Fifteen Ministry of Forest staff from the Castlegar office have been laid off in the latest round of job cuts by the provincial government. This type of closure proves that the Campbell government has given up on forestry, says Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West. These 15 job losses were a part of a total of 204 forestry jobs that were cut over the entire province yesterday.
“With 30,000 jobs lost in forestry since the BC Liberals took over and the closure of 71 mills, it is clear that the BC Liberals have failed completely in their approach to forestry,” said Conroy. “Now with the downgrading of the Forest Service, it appears they have given up completely.” Conroy also noted that “closing a centrally located office with no local input that provided professional support to the area seems very shortsighted”.
Forest Minister Pat Bell claims that these cuts are necessary because harvest levels are down, but this attitude shows a serious lack of understanding of the scope of responsibilities that lie within the ministry. The Forest Service’s mission is to protect, manage and conserve forested land.
Over 90% of British Columbia is Crown land, owned by the people of British Columbia, and it is the responsibility of the Forest Service to act as stewards for this land, regardless of the level of harvest.
“The health of our forests has long-term consequences not only for the forest industry but for our overall environmental health, and having professionals who are tasked with the protection of the forest ecosystem is crucial,” said Norm Macdonald, Official Opposition critic for Forestry.
“There are massive forest health issues that we need to understand and treat, and cutting staff at this time is incredibly short-sighted. Instead of giving up, we need to remember the Forest Service’s historical role in protecting and conserving our public lands,” said Conroy.
Federal MP Alex Atamanenko joins his provincial counterparts Conroy and Macdonald in voicing his concerns over these cuts. “Unemployment is expected to increase this year in BC, and the provincial government is now complicit in this,” said Atamanenko. “Forestry communities have been hammered by the softwood trade deal, the downturn in the housing market and the bad economy. Now the government says that the forestry sector isn’t as active, so we don’t need as many government staff. Where is the vision for job creation and an innovative economy that works for rural communities?” he questioned.