The West Coast Environmental Law Association welcomes the opportunity to make submissions to assist the Minister of Forests (the "Minister") in his decision whether to consent to the acquisition of MacMillan Bloedel Limited ("MB") by Weyerhaeuser Company ("Weyerhaeuser").
According to government policy, factors that may be considered by the Minister in making his decision include:
- the reasons for the proposed transaction;
- the eligibility of the transferee to hold the Crown agreements involved in the proposed transaction;
- the length of time the transferor has held those harvesting agreements;
- the potential social and economic impacts, such as employment and community stability, in the regions involved;
- the potential effect on the Crown’s ability to obtain fair value for Crown timber;
- the potential effect in the health and competitiveness of the forest industry and its diversification and innovation;
- the potential effect on the market for logs and wood chips;
- the potential to protect the position of others in the marketplace, including contractors, suppliers and operators, particularly those who rely on current wood flow patterns;
- the potential to maintain and enhance the management of the Crown agreements involved in the transaction and to honour existing commitments tied to those agreements; and
- corporate concentration of regional harvesting rights.
It is our position that the Minister should not consent to the change of control over MB.At this point in the history of BC, any change of control over the forest land base should prioritise diversification, not increasing corporate concentration.
In the alternative, we submit that if the Minister were to consent to the change in control, this should be on the condition that MB relinquish its timber tenures to the Crown, in order that the land and cutting rights currently allocated to MB can be redistributed to communities, First Nations and other actors, or used for other public purposes such as protected areas creation.
Our submissions are broken down to address the following issues:
- The proposed change of control will enhance undesirable corporate concentration of harvesting rights.
- The proposed change of control will result in dislocation and instability for forest workers and communities.
- The proposed change of control will give Weyerhaeuser the right to challenge government action that affects its harvesting rights using the North American Free Trade Agreement (the "NAFTA"); thus presenting an undesirable barrier to redistributing tenure, completing the protected areas system and settling the First Nations’ land question.
- Our alternative position in the event that the Minister decides to consent to the transfer.