Terence Corcoran: How greens are killing the B.C. forest sector

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Terence Corcoran: How greens are killing the B.C. forest sector
© Provided by Financial Post A forest protector walks up to the trees near Port Renfrew, British Columbia, Canada, on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

In full-page newspaper ads and via assorted internet vehicles, a climate activist organization named Canopy spent much of 2021 rousing opposition to the British Columbia forest industry. In one promotional spread , Canopy rang the green alarm. “British Columbia used to be the land of giants with trees up and down the coast towering 250 feet tall. Today, only a fraction of these vital, old growth forests remain. They are our shield against the climate crisis, yet are being logged across the province. For thousands of years, these forests have protected us. Now, we need to protect them. Premier Horgan, protect the irreplaceable.”

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That bit of climate doggerel directed at NDP Premier John Horgan was endorsed by 100 global politicians, activists and celebrities who signed on from their posh enclaves well removed from the hard facts of the B.C. forest industry, names such as Brian Mulroney, Stephen Lewis, Catherine McKenna, John Ralston Saul, Rosanna Arquette, Edward Burtynsky, Dame Judi Dench, Jane Fonda, Margaret Atwood, Joaquin Phoenix, Bryan Adams.

There’s a definite old-growth (if you get my drift) aspect to the names on the canopyplanet.org proclamation, which may explain the fixation on one aspect of the province’s forest industry. But that does not explain or justify the deliberate distortions in the message from Canopy. Another of its ads declared that “today, less than three per cent of British Columbia’s large-tree old-growth forests remain,” a statistic created by the Sierra Club.

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John Innes, the Dean of Forestry at the University of B.C., said the three per cent claim is “untrue” based on the province’s assessments. There are between 13 and 14 million hectares of old growth left in B.C., with about 10 million already protected outside the existing timber harvest areas. An industry study carried out by Forsite Consultants put the large-tree old-growth component at 30 per cent, not three per cent.

But never mind. The great political/economic crisis now looming over the province’s forest sector is well past dickering over facts. Thanks to the NDP government’s blundering plan to “modernize” the industry combined with a calculated capitulation to the economic saboteurs who run the province’s environmental groups, the legendary B.C. forest industry is under threat.

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Terence Corcoran: How greens are killing the B.C. forest sector
© Kevin Light/Reuters B.C. Premier John Horgan.

While high U.S. demand for lumber and current rising prices may get the industry through the next couple of years, the long-term outlook has been scaled back to grim by industry officials, analysts, unions and First Nation groups. Susan Yurkovich, CEO of the Council of Forest Industries, put it politely the other day. Given the policy mess, she said “it’s reasonable to wonder how a positive path forward for B.C.’s forest sector is possible — one that supports climate-friendly products for the world, healthy forests, Indigenous reconciliation and good jobs.”

Yurkovich was more pointed last November when she reacted to the province’s major policy proposal to “modernize” the forest sector, including a decision to “defer” access to 2.6 million hectares of old growth across the province. “If implemented, this move will have a profound and devastating impact on people, families and communities across the province,” including the loss of 18,000 jobs, she said.

Others are even gloomier. At the annual meeting of the Truck Loggers Association last week, RBC Dominion Securities analyst Paul Quinn said the B.C. the forest industry had, “Simply put, become un-investible” in the wake of the province’s plan to modernize by “taking control.” Quinn believes the industry “will be about half of what it was at the start of the current NDP [government] when they were elected.”

Industry executives have been waving red flags over the new NDP policy since it was announced last November and then made murkier with a followup announcement in December. Don Kayne, CEO of Canfor, the biggest forest firm in the province, issued a statement just before Christmas calling on the government to “rethink” its old-growth deferral process.

Teal Jones Group, the largest privately owned forest company in the province, also said the old-growth deferral proposal was launched with “little or no consultation with the industry.”

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The First Nations Forestry Council also criticized the Horgan deferral plan because of a lack of consultation, although the reconciliation aspects of the NDP plan are complex and filled with conflict. The United Steelworkers Union said it also objected to lack of consultation. “We cautioned the government that without having a panel of experts that had a balance of perspectives, it would lead to preservation over a sustainable harvest and the corresponding loss of thousands of jobs and serious damage to the industry.”

But if the old-growth deferral plan was devised without consulting industry, First Nations or the unions, who was consulted? The union knows. “Some in the environmental movement have been strategically misleading the public for years with false claims about the forest industry and it appears the government is now willing to cede forest policy to the very same groups,” said a union executive.

Stewart Muir, founder of Resource Works Society in Vancouver, has tracked the story behind the NDP old-growth policy back to a panel of Sierra Club of Canada activists who were appointed by the government to produce a report titled The Old Growth Technical Advisory Report . In a commentary elsewhere on this page Muir outlines how that report was a one-sided document created by a cooked process. The report was also the source of the Canopy three per cent old-growth ad claim mentioned at the beginning of this column.

That’s how the greens are killing the B.C. forest industry. Conclusion: Premier Horgan — protect your forest industry!

Financial Post

• Email: tcorcoran@postmedia.com | Twitter: terencecorcoran

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