FRBC Money Saved From Skeena Failure

Close to a million dollars worth of public FRBC funds owed to Skeena Cellulose forestry contractors have been paid. The WSCA had a part in lobbying for the payment.

FRBC Money Saved from Skeena Cellulose Failure.

There has been little positive to report from the enhanced forestry side over the summer, or for the last year for that matter, so it is worth mentioning a two-month-old press release that crossed my desk last week. The Vancouver Sun reported June 28 that 51 forestry contractors who had worked for Skeena Cellulose had finally been paid $835,000 in outstanding Forest Renewal BC money owed to them. According to the report Competition Minister Rick Thorpe went personally to the chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank to get the money released after it had been frozen during bankruptcy proceedings. I imagine one of the arguments the minister used was that the FRBC funds were public dollars entrusted to Skeena Cellulose to spend on public projects and not part of the moribund company’s private assets or capital. Therefore the bank had no claim to the FRBC money.

I had used the same argument back in February of this year in meetings with the then chief managing officer of Forest Renewal Christy Brown. She agreed my argument was worth a try and to her credit took up the issue. I also mentioned the situation to my contacts in Thorpe’s ministry. There was considerable flux during the spring with the uncertainty over Skeena’s fate, the decision to severe Forest Renewal, and the new government’s commitment to a reduced civil service. Brown resigned, FRBC disintegrated and the whole issue fell through the cracks leaving me with no obvious places to press on. It seemed the non-payment would be just another insult to the general injury that has afflicted the enhanced forestry sector these last years. I filed the matter as another lost cause: something under the general purview of St. Jude patron of hopeless cases.

Now, as one who has spent considerable time waiting in the ante-chambers of power and forest policy over the last few years I should be at least wise enough to know that government works by its own peculiar logic. Apparently it did in this case. Somewhere the issue took on a life of its own, perhaps due to the original impetus I provided. The W.S.C.A. may not even have been the sole advocate on this. Still it wouldn’t be too self-aggrandizing to take some credit for the outcome even as kind of encouragement to continue carrying the chalice for other lost forestry causes; of which there are no shortage these days.

Meanwhile none of the fifty or so contractors who received their payments are W.S.C.A. members. I am told from previous visits to the Northwest that they do not believe being members provides them any benefits. Another familiar irony.

A letter thanking the minister is in the works.