Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell’s patience ran out last week when he heard Forests Minister Doug Donaldson say in the legislature that an application for approval of the transfer of timber rights between lumber firms Canfor Corp. and Interfor Corp. hadn’t even reached his desk.
Donaldson was responding to a question in the house from Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar.
“It’s obviously an important question for the people in the area around their future in forestry,” Donaldson said, according to Hansard, but “I’ve not received a proposal from Interfor or Canfor on my desk at this point.”
Donaldson has subsequently clarified, in interviews, that a recommendation is in the works and should be on his desk for a decision within a week or so, but that was after Blackwell snapped and expressed his own frustrations.
The North Thompson region lost 172 jobs when Canfor closed its sawmill at Vavenby, which is 28 km east of Clearwater, and the sale of its timber rights to rival Interfor was viewed as key to shoring up remaining employment in logging in the region.
Blackwell’s understanding was that the companies submitted an application for the transfer to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development on Nov. 7.
“I think it’s safe to say we are all frustrated and disappointed by Minister Donaldson’s attitude,” Blackwell wrote in a rant he posted to his Facebook page on Wednesday, in which he declared, “We are done being patient and nice.”
“Do your job,” Blackwell demanded, and followed that up with radio interviews in Kamloops.
Blackwell said Friday that he hadn’t talked to Donaldson but did get a call from his deputy minister, John Allan, and was glad to hear the new information.
“Hopefully this gets the fire going,” Blackwell said, but impressed that “we’re living in limbo waiting for this decision to drop.”
“I get it, I understand this is a very complex situation,” Blackwell said, noting multiple parties are involved and any decision will have to abide by the province’s mandate to accommodate First Nations under its new Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act.
In the meantime, Blackwell said logging contractors in the region have been on hold for almost a year without work waiting out the decision.
“You can’t make your bill payments, you can’t make a decision to sell your equipment, you can’t move on when you’re living in limbo,” Blackwell said.