Sunday, May 8, 2016

Minnie Mouse or Donald Duck for President of USA

How will the forests of British Columbia be affected by the race for President of USA?  USA has been the major market for British Columbia softwood lumber exports. Although there is a free trade agreement between Canada and USA softwood lumber has been subject to export taxes or tariffs. When mature timber supplies in USA recovered in the later part of the 20th Century, lumber trade issues surfaced. US lumber producers argue that lower cost public timber supply of Canadian producers is an unfair advantage. The softwood lumber agreement, involving taxes, tariffs or quotas is up for renewal.

Meanwhile, a US presidential race is in full swing and perhaps the only usual feature of this years race is that the nominees have wealth and or celebrity. Otherwise the race has been unusual with venting of much steam generated by a pressure cooker of social and economic inequality. Neither candidate may be up to the task of defusing the underlying tensions in the country. An unstable USA would not be good for Canada.

Trade agreements have been a major issue in the Presidential primaries owing to the loss of US manufacturing jobs to other countries. Donald on the right of the political spectrum seems to be favoring pure protectionism. Bernie Saunders on the other hand, points out that existing free trade agreements favor corporations and enable them to operate or move to countries that offer low wages, limited social programs or weak environmental regulations. The issue is the fairness of trade and its affects on the average person.  USA has already identified unfairness in the arrangements that hand over most of BC's public forests to forest corporations that pay administered prices rather than market prices for public timber. Export taxes or tariffs have resulted. The present vulnerability to these taxes could be removed by making communities rather than forest corporations the beneficiaries of public forests in BC. Local trusts with professional managers would provide stewardship to local forests and timber or logs would be sold a market prices. The local trusts would also manage the forests for multiple social, environmental, and economic benefits so no valid argument could be made that these values are being compromised to reduce timber costs.

While Bernie Sanders may not become President of USA, the ideas of the Bernie Sanders movement may grow and influence future events. Political discourse in USA has always divided on the ideas of limited government versus big government. Government and the state are confused or seen by some as the same. In a democracy, the government protects or represents the people from the power of the state. Good government does that! However, throughout the democratic western world, corporations or large economic entities have been favored by governments.  The state and corporations have become closely aligned in a new system of corporate feudalism that is not questioned. The public forests of British Columbia have been managed under such a system. The winds of change have started to blow.

The public forests of British Columbia were instituted on winds of change that blew from USA. Gifford Pinchot, the advocate for National Forests in USA also advised a BC Royal Commission on forests in 1909 that recommended public public forests. National or public forests embodied the idea of the greatest good to the greatest number.