When faced with the mountain pine beetle epidemic, the provincial government didn't do enough to ensure the viability of vulnerable mills, according to Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
The NDP representative said mill closures, like the ones announced recently by West Fraser in Houston and Canfor in Quesnel could have been prevented with better forest management practices.
"If you look at lot of the evidence leading up to this, one keeps hoping that tenure reform and serious efforts from the provincial government would be coming," Cullen said. "Everybody knows that this serious, serious downfall is not inevitable, but certainly a high risk."
Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson said he regretted the closures but defended his government's handling of the file.
"We sincerely appreciate and understand the concerns of the communities and the families of the workers and we will be engaging directly and very closely with those communities," he said.
The provincial government has spent $917 million since 2001 to deal with the pine beetle. Of that, $185 million has been provided to Northern Development Initiative Trust for economic diversification programs, $269 million has been spent on reforestation and $58 million has been spent on research.
Cullen cited the continued practice of raw log exports, the lack of forest license tenure reform and inappropriate annual allowable cuts as reasons the mills were shut down.
"Parts of this are a manufactured crisis," he said. "You can't just keep pointing at the beetle and saying all the fault is there."
A spokesman for the ministry also confirmed that there have been no raw log exports from the Houston or Quesnel timber license areas.
Speaking specifically to the closure in Houston because it's in his riding, Cullen said he's confident that the provincial government's transition team will be able to help the community and families affected by the pending closures.
"I have some faith in the transition team because they've seen this bad movie before and they should have some learning from what happened in the past and be able to deliver services quickly," he said.
Meanwhile, Cullen said he's still waiting on the provincial NDP to release the rules surrounding its upcoming leadership convention before deciding whether or not he will enter the race. His preference is for a convention in 2015, but outgoing leader Adrian Dix is encouraging the party to select his replacement sometime in 2014.
"It's impossible for me to make a decision until I know what the rules are and how long the race is going to last," Cullen said. "I'm trying to be patient, but I don't like sitting in this place of limbo."