It was an early-morning start for dozens of B.C. Interior loggers heading from Prince George to Vancouver to make noise over job losses in the province’s once-booming forest industry.
The initial convoy left Prince George at 2 a.m. Wednesday, stopping through Williams Lake at 5 a.m. As the group heads to the Vancouver Convention Centre, up to 200 logging trucks are expected to join along the route.
About 100 trucks from the north, including Prince George, Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, were seen on the roads in 100 Mile, receiving honks of support and more trucks as they travel through rural communities impacted by mill curtailments and closures.
The Rally to Vancouver truck protest, organized by Merritt logger Howard McKimmon and others, is shedding light on the “industry in crisis” as mayors and MLAs from across the province converge in the Lower Mainland for its annual Union of BC Municipalities convention.
It’s no doubt that the recent hits to the forest sector will be top of mind for mayors in the Interior who have seen first-hand the job losses felt by their community members.
This year has seen four mills permanently close in the region, putting as many as 700 workers out of a job. There have been a further 13 indefinite closures which has impacted an estimated 1,000 workers, as well as hundreds more impacted due to curtailments.
The main goal, the group of loggers said, is to call for immediate changes to stumpage rates in B.C., which are based on the prices that companies pay for logs through BC Timber Sales, and bring back appurtenancy – an agreement that ties timber in a given region to specific sawmills.
In the meantime, the B.C. government has announced early retirement and training funds for forest workers out of jobs, in-part funded through $25 million originally meant for the rural dividend fund. The reallocation of funds has been met with protest by rural mayors.
– with files from Angie Mindus, Williams Lake Tribune