WITH the forestry crisis worsening and Premier John Horgan and the NDP yet to introduce a comprehensive strategy to address the litany of layoffs and closures plaguing both the interior and coastal forestry sectors, attention is turning to a relief fund for illegal cannabis growers quietly announced by government last month, point out the B.C. Liberals.
The Cannabis Business Transition Initiative designates $675,000 dollars to help existing illegal cannabis growers in the Kootenays “overcome the barriers to operating in the legal economy” as they transition out of the black market.
“To think that John Horgan and the NDP have created a relief program for illegal cannabis growers at a time when the forestry industry is imploding and forestry workers throughout the province are struggling to survive, shows you the misguided priorities of this government,” said Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Critic and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad. “It’s one thing to support an emerging industry, but it’s quite another to prioritize taxpayer dollars for previously illegal enterprises, all while claiming there is no money left to support the forestry industry that grew this province.”
The $675,000 grant is being funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and will subsidize cannabis growers exclusively from the Kootenays — a region that is also home to NDP MLAs Michelle Mungall and Katrine Conroy.
“John Horgan and the NDP say there’s no more money available to help the forestry industry where workers are struggling to provide for their families over the holiday season, but they’ve somehow managed to suddenly come up with over half a million bucks for illegal cannabis growers,” added Rustad. “This isn’t just a case of a government picking winners and losers, it’s a government that is choosing to support people who have been profiting from illegal activities over hard-working British Columbian forestry workers.”
To date, there have been 10 permanent or indefinite mill closures and over 10,000 job losses in B.C’s forestry sector this year.