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NEWS RELEASE · 20th May 2010
BC NDP Caucus
The B.C. Liberals have abandoned their responsibility to restock B.C.’s forests but the minister responsible says he’s proud of the B.C. Liberals’ appalling record, New Democrats said today.

And Forest Minister Pat Bell told the legislature he’s “having too much fun” to address the plummeting tree planting numbers, which are expected to hit their lowest level in decades in 2011.

New Democrat forest critic Norm Macdonald and Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson raised the issue in question period Wednesday.

“The minister chose to joke around and make irrelevant references to China rather than address the serious issue of forest health,” said Macdonald, the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke. “This is typical of the B.C. Liberals. They try to ignore problems and hope they go away.

“Flip answers and bad jokes are not going to make the tree planting deficit magically disappear.”

Macdonald noted that British Columbia is planting 170 million fewer trees than in peak years. The Western Silviculture Contractors’ Association estimates that number will drop by 30 million next year.

“In his one partially substantive answer, the minister tried to tie tree planting levels to harvesting levels,” said Simpson. “What he won’t acknowledge is the forests are in terrible shape regardless of the harvesting levels.

“That doesn’t take into account the loss of trees to fire or to the pine beetle and other pests.”

Macdonald said the B.C. Liberals are risking forestry’s future by not ensuring that the forests are restocked and the land base is maintained.

“There’s no industry in the future if we don’t plant trees now,” said Macdonald. “B.C. Liberal policies have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, and their failure to fully re-plant forests will have dire effects on forestry in the years to come.”

New Democrat leader Carole James has put forward a five-point plan to renew and modernize the forest industry. The plan includes: developing a green forest plan, developing an innovative and diverse industry, community and worker stabilization funding, and a permanent commission on forestry and tenure reform.