NANAIMO — While issues like the Trans Mountain pipeline and affordable housing dominated much of their first year in power, it appears curbing raw log exports is still on the radar for B.C.'s NDP government.
During a visit to Nanaimo's Coastland Wood Industries last week, Minister of forests Doug Donaldson said an innovation working group formed to study the industry should be prepared to present some solutions soon.
He said six-million cubic metres of raw logs were exported in 2016.
"That's something that nobody finds acceptable. What our emphasis has been is trying to turn our attention to how do you have more of those logs processed in mills in B.C.," Donaldson said.
The goal, Donaldson said, is to use innovation within the industry to "get more employment out of every log" that comes out of coastal forests.
"This is a process and it will take a little bit of time to turn around."
A report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said one-in-three trees cut on the B.C. coast in 2016 was exported, generating $3 billion for the province's economy.
The report recommended a ban on log exports from old-growth forests and higher export taxes on second-growth log exports.
A plank of the NDP's election platform said curtailing raw log exports would create more jobs and "keep more logs in B.C."
"The only logs that leave B.C. should be the logs that we can't use in B.C. communities, in B.C. mills and B.C. wood-product manufacturing," Premier John Horgan said in an NDP release in early 2017.
At the time, Liberal forests Minister Steve Thomson maintained exporting trees was creating its own jobs within the industry and only a small percentage of all of the wood harvested in the province was landing on barges out of the country.
The claim of more log exports producing jobs is backed up by data in Nanaimo.
The Nanaimo Port Authority said the number of ships handling raw logs at their assembly wharf doubled from 2015 to 2016. That led to the creation of 65 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Donaldson pointed to the success of operations like Coastland, taking previously unattractive logs and turning them into a value-added product.
"This is the kind of example we like to see more of on the island and in B.C. generally and it's what the communities want to see as well," he said.
On Twitter: @NanaimoNewsNOW
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