A convoy of over three hundred logging trucks rolled through downtown Vancouver on Wednesday to protest the government’s failure to save the ailing industry.
Workers and employers in the industry drove to the site of the Union of BC Municipalities Convention (UBCM) taking place near the Waterfront Centre from all over the interior of the province. They demanded that the provincial government take action to prevent the continued closures of logging mills and fix inflated stump fees.
“We are not asking for money, we didn’t come here for donations or anything. What we want is for our communities to keep their jobs,” said convoy organizer Frank Etchart.
According to official estimates, nearly 700 jobs have been lost in the industry, and the number is expected to grow to 3,000 or more losses in the logging industry.
“We’re in dire straits right now in many many communities in the interior and we can’t hang on,” said fellow organizer, Jerry Canuel.
“Our industry is crippled right now. We’re not saying that this is anything illegal to do or anything else, If you let this go through the normal process of coming back down, it’ll take an excess of two years… We can’t wait two years, this guy can’t be out of work for two years,” said Canuel.
“Our communities, our small communities, this is all we’ve got. And our businesses in our small communities are there because of us.”
One of the main concerns brought up by the loggers was the issue of stumpage rates, which are seen as exorbitantly high in the province.
Organizers claimed that stump costs are currently too high for North America and are impeding the industry.
“Number one, the taxes that we pay, the stump rates that companies have to pay for every tree they cut, are not reflective of true market values right now,” said Canuel.
Stumpage fees are paid by private companies when they harvest wood from Crown property. In comparison, in the closest province of Alberta, companies pay between $4 and $8 for stumpage fees, whereas British Columbians pay an average of $55 in fees.
In the last year, several convoys have passed through major cities in the country protesting various industries.
Both in Ottawa and Edmonton pro-pipeline convoys passed through the major cities advocating for further energy development throughout the country.
“They’re not going to lie down and just take it. It’s time for the NDP to wake up and pay attention. Because this is British Columbia coming out to say: this is not acceptable,” said B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson.