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British Columbia Ancient Forests News
Documents show government is already breaking proposed forestry law
Bob Simpson MLA Cariboo North, March 1, 2013
Independent MLA Bob Simpson says documents show that the BC Liberals have no intention of following their proposed law to enable the conversion of volume-based forest licenses to area-based tenures.
“The Liberal cabinet is writing yet another ugly chapter in the long and sordid history of forestry legislation in this province,” said Simpson. He points to a leaked cabinet document from April 2012 and a letter written by the Minister of Forests to Hampton Affiliates on September 11, 2012, as proof that they will not follow their proposed law.
“It’s clear from the leaked cabinet document and Minister Thomson’s letter that Hampton Affiliates has already been promised the first Tree Farm License under the Liberals’ proposed legislation,” said the MLA for Cariboo North. “The government doesn’t have the right to make this offer because there is no legal way they can fulfill it unless Bill 8 passes. At the same time, Bill 8 would require that the minister start this process with a public advertisement of the criteria that would be used to judge these proposals from all replaceable licensees in a Timber Supply Area [TSA].”
The history of Tree Farm Licenses (TFLs) in BC has been fraught with controversy. In the 1940s, the first two TFLs issued were directly linked to political donations to the Liberal government. In the 1970s, W.A.C. Bennett’s Minister of Forests, “Honest” Bob Sommers, went to jail for receiving kickbacks when he issued a TFL. In 1988, Bill Vander Zalm’s Forest Minister, Dave Parker, tried to enact legislation similar to Bill 8 and delayed consultation until after the law was passed. Both Parker and his deputy minister lost their jobs when the public rejected the creation of additional TFLs during the consultation process, and the legislation was repealed.
“There are four replaceable licensees in the Lakes TSA where Hampton has been promised preferential treatment,” said Simpson. “The three other licensees — Canfor, West Fraser and L&M Lumber, all BC-based companies — all need timber from the Lakes TSA to keep their Highway 16 mills operating.”
“It puzzles me why the Liberals have decided that Hampton should be the winner in the fight for timber,” said Simpson. “They are a U.S.-based firm and a member of the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports. They received money from the $1 billion that was stolen from Canadian companies in the 2006 softwood lumber settlement, and they could still face charges under the Workers Compensation Act for their role in the events leading up to the explosion at the Burns Lake sawmill.”
Both the leaked cabinet document and the Minister’s letter to Hampton state that other license holders in the Lakes TSA would have to have their licenses transferred to adjacent TSAs.
“The admission that the other companies in the Lakes TSA would need to move their licenses is clear proof that there isn’t enough timber in the Highway 16 corridor to sustain all the mills that are currently operating there,” said Simpson. “By turning forest policy on its head to favour Hampton, the government is putting other jobs and Highway 16 communities at risk.”
Simpson has been calling on the government to work with the community of Burns Lake to find alternative economic models instead of rebuilding a traditional lumber mill that will employ less than 40 per cent of the original workforce.
“Breaking the law by promising Hampton Affiliates a TFL without due process will absolutely guarantee the public rejects this form of tenure once again,” said Simpson. “The government should not bring Bill 8 up for debate. They need to work with the community of Burns Lake on more creative and forward-looking solutions and inform Hampton that it will not be getting a TFL.”