Logging an election issue

One of the challenges provincial and federal governments face is communicating policy in a manner easily understood by citizens.

This may sound simple, but sometimes policy can be difficult and timely to explain easily. Further, opposition parties and other interest groups may either intentionally or unintentionally mis-present policy that might undermine or generate public opposition.

I mention these things as the current B.C. election campaign has resulted in some issues being raised that require more information to properly scrutinize.

As an example, in Merritt, one of the largest lumber mills has shut down in the past year, creating significant hardship for many in this community.

Since forestry is a provincial jurisdiction, this has become an election issue specifically as it has been alleged by some that the reason this mill closed is related to raw log exports.

In principle, most would agree that exporting raw logs to be processed in mills outside British Columbia should not occur if lumber mills are closing as a result of a lack of timber supply. This raises the question why no provincial government of any political stripe banned raw log exports once in power.

Part of the answer is understanding how the process around exporting raw logs, technically known as “unmanufactured timber” actually works. Essentially, the process involves three steps.

The first step is to acquire an exemption of the requirement that lumber harvested in B.C. is also processed in B.C. Part of the exemption process involves advertising the timber supply in question to be potentially exported on a provincial list of timber for sale.

This bi-weekly advertising list means that a domestic mill operator has the opportunity to buy these raw logs before they could be legally exported. If there is an offer to purchase, an advisory committee will determine that price is fair market value.

If the offer is deemed fair, the logs will remain in B.C. to be processed by the successfully bidding mill owner.  If there is no interest or suitable buyers found, the logs will be eligible for export.

Once raw logs are deemed surplus, an application can be made for a permit to export the logs before moving on to the final stage of the process — a federal permit for export.

Why do some B.C. lumber mills not bid on these raw logs?

There are a number of reasons for this that may depend on specific circumstances. Many mills have become highly specialized in dealing with specific types of timber to produce a unique, value-added product.

In some cases, the timber for sale may not be of the type or quality desired. In other circumstances, the transport costs may not make purchasing logs in one area economical if there is a sufficient distance to transport.

Cost may be another factor, more so if the raw logs are from a private forest owner or a First Nations community looking to obtain maximum value.

The intent of my column today is not to defend raw log exports as, ideally, I believe governments of all political stripes should support increased value-added, wood-manufacturing in B.C. 

Forestry remains a critically important industry to many communities and one challenge will be to encourage more investment into value-added, processing operations with access to a diverse range of markets.

Although raw logs is not an issue of federal jurisdiction, I welcome your thoughts on ways government can promote more value added wood manufacturing.


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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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