With 300 fresh job losses in town, and many more behind the scenes, it’s time to ask who is running the forests.
The megacorps are in the driving seat, of course, but where’s the political leadership?
The answer is there is none.
Sure, there is democratic accountability through the minister. On paper, at least.
But there has been so many different forest ministers these past few years, I’m not sure who we can blame for the poor state of our forests, let alone the 50,000 forestry jobs we’ve lost in the past two decades, half the forest sector’s workforce.
If we could blame a minister, and we’ve had some doozies, I doubt a forestry scandal would ever sink a government. Not even the jailing of a forest minister back in 1958 for corruption was enough to do that.
No matter how bad the megacorps mismanage our forests they pretend to own, no matter how many logs they ship out of a community whose mills they closed, people from the Lower Mainland do not care.
And if by some miracle they did, the big urban electorate wouldn’t know where the horizon between reality and industry propaganda lies.
Our political leadership in Victoria can’t tell the difference either.
All they see is a politically powerless backwater for the taking, a hinterland to siphon resources from to keep the big city wheels turning, their beloved billionaire happy, and the hospital donations rolling in.
It is delusional to think our ever-changing cast of forest ministers and our disinterested big-city electorate and media are providing adequate oversight of our forests.
This leaves the real political power in the offices of appointed Victoria Ministry officials, and the Office of the Chief Forester in particular. And they run the show in concert with (or for?) the megacorps, which they are meant to regulate, with near complete impunity.
We are told this is to keep forest management “professional” and non-political.
So why did the Office of the Chief Forester defy a ministerial guidance letter and maintain unsustainable harvest levels in the Boundary-Similkameen last year, a decision that benefited large corporations, not the flood-ravaged communities downstream?
Why is it that our previous chief forester is permitted to jump ship to become a vice president of a bioenergy megacorp, whose access to our already tapped-out forests she promoted while a public servant?
Why was Canfor allowed to shut down the Fort Nelson forest industry and hang on to their unused tenure for ten years?
Why are we told fire and pine beetles destroyed our forests yet the Office of the Chief Forester remains committed to sprayed monocrop plantation forestry to make these problems worse?
Our local forests are being pilfered, simplified and turned into fire-traps while our mills, wildlife and jobs disappear and this is happening under inept, shady, and unaccountable bureaucratic leadership.
My advice to our new minister Bruce Ralston would be to give the locals- the regional districts, First Nations, and city councils- a bigger say over who is running the show, and more importantly, who the show is being run for.
Because right now, it’s not us.
James Steidle is a Prince George writer.