A week ago, Black Press opinionator Tom Fletcher wanted us to believe the NDP Government is putting jobs in northwest BC at risk by expanding log exports. A heading on Fletcher’s online piece:
Skeena Sawmills comeback threatened by B.C. government
They’ve endured shutdowns due to log shortages, high costs and union demands. And now they face a new threat – drastically increased log exports…
Log shortages? Indeed, numerous mills have been complaining they lack access to sufficient fibre after government allowed log exports to more than double during BC Liberal administrations.
Fletcher apparently forgot his previous reporting about Forests Minister Doug Donaldson announcing a new fee structure for logs aimed at reducing exports and delivering more raw material to BC sawmills.
Fletcher mentions high costs as an obstacle to the mill located west of Terrace but in 2017, Skeena Sawmills announced a $10 million upgrade, the first part of a modernization they budget at $100 million. Cost factors have not changed unpredictably since Skeena Sawmills’ Chinese owners began this ambitious expansion.
Fletcher is always hostile to labour organizations so the dig at unions is not surprising. In fact, owner ROC Holding Ltd. acquired the mill four years after the industry was last affected by a regional strike of forest workers in 2007.
A central purpose of the Black Press article is to trash the reputation of Forests Minister Donaldson. Fletcher writes:
Horgan has repeatedly stepped in to assist Donaldson with the difficulties of the forests ministry. The much-criticized forest fire recovery programs have been transferred to the public safety ministry. Former B.C. Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom was hired to extract the province from a secret deal to set aside vast new areas for caribou protection. Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon was appointed as parliamentary secretary for forests.
The Public Safety and Emergency Services ministry has responsibility for wildfire responses for logical reasons. Fires may involve forests but, as we’ve seen recently near Oliver, grasslands and areas without merchantable timber are frequently involved. Responses to citizens’ needs, whether through crime, wildfire, earthquake, or other disaster is best coordinated through a single agency. Fletcher knows that.
John Horgan’s press release about Lekstrom’s appointment included this sensible news:
The Province has appointed Blair Lekstrom as community liaison tasked with engaging residents of the Peace region on draft partnership agreements on caribou recovery.
“People want to see the continued strength of our resource communities. As we meet a federal obligation to recover caribou, our government has been working to support workers and industry. Today’s announcements are part of that work,” said Premier Horgan.
“Blair Lekstrom has earned the trust and respect of residents in the Northeast. I can think of no one better to consult directly with, and fairly represent, the interests of people here.”
Ravi Kahlon, a bright light on NDP benches, is well equipped to assist in a ministry budgeted to return $1.4 billion to treasury this year. Forest industries employ 18,000 in BC, about half the number of jobs before provincial Liberals held power. Returning BC’s forest industry to a position of economic prominence is a worthwhile objective.
Fletcher’s unwillingness to credit the present government for worthwhile actions or programs is revealed in this mention that Skeena Sawmills is:
working with the industry-federal agency FPInnovations to use log scanning technology that helps mills detect flaws inside logs to get a viable lumber product out of otherwise uneconomic timber.
The pundit suggests credit for assisting Skeena Sawmills goes to the federal government and industry partners while he ignores provincial inputs. BC Government funds totalling $22 million funds have gone directly to FPInnovations in the last five years. Additionally, Skeena’s log defect detection system improvements are assisted by funding through the BC Rural Dividend Program and the Northern Development Initiative Trust.
When the headline on Fletcher’s article surprised me, I knew it was time to update previous work on log exports. The latest report from BC Stats shows the Horgan Government is making progress on correcting a miserable trend.
This compares Christy Clark’s last two year with the first two years of John Horgan.
The quantity of logs exported declined by 15% but the unit value realized increased 14%.
That’s a good start, but don’t expect Tom Fletcher to report this information.
Fletcher aims to mislead or persuade, usually for his own political purposes. But, Liberals see him as an important ally who contributes to their hold on voters outside southwest BC.
This is yet more evidence that important parts of corporate media do not practice good journalism. They practice politics.
I planned to post the above Monday morning but came across Tom Fletcher’s mea culpa dated today, August 18. I am left wondering what prompted: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019
Fletcher admits that log exports are down and says he should have given Forests Minister Doug Donaldson the benefit of the doubt.
I suspect someone apprised Fletcher of the facts and his retraction aims at removing egg from his bearded face.