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December 8, 2017
Vol. 17, Issue 24

Warning: Any facts contained in this edition are dependent on the context in which they are presented and may have different meanings if removed from these articles.

WFCA Proposes Dual AAC in Discussion Paper

Could we have a better forest and forest industry with two AACs?

In a recent meeting of the Chief Forester’s Forestry Leadership Team WFCA participants posited that problem forest types are not being restored to productivity because they remain economically unattractive to the major license holders who are primarily seeking saw logs. Nevertheless, these stands, which are widespread and include dead pine, burned wood, low quality hemlock, leading balsam and so on, are part of the Allowable Annual Cut (AAC). In their current condition they represent a reduction to the mid-term AAC and a major wildfire threat of which we saw much this summer—more of which is forecast in coming years. In a recent discussion paper (found here) the WFCA suggests that a broader range of provincial timber management objectives could be met by separating problem forest types from saw log-yielding types into concurrent AACs. This would have the effect of making more of the timber harvest land base available to other innovative players diversifying the forest economy and increasing chances for restoring the landscape. The proposal is not without complications. But the status quo may have worse ones.

WFCA Advises Sufficient Notice and Enforcement of Promised Minimum Wage Increases

Today is the last day for written submissions to our government’s Fair Wage Commission gathering comments on the time frame for implementing its promised $15-an-hour minimum wage for B.C. The increase is likely to have a significant impact on tree planting and other piece-work wage settings for seasonal forestry work. In 2000 following negotiations with silviculture workers and Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association employers our government ordered an Employment Standards Silvicultural Regulation guaranteeing silviculture employees’ minimum wage, overtime, holiday pay and time free from work provisions applicable to piece work. In the WFCA written submission to the Fair Wages Commission we stated that compliance with these existing employment standards rules, including the current minimum wage, is not universal across the sector. As a result many workers go deprived of their rights and wages owed. The ability for compliant employers to compete fairly is also affected and likely to worsen when wages are increased and scofflaws continue shirking. We advised our government to ensure there are sufficient resources in place to properly enforce minimum wage across the sector and to improve the present employee complaint process. We advised that changes to minimum wage needs to be known well enough ahead of time for seasonal silviculture employers to take that into account in bidding. In many cases that would require information on changes as early as June in one year for work and wages in the following year. Read more here.

WFCA Prepares for Professional Reliance Review Meetings

The Western Forestry Contractors’ Association has no legislated role certifying or overseeing professionals in the forest sector. That is the ambit of the Association of BC Forest Professionals. Nevertheless, the WFCA has many members who are forest professionals and the association has a keen interest in the best management of our forests. It may be obvious, but it warrants repeating that our government’s review of professional reliance (PR) should not be confused with reviewing relying on professionals. In seeking solutions to its complex policy problems any wise government will seek advice from professionals, and other experts from both academia and policy entrepreneurs groups like the WFCA. In fact a very strong case can be made for more professionals in both the public and private sectors. Clearly then concerns with the professional reliance model are a different brand of problem. Our sector’s exposure to professional reliance came with the BC Liberal government’s shift to results-based forestry during its first Parliament in the previous decade. At that time the main complaint was the alleged stifling of productivity and innovation under the prescriptive weight of the Forest Practices Code. The professional reliance model was intended as an antidote. But it didn’t take long before concerns were raised about the model. What that might suggest is that the shortcomings that many see with professional reliance is actually a deeper problem announcing itself. It may be that in handing more responsibility to professionals the government of the day thought they could relieve themselves of their own duty to provide the right legislation and clarity around what constitutes public interest in forest management. And that may be the root of the problem. The WFCA will meet with Ministry of Environment and Climate Change later this month to begin discussions. The ABCFP is urging its members to respond to an ongoing government survey on professional reliance while it prepares its own submission expected before the end of the year.