Saturday, March 14, 2009

Forestry recommendations won't add jobs, say critics

by By Garrett Zehr on March 11, 2009

Critics of the provincial government's roundtable report on the forest industry said the recommendations come up short on issues of labour, the environment and limiting corporate control.

The report's 29 proposals, released yesterday, are the result of a $1 million, year-long study. The roundtable received over 250 submissions and held meetings in 19 communities around the province over the past year.

Observers criticized the very make-up of the 19-member panel, which lacked environmental representation.

"The roundtable is mostly made up of industry," said Jim Cooperman, a former logger and small saw mill owner. "There is very poor representation."

Cooperman, who is the president of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society, said this lack of diversity was reflected in the recommendations. "There's hardly anything in there that relates to the environment," he said.

Labour representatives were also critical of the report's failure to address the employment crisis in the industry.

"It's pretty predictable," said Kim Pollock, a Canadian research representative with United Steelworkers, the union which represents many workers employed in the B.C. lumber and forestry industries.

"The government has dragged its heels in terms of dealing with the forest crisis for almost two years...and it still has its head in the sand," he said.

Pollock specifically noted the report's failure to adequately address issues of log exports and the loss of thousands of jobs. "I don't think there's anything there that will solve the problem."

UBC forest policy professor George Hoberg posted mixed reviews of the recommendations on his blog about governance and sustainability, saying he was encouraged by proposals such as increased land tenure for First Nations communities.

But he told The Hook he was concerned about other issues such as privatization. "They've clearly opened the door to greater private control over some activities," he said.

Pat Van Horne
United Steelworkers Communications
234 Eglinton Ave. East, Suite 800
Toronto, ON M4P 1K7

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