Raw log exports eliminating up to 1,500 jobs in BC

Increasing exports will undermine battered North Coast economy, says think tank
November 20, 2002

(Vancouver) The BC government is forfeiting hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue by allowing a dramatic increase in raw log exports. An estimated 800 forestry jobs, or $162 million in wages and benefits, for BC's hardest hit communities are currently being lost due to these exports from public land--a figure that may increase to 1,500 jobs and $306 million in wages for the next three years. This is the finding of a policy brief published by the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) entitled Down the Value Chain: The Politics and Economics of Raw Log Exports.

"Over a million cubic metres of wood are leaving BC's public forests with no processing whatsoever," says Dale Marshall, resource policy analyst for the CCPA and author of the report. No processing, Marshall says, means fewer mill jobs or other economically valuable jobs in creating value-added wood products. Between 1997 and when softwood duties were applied this year, 11 BC mills have closed permanently.

Instead of reversing the trend of increased raw log exports, the BC government passed an Order in Council earlier this year allowing an additional 2.7 million cubic metres of raw log exports over three years from BC's North Coast. Even more absurd is the reasoning behind allowing increased exports: that BC doesn't have enough milling capacity. Several recent industry reports, including one commissioned by the provincial government, concluded that there is milling overcapacity in BC. "The North Coast has been decimated over the last five years, with both the salmon fishery and the forest sector in decline," says Marshall. "And yet, the government will allow raw log exports from our public land to almost double, with the increase coming from the North Coast."

"This is just plain bad economic, social, and fiscal policy," Marshall say. The report says the solution is a reversal of policy--place a ban on the export of raw logs from the province. In addition, the government should put into place incentives for forest companies to invest in manufacturing more value-added forestry products. BC already creates fewer jobs per volume of wood cut than other major forestry region, including the U.S., eastern Canada, and Scandinavia.

"We should be moving in the opposite direction, up the value chain, not down it."