'There is a clear disconnect between the B.C. government's sunny forestry rhetoric and the real experience of the people.'
Castlegar (1 Feb. 2011) - Amid deepening public concern over the state of B.C. forests, more than 30 West Kootenay community leaders gathered recently in Castlegar for a community dialogue session seeking solutions to the forestry crisis in their region.
The working session, B.C. Forests. Our Future, was organized by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE). It included local MLAs Katrine Conroy and Michelle Mungall, representation from local governments and the MP's office, forest sector unions and non-profit stakeholder groups in the region.
BCGEU president Darryl Walker set the stage for the dialogue by outlining the challenges facing B.C.’s forest sector, noting that unemployment in the Kootenay region has almost doubled in the last three years, while direct and indirect forestry jobs have been cut almost in half.
“More than 70 mills have closed and over 40,000 forest sector jobs have been lost since the B.C. Liberal government came to office,” said Walker. “Over 1,000 forest ministry jobs have been eliminated. Compliance and enforcement has been dramatically scaled back while changes to legislation allow forest companies to effectively regulate themselves."
Walker said BCGEU's purpose in visiting Castlegar was to consult with local leaders, identify key issues in the region and work towards positive solutions to help revitalize the forest sector and generate long-term benefits for local communities.
BCGEU also shared results from a recent poll of local residents showing a community deeply concerned about the effect of forest policy on their lives.
Of the 200 Castlegar area residents polled, 96% said the forest industry was critically or somewhat important to them personally. Exactly half (50%) said they have suffered a recent job loss in their family.
A staggering 91% said forest ministry layoffs were a bad idea while 79% agreed that the ministry of forests is not currently fulfilling its public mandate to protect and enhance B.C.'s forests.
“There is a clear disconnect between the B.C. government's sunny forestry rhetoric and the real experience of the people of the West Kootenays,” said Walker. “People who live in resource communities have to live with the results of government neglect every day.”
Walker noted that the BCGEU will conduct community dialogue sessions in three other B.C. resource communities in coming weeks, consulting with community leaders and working to develop positive solutions to help revitalize the forest sector.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE