shortsighted forest fire suppression policies snuffed out fires that would have naturally created a more diversified landscape. (Forest fires play a vital ecological role and, where possible, should be monitored closely but left to safely burn.)

The result: huge plantations of pine trees flourished. As climate change reduced the severity of B.C. winters, they became perfect breeding grounds for pine beetles and the largest beetle attack ever seen in North America was unleashed destroying millions of trees over a massive area. As the epidemic spread, and the health of B.C.’s forests deteriorated, the government was forced to dramatically increasing the allowable cut.

In recent years, the decline of the province’s forests has been masked by the increased cutting of dead trees in so-called salvage logging – but there is no hiding the fact that nearly 60% of the merchantable pine has been destroyed by the beetle invasion. Today, even the dead trees are running out and across rural B.C. forest industry jobs have entered a period of rapid, devastating decline.

Recent labor force statistics show that while the number of jobs in Metro Vancouver are up, there has been a drop in rural B.C. The unemployment rate in Mainland/Southwest B.C. is at 5%, but it is 8.2% in Thompson-Okanagan and 10.5% in North Coast/Nechako. In December, Tolko Industries shut down its Nicola Valley sawmill, taking 203 high-paying jobs out of a small community that will struggle without them.

And that’s just the start of it.

Because of the declining timber supply, the province’s chief forester has been forced to reduce the allowable annual cut (AAC). In Prince George, the AAC is being reduced by 50%. In Quesnel the AAC is dropping to 1.6 million cubic metres from 4 million cubic metres. Last March, in the Merritt Timber Supply Area, the AAC was cut to 1.5 million from 2.4 million cubic metres.

If you reduce the number of trees being cut, there will be a corresponding drop in the number of loggers, truck drivers and mill workers who have jobs. The Truck Loggers Association recently heard at its annual convention that five or six pulp and paper mills will close in the next two to six years. Thousands of jobs will be lost.

Over the past 25 years, NDP and Liberal governments’ have tried to position themselves as defenders of the forest industry, by setting the AAC at unsustainable levels, instead of concentrating on value added and diversification. The consequences of this are now coming home to roost. Premier Clark’s plan to increase spending on infrastructure projects to address the economic divide between rural and urban B.C. may deliver much needed infrastructure but will not create a long term solution.

What rural B.C. really needs are healthy forests and a vibrant small/medium family business culture that can provide sustainable logging, support local economies and provide environmental diversity over the long term. That’s how communities grow and prosper.

We need to rethink our forest management in the context of the realities of the 21st century – global warming; technological change; international competition; not to mention the immediate issues of growing protectionism, and the soft wood lumber dispute.  Our tenure structures date back to the 19th century, and our mills have been starved of investment over recent years.  The investment that has taken place, has usually replaced people with machines.

Rather than manage our forests, the BC Liberals have toyed with privatizing them.  It is worth remembering that in 2001, Mike De Jong, then Minister of Forests, told a meeting of silviculturalists that BC’s Crown forests would be “unrecognizable” when he and the Liberals were finished with them.

Our forests are our collective asset, and we need to ensure that first and foremost, British Columbians are fully benefiting from them, not just corporations and vested interests.

We need to start a new conversation about our forests. We need to ask:

  • How do we maximize the benefits of our forest industry?
  • How do we get the greatest value from our fibre?
  • How do we ensure that our rural and remote communities are included in the benefits?
  • What is the most effective long term management structure?
  • How do we integrate indigenous people and communities in decision making?
  • How are we going to manage sustainability, long term productivity, mitigating climate change and enhancing secondary manufacturing?

A redesign of our forest management is long overdue and would be priority of a BC Green Government. We need to truly end the war in the woods, and ensure that our forests work for all of us.

 

Speaking to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade — A Vision for our Future

On Friday, February 3rd, I spoke to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. In my presentation I offered a vision for a prosperous British Columbia that builds on our strengths, not the weaknesses of others.

For those wondering about the direction that a BC Green government would take this province, please consider watching.


Video of Presentation to Greater Vancouver Board of Trade


Standing with the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nation on Open Net Salmon Farming

Today I had the distinct honour of standing with the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nation in demanding the removal of open net fish farms from their traditional territories. I went one step further in stating that a BC Green government would ensure that those holding permits for open net fish farming along the migratory route of wild sockeye salmon would be given 90 days notice that their permits would be revoked. In addition, and unlike both the BC NDP and the BC Liberals, the BC Greens will not accept corporate donations from those involved in the open-net Atlantic Salmon farming industry,.

P1000596It’s not that the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nation and I are alone. In May 2015 I introduced a petition by 108,848 people who asked the government to please not issue licenses of occupation to salmon farms trying to expand in British Columbia. I also introduced a second petition signed by more than 100 business organizations across the province who supported the individuals who signed the larger petition. The business organizations argued that they are convinced by the published scientific evidence that open net salmon farms are a threat to B.C. wild pacific salmon.

This doesn’t mean that we have to shut down salmon farming. Rather, it means that we have to start using closed containment systems that pose no threat to our wild salmon. In fact, we need look no further than the Namgis First Nation on Vancouver Island who have initiated a sustainable land-based salmon farming industry on their traditional lands.

 

Bill 25 – 2016: Miscellaneous Statutes (General) Amendment Act, 2016

It was a very busy day for me in the Legislature today. I was one of only two opposition members who spoke at 2nd reading to Bill 24 – 2016: Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act. I was one of only five opposition members who spoke at 2nd reading to Bill 23: Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, 2016. And I was one of only two opposition members who spoke at 2nd reading to Bill 25 – 2016: Miscellaneous Statutes (General) Amendment Act, 2016.

Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Acts are omnibus acts that propose numerous minor changes to a number of existing pieces of legislation. Bill 25 is the third such act we are debating in this session alone.

Bill 25 proposes amendments to ten existing acts: the Agricultural Land Commission Act; the Assessment Act; the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act; the Environmental Management Act, the Income Tax Act, the Insurance Act, the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, the Local Government Act, the Mutual Fire Insurance Companies Act and the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act.

While many of the proposed changes are minor, as you will see from the text and video of my speech that I reproduce below, I have serious reservations about two critical amendments. I also have a number of questions on other amendments that I will defer to committee stage.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in the debate on Bill 25, Miscellaneous Statutes (General) Amendment Act, 2016. Like so many of these other miscellaneous statutes amendment acts, this act is a potpourri of changes to a variety of acts, with some additional transitional provisions attached to them, as need arises.

The act amends ten acts: the Agricultural Land Commission Act, which I’m sure the member for Saanich South will have some comments on; the Assessment Act; the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act; the Environmental Management Act, the Income Tax Act, the Insurance Act, the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, the Local Government Act, the Mutual Fire Insurance Companies Act and the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act.

Under the ALC, there are two amendments to the ALC Act. The first is an amendment that will require the ALC to obtain the owner’s consent before excluding land for the reserve. This is mostly applicable in boundary reviews.

The second, as the minister mentioned, adds a regulation-making authority so that the commission can provide clarity to farmers about agritourism activities — for example, a wedding on a farm. Regulations on these are expected this spring.

However, there is a clause that does raise some concern, and that’s clause 1.3 in this bill, which I’m sure we can explore further at committee stage. This seems to allow the commission to have a loophole so that the consent by owners is not actually required to remove land from the ALR. I’d be interested in exploring what the government has in mind with respect to the inclusion of section 1.3 further at committee stage.

In terms of the Assessment Act, the amendment for this will give the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council the ability to prescribe assessed values for certain restricted use properties. The change is designed to ensure that Crown corporations, either provincial or federal, on Crown land are paying their fair share of property taxes. On this, I think there will be a broad agreement as these are fine changes.

Similar with the Local Government Act on page 5 of this bill, the amendment there fixes a mistake that was done in 2015 under the Statute Revision Act. It removes a contraction that exists presently.

Under the Environmental Management Act, there is an amendment which gives the flexibility to the minister to be able to update area-based management plans and improve permitting certainty within those areas. Specifically, a director is given the power to amend the permit after consultation with the minister. I, again, see no problems in support in this aspect.

Then we come to the Protected Areas of B.C. Act, page 7, which is troubling. The amendment here reduces the size of Finn Creek, of the park there, so that the Kinder Morgan expansion can continue planning its route. The proposed boundary adjustment will not be brought into force unless the NEB, of course, approves the project, the five conditions are met, and the province has issued an environmental assessment certificate, as the minister pointed out.

The park is reduced by a couple of hectares, but this reduction will cut a line directly through the northern section of the park. This follows Trans Mountain’s request to the province to amend various parks for its proposed route in 2014.

Obviously, I will be opposing this particular amendment. This is precluding…. Despite the fact that the minister is giving us the assurance of the government that this will not be brought into force unless the NEB and the five conditions are met, the reality is that we are putting it in place now, and frankly, that sends a signal that government is moving forwards to get to yes on a project that the majority of British Columbians realize is simply not reconcilable with their values.

To turn the port in Vancouver, through the Burnaby facility, into one of the largest shippers of heavy oil in the world. It’s simply not consistent with the values of British Columbians. This particular amendment is troubling in that it’s sending a green-light signal — that in its desperation to get to yes no matter what the question is, government is already starting to introduce legislation to amend parks.

Under the Income Tax Act, I find this very troubling as well. Here, there’s going to be provisions for a transitional period that will allow the film and television industry to adapt to the changes in tax credits recently announced. The amendments reduces the digital animation, visual effects and post production tax credit from 17 to 11 percent of the amount determined by the taxation formula.

In my view, this is troubling, because in doing this, what government is sending is a signal to an up-and-coming vibrant sector that: “You know what? You’re not as welcome as you used to be.” It’s early. It’s too early to be clawing back credits to an industry that is beginning to blossom. A 21st century economy industry in this province of British Columbia that we are known for internationally, beginning to emerge, and this government is now cutting out its heels, taking out its legs in the process.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: The Minister of Health doesn’t think so, but I would like it hear the input that I’ve…. Rather, I’d be delighted to share the input I received from the industry with respect to this particular cut. It is troubling. It is troubling when we are doing whatever we can to literally give away our natural gas resources to foreign entities, who otherwise would not be here and still are probably not going to be here, even though we’ve given away the farm.

Here we have an industry — a home-grown industry, jobs in B.C. industry, distributed jobs in B.C. industry — and we’re saying: “You know what? Your time is over. We’re going to continue to double-down on the falling stock of liquefied natural gas.” Despite the fact that Australia is years ahead of us. Despite the fact that China is now a seller on the international marketplace. Despite the fact that not a single LNG facility has been approved. Despite the fact that each and every one of the promises made by this government leading to the 2013 election has been broken. Every one of them.

Instead of saying: “Plan B. We need to move towards a 21st-century economy that builds on the strength of what we are good at here in B.C. — innovation, creativity, tech, bringing tech together with resource sector….” No, no, no. What we’re going to do is actually is chop them down at the knees just as they’re getting going.

To the Insurance Act — there are some changes there as well and, also, to the Mutual Fire Insurance Companies Act, neither of which I found to be particularly troubling. Just a few minor amendments there.

We’ve got the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act here. The amendments clarify B.C. Housing authority to provide support services and manage multipurpose developments that include housing and non-housing components. It allows the ministry to include land development related to housing. It also expands the powers and duties of the British Columbia Housing Management Commission to include social and other housing services.

There’ll be some questions at committee stage. But because these amendments came under a natural gas development amendment section, they may be worthy of exploring in a little more detail. I’m wondering whether or not this is actually something to do with housing specifically for the natural gas industry, as part of our, frankly, continuing generational sellout as we try to do whatever we can, whatever it takes, to get to yes, no matter what the question.

Liquor Control and Licensing Act, page 15. This amendment is, again, one that I see no major concerns in. It gives the general manager of the liquor control and licensing branch the ability to reconsider liquor enforcement decisions. The grounds, of course, for reconsideration are to be set out in regulations like much of what we’re debating.

This amendment means that the enforcement decisions will be reconsidered without the necessity of having to apply to the court for a judicial review. There are a number of guidelines and prescribed grounds that are to be established by the general manager for these amendments to work. Another piece of legislation there, an amendment, that I think will work well.

Taken together, there are a couple of troubling sections — notably, two in this overall bill. Obviously, I’ll be supporting the bill at second reading so that we can actually vote upon the individual sections at committee stage and vote them down accordingly.


Video of Speech


Protecting Vancouver Island’s Old Growth Forest

Question period in the legislature today was surreal. I left the chamber wondering whether I should quit politics altogether. I was absolutely appalled by the behaviour of official opposition and government members. It was shocking — truly shocking.

Personal attacks, vitriol, abuse, obnoxious heckling and utter disrespect was on display for all to see. This place needs to change. It needs a complete shake up.

That won’t happen, it seems, unless the general public rises up to vote out those politicians on both sides of the house who are more interested in hurling abuse than dealing with issues facing British Columbians. There was no excuse for the behaviour today. No excuse at all.

I was up on question period today and had planned to ask the relevant Minister two questions. The Minister was not at Question Period so I had to be nimble and ask a completely different question (see next post).

The question I had planned to ask is reproduced below. It was meant to coincide with an announcement on the need for widespread protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.

We have lost over 90% of our biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests. The government is continuing to allow the harvesting of our old-growth forests on Vancouver Island based on a plan created in the 1990s. It’s time to create a plan for this century.

The reality is, the government will say they are ‘protecting’ old-growth forests when in reality they have largely protected the steep, high mountain slopes or wet bogs. Yes it’s technically old-growth, but it’s the valley bottom, low-elevation, highly productive old-growth forests with the massive thousand-year-old trees that are at greatest risk.

In 2013 the UVic Environmental Law Centre proposed an “Old Growth Protection Act”. Part of this science-based plan was to immediately end old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and to quickly phase out old-growth logging where there is a high risk to biological diversity and ecosystem integrity. I believe the idea has merit.

Aside from ensuring habitat and biodiversity integrity, protecting our old-growth forests in British Columbia should be a part of our province’s climate plan. On Vancouver Island, apart from reducing our emissions, one of the most significant things we can do to for the climate is to leave our old-growth forests intact. It is also the responsible thing to do for our eco-tourism industry and follows the wishes of local communities across this island.

In April the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities passed R11 – a resolution calling for increased protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.

The Walbran Valley is the one of the most concerning productive old-growth forests but there are a number of old-growth areas that are or could be logged any day including: Nootka Island, East Creek, Edinburgh Grove, Tsitika Valley, Nahmint Valley, Southwest Nimpkish, Echo Valley, Maclaughlin Ridge, Horne Mountain, and the Cameron Valley Fire Break. In my view there is no compelling reason to justify the logging the last of our productive old-growth forests.

Background Facts

  • On Vancouver Island 90% of the biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forest has been removed
  • Only 13% of the land base on Vancouver Island is protected from logging, only 8% of the island’s productive forest ecosystems are protected, and just 3% of the valley-bottom rainforests are protected.
  • A recent report from the Wilderness Committee calls for a conservation plan for Vancouver Island’s rainforest where ½ of Vancouver Island’s rainforest is set aside
  • Old-Growth forests are substantially better carbon sinks than young forests. According to a new study in the journal Nature, a tree’s growth accelerates with age, enabling them to take up more carbon than younger trees.
  • In 2013 the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre proposed an “Old Growth Protection Act” to ensure better protection for BC’s ancient forest heritage.
  • They called for a science-based plan that would have immediately ended old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and phased out old-growth logging where there is a “high risk to biological diversity and ecosystem integrity”.
  • Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Uvic Environmental Law Centre, stated at the time that “there is a need for new legislation and planning that is based on science, governed by timelines, and plugs existing loopholes or inconsistencies.”
  • While there is an old-growth management strategy currently in place, it is heavily skewed towards protecting areas of low productivity (e.g. mountain tops and steep slopes)
  • The Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities 2016 R11 resolution stated the following:

“be it further resolved that AVICC send a letter to the provincial government—Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations—as well as relevant government organizations requesting that the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan be amended to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest on provincial Crown land.”


Question


While I’m pleased with government’s announcement today that they’re going to protect 186,198 hectares of already-protected old growth forest on the mainland, on Vancouver Island, our old growth forests are in dire need of protection. The Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club have called what’s happening here an ecological emergency.

Putting this in context, over 90% of the grandest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests on Vancouver Island have already been logged. Only about 3% of the original high productivity, valley bottom old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old Growth Management Areas on BC’s Southern Coast. Several species are also on the brink of disappearing and biodiversity is being affected.

The Walbran Valley is one of a rapidly dwindling number of contiguous prime ancient forests left on Southern Vancouver Island large enough to provide habitat for healthy populations of a number of endangered species. Yet a 486-hectare core area of the valley is unprotected — a portion of it is slated for logging right now.

Is the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations open to implementing an alternative science-based forest management system for Vancouver Island’s remaining intact old-growth forest?


Supplemental Question


Old growth forests are not only fundamental to the ecological integrity of Vancouver Island, they are also a major eco-tourism draw and many island communities have recognized this.

For example, Chambers of commerce and city councils from Tofino to Victoria have passed motions opposing the continued old-growth logging in the Walbran Valley.

Two weeks ago the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities endorsed a motion calling on the government to amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest found on provincial Crown Land. This land use plan was created in the 1990s and logging of old-growth forest has continued for the last two decades.

Will the government recognize that a plan formed in the 1990s is no longer adequate for today, listen to wishes of local communities and amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all remaining old-growth forests on crown land?