Hundreds of drivers converged on Wednesday, September 25th, where a chain of more than 200 empty logging trucks linked figurative arms and marched to the heart of Vancouver.
The convoy’s destination was the Vancouver Convention Centre, where the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention was taking place. Local politicians were part of the welcome party as the raucous rows of trucks rumbled down the street.
“It was amazing to watch,” says MLA Doug Clovechok, who describes streets packed with government officials and others, all cheering the truckers on. “It was emotional, it was powerful, it was overwhelming.”
He spoke to one of the organizers of the day’s event.
“He said ‘these guys aren’t listening to us’,” Mr. Clovechok recalls. “The organizer told me, with tears in his eyes, ‘we had no idea the kind of support that we are seeing here today’.”
The convoy members were calling for an immediate change to stumpage rates in B.C., which are based on what companies pay for logs through BC Timber Sales, and to bring back an agreement that ties timber in a given region to specific sawmills. High log prices and a declining timber supply have prompted several recent mill curtailments and closures in B.C., affecting thousands of workers.
The convoy began in the wee hours, leaving Prince George and stopping to pick up truckers in Quesnel, Williams Lake, 100 Mile, Merritt and Hope, on their way to Vancouver.
Dan Eaton has been working behind the scenes to lobby the provincial government on behalf of the logging industry’s concerns. His company owns two
logging operations working in the Columbia Valley: ICHI Resources, which is involved with logging for Canfor, and Wildwynd Resources, involved with hauling, Mr. Eaton reports.
The current stumpage system, Mr. Eaton says, uses outdated information to determine stumpage rates, as they are only majorly adjusted once a year, thus not reflecting current market conditions, causing fluctuations of 50 per cent or more.
“The stumpage system wasn’t designed for the number of variations now,” Mr. Eaton says.
Mr. Eaton wrote a letter to Doug Donaldson, the provincial minister of forests, lands, and natural resource operations, outlining his concerns, including: the current government has not acted on committee recommendations, funding for mills will not help the logging industry (which he says is estimated to have two and a half times more people employed than in the mills), and outside forces are affecting the industry. Some of his recommendations listed in the letter include reducing regulatory and operational burdens, providing a carbon tax exemption, increasing small-scale salvage, and changing the stumpage system.
“While few if any of the major forestry licensees in the province are in any danger of bankruptcy, many independent logging and trucking contractors are,” Mr. Eaton wrote in the letter. “While there has been a lot of talk about contractor sustainability over the last several years and how to obtain it, there has been little action to ensure such.”
Canal Flats Mayor Karl Sterzer watched the logging convoy come downtown outside the convention centre. He said it was overwhelming to see the level of support from people in the area. The logging convoy showed how serious it is for the logging industry, and he says while he certainly does not have the answer for this problem, he sees collaboration as necessary from all levels of government to work together on coming up with solutions.
“Nobody is immune to some where, at some point in their life, suffering financially,” Mayor Sterzer reflects. “Our community is working hard and coming out of this tough place. But you never forget that, and your heart goes out to them.”
Invermere Mayor Al Miller was also in the crowd that day.
“Although it was a costly day for them, to have to fuel up these vehicles and all come together to make a statement … it was a beautiful statement. I’m only hoping that it really caught the provincial government’s of the day’s attention enough that they will do something. Because we need to get the competitiveness back in our lumber industry,” says Mayor Miller.
Since the convoy rolled across media feeds last week, Mr. Eaton says little has happened. The Interior Logging Association has worked to connect with the provincial government, but Mr. Eaton says no change is on the horizon yet.