Thursday, January 17, 2008
Growing up in Errington, my neighbour across the road was a grumpy old man who lived with his wife in a doublewide mobile home. He was the only person in the area who posted a Social Credit sign at the front of his driveway during every provincial election.
From 1952 to 1956 Robert Sommers was Forests Minister of British Columbia. On his watch, and with the persistence of Commissioner Gordon Sloan who investigated the logging industry, the Tree Farm License system was established. The basic concept was that large tracts of publicly owned land would be divided and managed by the Ministry of Forests. Each TFL would assure a timber supply for a particular logging company. In exchange the company would have to provide mills, jobs, and stumpage fees. The TFLs were tied to the communities and were supposed to provide sustainable logging and economic security in perpetuity for future generations.
In 1958 Robert Sommers was convicted of bribery and conspiracy. He went to prison. Premier W.A.C. Bennett and his Social Credit government were able to dodge accusations that they were involved in the selling of large tracts of publicly owned land sold to individuals and corporations. These sales were made before the lands were put up for public action, as required by provincial laws. Bob learned to tune pianos in prison. The land sales were final. Some people got rich. Forests were clear-cut as far as the eyes could see. The forestry industry boomed for many years.
Then the Youbou Mill was shut down after 73 years. 200 people lost their jobs along with approximately 400 people who lived by those people. The village of Youbou, on the shores of Cowichan Lake, was devastated. Clause 7 of the BC government’s timber agreement with TimberWest legally tied the TFL to the community. The Ministry of Forests waved that clause in 2001, allowing TimberWest to shut down the Youbou Mill and export raw logs from that TFL.
In 2002 the BC Liberals allowed 3.7 million cubic meters of raw log to be exported, this was the highest amount on record and translates to 100,000 full truckloads. According to the Youbou Timberless Society (www.savebcjobs.com) these exported logs would be enough to employ almost 4000 people and run 6 sawmills for a year.
Since then many more mills have been shut down around the province. The BC Liberals have been taking apart the TFL system and giving crown land to private corporations. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that First Nations must be consulted before any land is changed from crown to private, but to date the BC Liberals have not complied with these rulings.
Logging companies have obviously realized that their methods are not sustainable even after reducing the harvest rotations from 80 years, as recommended by the Chief Forester of BC, to 40 years. TimberWest, Western Forest Products, and Island Timberlands (Brookfield Asset Management) have all become land developers on a grand scale.
Honourable Rich Coleman is the Minister of Forests and Range and Minister Responsible for Housing. According to the ministry’s website: “Before his election to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Coleman ran a real estate management and consulting company.”
His older brother, Stan Coleman, works for Western Forest Products where he is their Manager of Strategic Planning. In 2007 the BC Liberals pulled 28,273 hectares of land, just west of Sooke, from a TFL and gave it to Western Forest Products without any financial compensation.
In June 2005 Stan Coleman was working for Cascadia Forest Products when private land was removed from TFL 44, near Port Alberni. Rich Coleman was appointed as Minister of Forests in June 2005. Today, this newly privatized land is owned by Brookfield Assets Management Inc. through its subsidiary Island Timberlands.
The Auditor General of BC is conducting an inquiry into the lands pulled out of the TFLs and given to private corporations. He needs your encouragement to put a stop to this blatant corruption. John Doyle Auditor General of BC 8 Bastion Square Victoria, BC V8V 1X4 Tel: (250) 387-6803 Fax: (250) 387-1230 firstname.lastname@example.org