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Industrial Disease

Meet the Feller Buncher.  This is a technological wonder.  It looks like a great big dirty machine, but don’t be fooled.  This is the future of the forest industry in BC.  This little technological breakthrough has replaced the labour of 10 men.  It can fall, limb, stack, load…it can virtually put the children to bed, after feeding them and washing behind their ears.  What it can’t do is provide jobs for humans, or uphold the social contract in any way.
In my last post, I touched upon the social contract vis a vis the Corporation, as illustrated by Island Timberlands, an offshoot of Brookfield Asset Management.  Today, I would like to illustrate the effects of this paradigm on workers.  In my experience, as the child of a logger, the advancement of technology in forestry has had a backlash effect on the workforce.  As technology advanced, so did the concentration of ownership of our timberlands.  Canadian Pacific was first to the plate, with rail-lines and right of way land grants of choice forestlands.  The names change constantly, but the perpetraters remain the same.  Weyerhauser, Timberwest, Western Forest Products, Interfor.  It becomes irrelevant what they call themselves.  The shareholders do not live here.  Or pay taxes here.
Meet Perry.  Perry is a faller.  Well, he was.  Until the industry sputtered and died on the South Island.  Perry is 50 something.  Nice guy.  Loves the outdoors.  Hurts like hell from too many close calls.  Too many mountainsides.  But Perry is in his element when he’s in the bush.  Maybe it’s the air, maybe it’s the altitude, maybe it’s the chlorophyl, but to deny this man the fruits of his labours and cast him aside from his calling in favour of technology is morally wrong.  To lock him out of the forests that he worked in for most of his life is wrong. There’s a funny little twist in this story that makes me shake my head.  Perry is not certified as a faller.  He has been falling trees for twenty years, after running a forestry crew prior to that.  Then the government decided to certify fallers.  After the forest industry fell to it’s knees under the weight of it’s own incompetance.  They want $900 for a WCB person to come out and certify you.  Most of the time when you get hurt, the claim gets denied, delayed, or minimized. 
My dad was born into logging.  His first home was Elder Camp at Muir Creek.  His dad was a faller and mom was a camp cook.  Dad worked for a company whose head office was across the street.  We personally knew the bosses and their families.  The logging roads were open for hunting, gathering and recreation.  Every summer, Sooke held a festival they called All Sooke Days, with logger sports, food, entertainment and generally good times.  There was no traffic light in Sooke when I was little.  Yeah, no, I’m not THAT old!  
The industry has been given carte blanche with our public lands.  According to the Centre For Policy Alternatives, in an article by Ben Parfitt here.

…about 94 per cent of BC is Crown or public land. And over the decades the wealth generated from that land – the royalties and taxes from forest, natural gas, and mining activities – has enriched public programs such as health care, education and transit to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.Lately, however, our provincial government is behaving as if there’s nothing particularly important about our great, shared natural assets.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the speed at which one of BC’s longest standing public agencies has been gutted and dismantled — to the point where it is dangerously close to becoming irrelevant.

I speak of our Forest Service. In less than a decade, the provincial government has axed one quarter of the agency’s staff (1,006 positions) and cut the number of fully staffed district offices in half, effectively severing the link between the agency and 21 communities that it once so ably served.

The depth of the cuts to the nearly 100-year-old agency is a serious concern. And when one bores down to what the cutbacks mean on the ground — our shared ground with First Nations — the alarm bells really go off. 

The implications of this are enormous for every citizen of BC, whether you live in Vancouver or Terrace.  It amounts to the corporate theft of our resources, our public wealth, for the enrichment of a few shareholders who don’t even have to pay taxes on our wealth.  Recently, Campbell has opened the door to another NAFTA lawsuit, allowing the corporation to sue the People of BC for millions of our tax dollars.  They will win.

The theory that the corporate sector will trickle jobs is a baldfaced lie.  Back to the feller buncher and it’s BFF the Log Processer.  That’s technological innovation for you.  $160,000 for the machine, wages saved in lost forestry jobs?  Priceless.  The huge cost of these machines also allows for an excuse to gate the logging roads and deny access to community stakeholders because they have to protect their investment from the people.  Originally, the social contract with Forest Companies stipulated that the onus was on them to maintain logging roads and provide community access for recreational purposes.  On the South Island, they used to close the gates for fire season, understandable given the huge costs associated with fighting forest fires.  Then, suddenly, they just stopped openiing the gates at all.  Now, they can log to their hearts content, without ever being held acccountable for the shoddy practices that leave huge blocks of nuked forestland, slashpiles everywhere filled with wood that should have been utilised and soil completely exposed to the elements of erosion. Now we have the added danger of politicians removing huge tracts of land from the TFL to enrich the shareholders further, selling it off as Real Estate.  Quickly and as quietly as possible.  Island Timberlands, WFP and Timberwest were suddenly gifted by Rich Coleman with the ability to morph into Land Developers.  With absolutely no consultation with the affected communities and first nation stakeholders.

The Forest Service was concieved to protect the public interest in our biggest resource from the winds of political change.  People who are granted 4 year terms are not likely to have 10 year plans, never mind the 1000 year plan required to sustainabley steward the wealth of our children’s children.  Hell, we can’t even get elected officials to feed and educate the current crop of children!  

This superministry that Campbell has sprung on us seems designed to destroy the oversight on industry by Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Mining, Forestry.  Don’t forget it was Kevin Falcon who headed up the Ministry of Eliminating Red Tape!  Anyone who votes Liberal in this Province is voting for the Corporate Agenda and against the financial future of their children.   By eliminating the 100 year old Forestry Service, Campbell eliminates government oversight of our greatest attribute.  Oh, yeah, want to see the trickle down effect?

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