Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall and the NDP’s forestry critics will raise Meadow Creek Cedar’s compliance record with forests minister Steve Thomson when they meet November 17.
Mungall says she specifically requested the meeting to discuss the troubled operation, which has been dogged by questions and concerns about its practices, in and out of the woods.
“I have spoken with workers who do not get regular pay if they get pay at all. Meadow Creek Cedar has also had problems complying with requirements for their tenure and operations,” she said.
Mungall believes Thomson has some familiarity with the Lardeau Valley operation.
“I know he’s received communiqués from me, via his staff. I talked to him in the hallway the other day, notifying him I’d sent a formal request to his office for a meeting. He said ‘I will make sure we get the file out.’“
Mungall says although Meadow Creek has been on her radar for over a year, this is the first chance she and critics Norm Macdonald and Bill Routley have had to meet with the minister, “because we’re not here [in Victoria] very often.”
She’s hoping they can co-operate: “We’re going to discuss the current state of affairs and hopefully work across party lines to identify a solution — that’s the angle I’m going in with.”
Mungall says people initially approached her about the use of temporary foreign workers, wondering if it was legal. She has since met with employees and ministry staff.
Although she acknowledges many residents would like the company’s tenure stripped and placed in the community’s hands, “unfortunately, that’s not allowed under the current legislation.”
According to the act, the Ministry of Forests can suspend or cancel a license if a company “misrepresents, omits its license application or its operation plan, or fails to perform obligations of their license,” such as paying stumpage.
A licensee can also be called to task for failing to obey various provincial statutes.
“The legislation doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for the community to take control,” Mungall says. “In this situation what is required is for the current owner to sell. That would be the best solution from the standpoint of ensuring we have good wages and a mill in compliance and working at full operation.”
Mungall adds she believes local forestry staff are well aware of the company’s problems and track record but have their hands tied: “They’ve been working this file for a very long time, but they’re very limited in what they’re able to do.”
However, she hopes meeting with the minister might change that.
“Do we need to change legislation, or is there another avenue that perhaps we haven’t though of to date? I intend to be clear with him about what’s going on and work to find a solution.”
Mungall says Meadow Creek Cedar’s difficulties are “very serious,” but she has to be sensitive to the legalities involved.
“There’s no need to break any law here — enough laws have been broken. There’s been enough trouble and it’s had a negative impact on the community. So we need to find the appropriate process to benefit Meadow Creek.”
Local municipal politicians also raised concerns about the company’s silviculture practices with ministry staff at the recent Union of BC Municipalities meeting.