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

BREAKING: Highway 3 near Keremeos closed due to rockslide

Highway 3 just west of Keremeos is closed as of 8:44 p.m.… Continue reading

Penticton student looks to give back in wake of New Zealand terrorist attack

Hussain Sattar, a Grade 12 student at Princess Maggie of Muslim faith, discusses coming together

Okanagan College to develop wellness strategy for drug use

The Kelowna campus has 28 employees trained in the use of naloxone.

Things are looking up, way up for new Penticton restaurant

The 300 Block Casual Steakhouse continues to make strides towards an early May opening

TGIF: Penticton and South Okanagan events listings

Live theatre, concerts, events, art exhibits and more from around the South Okanagan

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

UPDATE: Destructive blaze in West Kelowna

A unit of a condo complex is on fire in West Kelowna

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Pet Planet picks up Okanagan’s cannabis for pets

True Leaf Medicine International expands retail distribution to 3,500 stores worldwide

AquaVan comes to Okanagan Science Centre

200-litre mobile touch tank allows you to get up-close with marine invertebrates

Army of support behind Black Press saleswoman battling cancer

GoFundMe helps empower Sue Folliott’s fight

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

No joke: Kelowna’s first zero-waste grocery store to open April 1

Farm Bound Zero Waste has announced its opening date

Most Read