Liberals ignoring committee on raw log exports: Dix
NDP leader demands explanation for decision to send timber overseas rather than sell it to B.C. producers
The Vancouver Sun - Jonathan Fowlie, March 14, 2012
Photo by Stuart Davis, The Vancouver Sun
Steve Thomson, B.C.'s minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, says his ministry rejected a recommendation on raw logs because the Timber Exports Advisory Committee had changed the way it evaluated whether logs should be sold to foreign buyers.
The B.C. Liberal government has, since December, been exporting raw logs that its own advisory committee has been saying should be going to producers in B.C.
On Tuesday, New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix said the Timber Export Advisory Committee (TEAC) deter-mined last December that logs from Quatsino Sound on Vancouver Island should be sold to Teal-Jones of Surrey instead of being shipped overseas.
But Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson overruled that recommendation, Dix said, allowing the logs to be sold into foreign markets.
"The minister owes people an explanation for his decision," Dix said during question period Tuesday.
"The committee made the determination that keeping those logs in British Columbia was better for our economy than exporting them, and the minister overruled them."
Thomson said his ministry rejected the recommendation because TEAC had changed the way it was evaluating whether or not logs should be sold to foreign buyers.
"Without just taking their advice directly, in this case because we knew there was policy implications that needed to be considered, we administered the policy the way that it had always been administered and the way they had previously been providing advice to us," Thomson said Tuesday, adding the committee has no regulatory function, and is an advisory body only.
"It's not a process of overruling TEAC," he continued, "it's a process of a shift in policy advice being received from the advisory committee."
Ministry staff said the issue stretches beyond Teal-Jones, and has affected about 150 applications since December, comprising about 116,000 cubic metres of timber.
The ministry said that staff overturned TEAC recommendations on 86 applications in December and January, covering 70,145 cubic metres.
In February, the ministry stopped referring anything to the committee from the west coast of Vancouver Island, as they expected the decisions would be overturned. There were 47 offers in February, comprising 35,532 cubic metres.
In March, TEAC requested it be allowed to review cases again, and government agreed. The committee has so far reviewed 18 offers for 10,168 cubic metres, staff said.
Thomson said he has met with members of the committee and is reviewing the change they made in December to deter-mine if it's something government is willing to adopt.
"We're continuing to review that with [TEAC] and we've committed to get back to them," he said, adding he will have an answer before the committee's next meeting in April.
"But because there was a change in determination and a change in policy in terms of their advice we know we needed to look at this and have a discussion around the implications of the policy."
At issue in the matter is the way TEAC judges fair market value for logs.
As of December, the commit-tee began looking at domestic offers for coastal logs that did not include the costs to ship the logs to the buyer. This represents a change from before, where the offer made for the logs had to include the cost of freight.
It means domestic offers can potentially be more competitive than before.
On Tuesday, NDP forest critic Norm Macdonald said the issue goes beyond the details of how to calculate market value, adding the key is all about jobs.
"You have manufacturers that are ready. You have Teal-Jones that has gone through the pro-cess. This is a company that produces jobs," said Macdonald. "You have a host of companies that are ready, and these are the crumbs we're talking about that go through this advisory committee. These are the crumbs, and even them - this minister will deny those mills."
In 2011, British Columbia exported 5.87 million cubic metres of coastal raw logs. That was up from the 3.86 million cubic metres that were exported from the coast in 2010.
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