Richard Cannings is the Member of Parliament for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.

MP Report: What can the federal government do to help the forest industry?

Richard Cannings is the MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding

We’ve heard a lot in the news lately about the challenges facing the oil sector, but much less about the serious problems confronting another natural resource industry — forestry.

Two years ago, the United States placed significant import tariffs on softwood lumber. Those illegal tariffs are still in place, yet we hear almost nothing in the news about efforts to remove them or the effects they are having on the Canadian industry, despite daily articles on U.S.-Canada trade in other sectors.

The mountain pine beetle destroyed much of the timber supply in British Columbia in the past 20 years and has now spread across Alberta and is threatening to enter Saskatchewan. Spruce budworm has reappeared in epidemic numbers in Quebec and is being fought in the Maritimes after a few decades of quiescence.

Every year seems to be a forest fire catastrophe in Canada now; British Columbia alone spends hundreds of millions of dollars every summer just to battle the blazes. The losses to forest companies and rural communities are incalculable.

One of Canada’s iconic wildlife species, the caribou, the magnificent head on the back of our quarter, is disappearing from most parts of its range in Canada. Forestry is implicated as one of the causes of that decline, and governments across the country are considering reductions in annual cut to forestall further impacts on the species.

The industry has benefited from high lumber prices during this time of disruption, with prices pushing to the high $500 range this spring, fuelled by a strong U.S. market. But lumber prices have dropped dramatically in recent months to just above $300 as housing starts have fallen in the U.S., and local mills are feeling the crunch.

So, what can the federal government do to help the forest industry?

It should settle the softwood lumber dispute that has dragged on far too long. I’m happy that the Chapter 19 remedies of NAFTA are retained in the new USMCA, remedies that allow Canada to fight U.S. tariffs directly.

Forest stands have changed since indigenous practices that kept forests open and fuel loads low were stopped in the late 1800s, and Smoky-the-Bear fire suppression began in the mid-1900s. Fuel loads are now dangerously high and create ideal conditions for catastrophic fires.

The Filmon report, commissioned after the devastating B.C. fires of 2003, identified 685,000 hectares of forest that needed to be treated, but 12 years after the report was written, B.C. had only dealt with 8 per cent of the total.

These treatments are not just needed in B.C.; they are needed across the country wherever communities touch on forests. The federal government could provide significant funds to provinces and municipalities to carry out these thinning operations, funds that would in turn create jobs for forest sector workers, fibre for mills and fire safe communities.

As I’ve suggested in my private members bill, C-354 (now in the Senate), government procurement powers could be used to build more large government buildings out of wood. This would store carbon throughout the life of the building, presuming that the carbon balance in the forests during and after harvest was neutral to positive.

To make sure of that, the federal government needs to invest more in research around the role our forests could play in helping us sequester carbon dioxide and reach our Paris targets. If we want credits for the carbon captured by our forests and wetlands, we must be sure that these credits are real and deserved, and we must adapt our forest practices to ensure that they are being maximized.

Richard Cannings is a member of the NDP and the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding MP. Cannings is also the critic for post-secondary education and critic for natural resources.

Just Posted

Anonymous donor extends matching program for Youth Resource Centre

The program will match donations up to $200,000 until the end of February

South Okanagan RCMP searching for accused sex offender

Ivan Glen Winchester, is wanted in B.C. for historical sexual offences

27 tickets in one day handed out for speeding in Penticton school zones

Complaints came in from concerned parents about speeding within school zones

South Okanagan ski club hit by thieves

Rash of thefts at McKinney Nordic Ski Club, located east of Oliver

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Youth losing human connection in digital era

Forum offers advice to Kelowna parents about managing a child’s social media screen time

BC Hydro scammers bilked customers out of nearly $45,000 in 2018

Nearly 2,000 people reported scams to the utility, as they continue to be more common

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Development proposed for Banks Crescent

Location had been the Summerland site of a controversial development application

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Most Read