Political parties seeking voter support during the provincial election want to export more lumber and fewer logs.

Political parties seeking voter support during the provincial election want to export more lumber and fewer logs.

Forestry key part of campaign

All political parties have taken positions on the logging sector

The B.C. Liberals and NDP agree on one thing when it comes to B.C.’s vast forest resource: marketing B.C. wood to Asian markets remains a high priority.

Their bitterest disagreement is over log exports, although neither party offers a clear strategy as the May 14 election approaches. The NDP election platform blasts the B.C. Liberals for presiding over a doubling of log exports to 5.7 million cubic metres between 2009 and 2012, with “no plan to curtail the flow.

“We will work with stakeholders to reduce raw log exports and create more value-added forestry jobs in B.C.,” says the NDP platform, repeating its 2009 campaign pledge.

The B.C. Liberals tout their success selling lumber to China and Hong Kong, whose share of B.C. lumber exports has grown from 6.6 per cent in 2006 to 32.6 per cent in 2011. The B.C. Liberals say their marketing partnership with Ottawa and the forest industry has sold enough lumber to keep 16 mills operating.

“Banning exports of unprocessed logs won’t solve timber access issues for mills, especially coastal ones,” the B.C. Liberal platform says. “Our preference is to have logs milled here at home, but log exports are a key component to growing our coastal forest economy and keeping people employed in B.C.”

The Coastal Forest Products Association argues that each high-grade log sold abroad supports harvest of two more logs that go to domestic sawmills.

Platform highlights:

* The B.C. Liberals propose to increase the budget for planting and silviculture in pine beetle-affected forests by $10 million a year, starting in 2015. The party promises to consult with communities and industry to make a transition from volume-based harvest licences to area-based tenures, a plan that was withdrawn from the legislature amid criticism earlier this year.

* The B.C. NDP promises a $100 million investment over five years to double the number of seedlings planted and update forest inventories. The party has revived a proposal for a “jobs protection commissioner” to help adapt to reduced timber supply due to pine beetle damage.

* The B.C. Conservatives propose to review Crown forest land tenures and “where appropriate, modify or change forms of tenure to ensure wealth and employment generation.” The party also wants to increase research, reforestation and marketing of forest exports abroad, but offers no specific plans or budget commitments.

* The B.C. Green Party proposes to offer low-interest start-up loans “to encourage small, labour-intensive eco-forestry.” It also wants to hold an inquiry into “stumpage manipulation,” and “accelerate tenure reform to require no less than 50 per cent of public forest tenures be held by First Nations woodlots and communities by the year 2019.”