Each year at Dogwood Initiative we undergo a rigorous and esoteric ritual of predicting the future. Last year we made our predictions public for the first time, forecasting upcoming trends for democracy, energy, First Nations, forests and communities.
This is the third bulletin in a five part series looking at our predictions concerning the challenges and opportunities we expected to present themselves in BC in 2006.
Our predictions on beetle hysteria, “productivity”, a rollback on deregulation and the affect of First Nations assertions on the forest industry all came true. Our biggest miscalculation was on softwood lumber. In 2006 we predicted that there would be no softwood lumber deal. We were obviously wrong.
Although we predicted a cozier relationship with the Bush White House would ease some tension, we didn’t think the Canada would sign a deal that clearly benefits U.S. interests. That is exactly what Mr. Harper did, expending a great deal of political capital to force the divergent industry and provincial actors into accepting a deal that many didn’t like. A raft of mill closures and job losses have followed the deal and many have criticized it worse than the one the Liberals turned down. The long-term political consequences for Harper remain to be seen.
Beetle Hysteria, over-cutting and productivity
Since 2000, using the beetle problem as political cover Gordon Campbell’s Liberals have increased BC’s annual logging rate by 15.5%. The accelerated logging rate places the bottom line of companies over the future of forest-dependant communities, workers, forests and the critters that depend on them. As predicted this dynamic finally started becoming a political hot potato in 2006.
The logging industry has used beetle hysteria, relaxed regulations, and the lack of government oversight to high grade the forest. Anecdotal evidence is building the many species of trees unaffected by beetle are being logged as “salvage.” In fact, BC’s Chief Forester issued policy guidance to Ministry of Forests staff to address this trend, which if unchecked, will leave many forests and forest dependent communities unproductive for generations.
As we expected “productivity” became a mantra for Mr. Harper’s government and their big business supporters. Productivity, which is measured by economic output per unit of labour, is the code word for efforts to subsidize corporate efforts to replace workers with machines and computers.
Both levels of government bought the industry line on productivity, so despite forest policies that do more to protect company bottom lines then the public forests, more concessions are expected.
While it hasn’t yet hit the media, the massive deregulation that occurred in 2003 is starting to hit the ground and bad forest practices are getting more attention.
Under the new laws, companies no longer have to identify the exact location or timing of roads and cut-blocks, just general areas of interest. This makes it virtually impossible for affected First Nations and communities to evaluate potential impacts.
The expected lawsuits over this aspect of the regulations have yet to materialize, instead the province has begun one-off discussions with some of the First Nations most likely to challenge the dumbed-down forestry laws (Haida, Turning Point, and Gitanyow). Some of these negotiations broke down near the end of the year so expect First Nations to ratchet up the pressure in 2007, likely reversing this trend.
These efforts began last year and will likely pick up steam in 2007.
The FSC standards provide much better protection than current laws. More importantly, FSC Principle Three requires Aboriginal consent before logging practices can be certified. By forcing all logging to be FSC-certified, First Nations can improve forest practices and create opportunities for shared decision making.
As more and more First Nations demand FSC, it will create incentives to re-regulate forest practices to level the playing field. Loggers forced to implement FSC will have an incentive to push government to raise the regulatory bar, or their competitors will have a distinct advantage. These efforts should advance in 2007.