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Rafferty blasts inaction on forestry

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Local MP John Rafferty, the NDP’s forestry critic, yesterday slammed Natural Resources minister Lisa Raitt for failing to offer federal assistance, including loan guarantees and a national summit to co-ordinate government action, to the hard-hit forestry sector.

“Mills from British Columbia to Newfoundland, and all provinces in between, are laying off thousands of workers because their lines of credit are being called in,” Rafferty said.

“Their products are in demand, but the banks are simply refusing to lend because of the broader economic crisis,” he argued.

Rafferty said Raitt is running around the country and patting the government on the back for offering a few million for forestry research while the industry that has lost 45,000 jobs in less than five years.

“She should be back in Ottawa working to secure access to credit for these companies so that people can get back to work,” he stressed.

While emphasizing the need for the government to increase access to capital as a priority for the struggling sector, Rafferty also took the opportunity yesterday to reaffirm his call for a national forestry summit.

“The problems confronting the forestry sector are numerous and complex, but are fixable with co-ordinated government action,” he noted. “Convening a national summit is the only way to develop a meaningful and effective plan to help the industry.

“The layoffs and job losses have hit every single province, so the crisis is truly national and federal leadership is clearly required,” he added.

Rafferty presented a letter to Raitt asking her to convene a national forestry summit six weeks ago, but has yet to receive a response.

According to the Forestry Products Association of Canada, forestry is an $84-billion a year industry that directly or indirectly employs 863,000 people in all provinces of the country.

According to Industry Canada, the auto industry in Canada is a similar-sized industry in dollar value, employs 463,000 Canadians, and has projected up to 20,000 job losses in the coming years.

In the most recent federal budget, the auto industry received $4 billion in assistance but just $170 million was earmarked for the forestry industry.

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