Feb 13, 2009

It’s about jobs


Next week the provincial government releases their budget and I am looking for something, anything at all, for forest workers.Now I hate to be a total whiner, but since 2001, BC has lost 65 sawmills, four pulp mills and about 20,000 jobs in the forest industry. With the spin-off effect of about 1 to 3, this means a loss of about 60,000 jobs. And let’s not forget about the tens of millions of dollars of revenue that is no longer being sent to government coffers to help pay for health care and education.

Forest sector workers are looking for a little support for them and some solid new thinking for our industry. We had hoped that the recently completed Round Table consultation process would bring some innovative and successful ideas to the table, but alas, it was not to be. In this budget the government could commit to a few things that would indicate some commitment to workers and to the industry. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Implementing a provincial extension of the Employment Insurance program, to address thousands of forest workers facing exhaustion of EI coverage;
  • Building an effective forest worker-training program that provides up to two years of income replacement and tuition for skills upgrading that will help workers remain in the industry and in their communities;
  • Developing a silviculture and reforestation plan that will employ laid off forest workers and invest in the long-term health and sustainability of BC’s forests; and
  • Providing direct financial assistance to resource-based communities facing shrinking tax bases, so communities can participate in infrastructure programs offered by senior levels of government federal infrastructure funding.
  • As the Premier himself has recently said, it’s about jobs. Indeed.

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