An Untold Story, retold

I wrote this opinion piece in 1995 and it was published in the Victoria Times Colonist. That was while our provincial government was agonizing over a final decision for land use on Vancouver Island. The maps that we at the CORE table had argued over for 12 months were never fully acted upon. Much has happened during those past 20 years.
Although longer than desirable for a blog, I’m posting this now so that readers might seriously consider the similar ramifications of a tremendous reduction in the price of oil.

There is a story about forests and implementation impacts of the Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE) Report that has not been well told. It is also not being considered by many people living where employment is logging, milling, pulp or paper making. The prevailing attitude is that the current debate only concerns people directly employed in the forest industry and that only jobs in forest dependent communities are at stake. Not so.

We can be confident our legislators in Victoria are aware of reduction to provincial income if this report is enacted. But it seems the bureaucrats who work for them, including the authors of the report do not understand the financial picture. When people are not employed, where is the taxation base to pay salaries of government employees? What will fund health, education and the welfare system?

My family lives on the Saanich Peninsula. Both my husband and I were raised on Vancouver Island. For many years (100+) forests have been the principal source of our family income, currently from a contract logging operation near Port Hardy.

Our company holds a contract with a major forest company. Its corporate offices, with employees are in Vancouver. It holds a tree farm licence on which our smaller company conducts its business. Timber we harvest is shipped to saw-mills in Vancouver or pulp mills in Port Alice or Squamish. This same company has a total of 5 smaller contractors working on Vancouver Island.

Only a very large corporation has the financial ability to build, operate and sustain manufacturing facilities that we and other small contractors supply. Whatever the destination of logs or chips, employment in other areas is the result of businesses like ours. I’m suggesting this makes toe Vancouver Island CORE Report a British Columbia issue.

Our contracting business employs 33 workers who live in Port Hardy. Local businesses depend on people like them to purchase groceries, fuel, vehicles, a home, home appliances and all manner of supplies and services. Children attend school there.

When medical attention or other services not available in their community is required they travel “down island.” This may mean several nights staying in a motel in Campbell River, Nanaimo or Victoria. In addition to adding to room occupancy rates, their travel boosts restaurant sales in communities they pass through. Similarly, vacation or school holiday time may be spent somewhere else. A tourist dependant interior town might be their destination. And those who prefer to fly to Vancouver for business or recreation have not even been considered yet.

Equipment and supplies for our company are purchased according to price, availability and servicing. That might mean a huge piece of machinery worth thousands of dollars bought in Nanaimo, Vancouver or farther away. It means repairs to equipment may be done locally or by bringing in replacement parts. Wherever these items are made or sold, the businesses employ people who pay taxes. And shipping and transportation companies employ people to get them here. Offices in Port Hardy and in our home have a computer, fax, and copier purchased and serviced in Victoria.

There is a prevailing attitude that the professional community has immunity to decisions made on the CORE report. Not so. An accountant in Nanaimo spends 3 work days a month on regular procedures for our business. A large accounting firm in Victoria provides advice and prepares the required annual financial statements. Legal assistance concerning contracts and corporate matters is handled by a legal firm there also. Given the complicated systems created by both federal and provincial governments, no similar business can operate without such services.

Regular banking transactions also employ people. And since every business operates to make a profit, and this one has managed to do so, there have been investments. An investment broker and a real estate agent have earned commissions as a direct result of our company harvesting trees.
It is my hope that as the government works with island communities to establish a workable land use plan everyone involved will recognize all of the people and businesses affected by the eventual decision.