USW PRESIDENT SAYS BC LIBERALS NOT SUPPORTING THE FOREST SECTOR
PRINCE GEORGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA - The international president of the province's largest forestry union is wondering how the B.C. Liberal government can claim to be committed to building with wood when its own Crown corporations are building with steel studs.
Leo Gerard, the international president of the 850,000-member United Steelworkers, said the new regional office for BC Hydro is a shining example of the emptiness of Liberal rhetoric around promoting building with wood.
“Here in the heart of British Columbia’s forest industry, a government-owned company should be building with wood,” said Gerard, in Prince George to meet with USW members in advance of upcoming contract negotiations. “So when I went past that Hydro building and saw the steel studs on the exterior of the building, I thought there was something wrong.
“This is the result of a government more interested in meaningless gestures than taking real action to support the province's number one industry,” Gerard said. “The Wood First Act, which I understand was trumpeted about by Pat Bell when he was the minister, is full of what union negotiators call ‘aspirational language.’
“The act, all five clauses of it, says that government ‘may’ encourage wood use, but there is no actual requirement. And even with such weak language, it apparently doesn’t apply to Crown corporations. That’s how you get BC Hydro building with steel studs in the middle of forest country.”
The Wood First Act was passed by the Liberal government just prior to the 2009 election. Construction on the Hydro regional office on 22nd Avenue in Prince George was announced in June 2012. Gerard noted that the new RCMP detachment downtown is another example of a public building that, notwithstanding the ornate exterior, is being built primarily of steel and concrete.
“If this were Pittsburgh, or Sault Ste. Marie, I’d be very happy to see the use of steel in public construction,” said Gerard, whose union represents workers in many indusrtrial sectors throughout North America. “I’d say that Prince George needs to support political leadership that does more than raise token symbols to the industry that built this city.”
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