An edited version of this letter appeared recently in the Vancouver Sun online… here is the unedited version from Bobby Deepak, a reader of mine who is a lawyer in Prince George, as well as a concerned community member. Bobby poses some very hard questions for the still unelected Christy Clark, ones that I would ask Ms. Clark to respond to, and the opposition to ask on Bobby’s behalf while the Legislature is in session.
The Christy Clark Liberals have been on a photo op spree lately touting their “jobs plan”, but how does it help the PG area?
We’ve been devastated with job losses. Let’s look at some of the mill closures and the jobs that went with them: Clear Lake sawmill/finger-joint plant, Upper Fraser sawmill, NCP (never rebuilt), Rustads, Winton Global, Northstar Lumber, and Abitibi-Bowater paper mill – all closed. At the end of August 2011, our Northern neighbors in Dawson Creek were told of the indefinite closure of LP’s OSB operation. Most mills that are still open are not running at full capacity and hundreds of employees are laid off or on call.
The “China Effect” is not all that it is hyped up to be by the Liberals. Although China is keeping some mills open so far, it is not enough to open the mills that are already closed and China’s appetite for our raw logs is growing significantly. It is a devastating indictment of the Liberals’ forest policy. A more welcomed jobs plan for the PG area would have been one that keeps our jobs in BC by restricting raw log exports and one that promotes companies that create jobs in manufacturing, smelting, and processing.
In the coming years, jobs will require more skills and training, particularly in this region in forestry and in mining. We need more funding and a definitive plan for apprenticeship and skills training in the resource sector, especially with a call to open 8 new mines and expand 9 others. Who will be filling these positions? HD Mining near Tumbler Ridge has already received permission from HRSDC to hire 92 foreign workers for their proposed coal mine.
We need a plan that promotes our current forest products and diversifies products, not only markets. Although some work has been done in the past to promote pellet plants/bio-energy, which is welcomed, we would need approximately 10-15 pellet plants to make up one mill closure in terms of direct jobs.
The jury is still out on the Liberals’ jobs plan which I hope is successful because there are many people still hurting in the PG area. But measuring success will be difficult because the jobs plan offers no specific targets. Lastly, why wasn’t the Wood Innovation and Design Centre included in the jobs plan and, more importantly, what is it?
Sarbjit (Bobby) Deepak
Prince George, BC