The announcement Wednesday that the Sinclar Group will rebuild its Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George is not just good news for the city but for the entire province.
Combined with the news that Hampton Affiliates will also rebuild its Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake, the private sector confidence in the future long-term health of the provincial forest industry is obvious.
Both new mills will be smaller operations that will employ fewer workers but that should not be seen in a negative light. Sawmills large and small across B.C. have invested heavily in modernization, transforming themselves into high-tech operations with greater productivity and efficiency and far less wood waste. The result has been a smaller staff but a highly competitive industry that can meet the needs of customers in the United States and in China.
Gone are the days when B.C. mills could only produce 2x4s and plywood for the American market. Today's mill can produce a variety of lumber products to the exact specifications of the market.
Despite the huge growth in government revenues from oil and natural gas, as well as the growing prospects from the mining sector, forestry remains a key player in the province's fiscal health. While the timber supply has to be closely monitored in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, the cautious optimism in the forestry industry is a bright spot for all of us to celebrate.
Further proof that political ideology and principle gets kicked to the curb, depending on who's in power and who's in opposition, can be found in a couple of government decisions this week.
Federally, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is defending his decision to get a staff member to call Manulife Financial Corp. to complain about the company's cut of its five-year fixed mortgage rate by two-tenths of a per cent, from 3.09 per cent to 2.89 per cent. This follows on the heels of Flaherty calling up the Bank of Montreal to criticize the bank offering 2.99 per cent rates.
Let's put these two phone calls in perspective. A Conservative finance minister, whose party's economic stance embraces free enterprise and the will of the market, has twice this month used the power of his office to dictate business practice to private companies. That's the kind of intrusive government behaviour one might expect out of a left-of-centre party that distrusts big business to make decisions that are in the interest of all Canadians and not just their quarterly profits.
Speaking of that kind of left-of-centry party, NDP leader Tom Mulcair blasted Flaherty on Tuesday, saying the minister shouldn't be interfering with the open marketplace.
Now we've heard everything!
An NDP leader is defending the right of big businesses to conduct their affairs the way they see fit and telling government to butt out?
What's going on?
It's as strange as the idea of a heavy snowfall on the first day of spring in Prince George.
And there's more.
On the first day of spring in Winnipeg, it was -14 C at noon (with a wind chill of -25 C) and the politicians there are also mixed up about which parties and principles they actually stand for.
The provincial Conservatives there are demanding that the Manitoba government immediately raise welfare rent allowances to match the cost of living. The governing NDP, meanwhile, says there are no plans to help welfare recipients with their housing costs.
In other words, the NDP is telling the poor to get by on what they have and the Tories are riding in to their rescue.
Forget the weather, it's like the Earth's poles have shifted.
Next up: polar bears migrate to Antarctica and penguins dancing in Tuktoyaktuk.