"The Liberals have had 12 years in office to manage British Columbia's forests properly and they haven't," said NDP forest critic Norm Macdonald this week while touring the Okanagan speaking to industry, environmental and First Nation groups.
But B.C. Forests Minister and Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson takes exception to Macdonald's viewpoint.
"The health of the forest sector is strong," Thomson said.
"Forestry is a critical component of the provincial economy and the government has made the policies and investments to ensure that the sector will continue to be so for the next 100 years."
Macdonald, the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, said over the past 10 years, the government hasn't kept up to its obligation to replant Crown forests hit by fire, disease and pests, including the devastation caused by pine beetle.
"One to two million hectares that should have been replanted hasn't been," said Macdonald.
Thomson said reforestation will take place once the province has a complete handle on what areas should be replanted first following pine beetle damage.
Macdonald also chastised the government for working from timber supply inventory that is, in some cases, 30 years old.
"We shouldn't be making decisions on cut levels on old data,"
Thomson said inventories will be updated now that the worst of the pine beetle infestation is over.
The minister and critic do, however, agree on a couple of things.
Macdonald actually praised the Liberals for working hard to expand markets for B.C. wood in China.
And the NDP also supports the Liberal's Wood First regulations requiring B.C. wood be used in all government construction if at all possible.
"I know Mr. Thomson well and like him," said Macdonald.
"But I'm sure he's lost arguments for forestry funding at Treasury Board."
Thomson is candid when he speaks of the depression the forestry sector went through the past few years due to a plunge in U.S. housing starts, along with the
carnage caused by the pine beetle and the worldwide recession.
"The industry came through its most difficult time in history,"
"But now we are positioned to take advantage of recovery with market diversification to China, Japan and India, recovery of the U.S. housing market starting and investments in the sector by both government and industry. And now lumber prices are improving."