Interfor’s Hammond Cedar sawmill on the Fraser River is among B.C. mills closing permanently. (Maple Ridge News)

B.C. offers early retirement, training fund for forest workers

Communities eligible for $100,000 for permanent closures

The B.C. government has announced a $69 million fund for Interior forest workers and their communities to assist with forest industry closures and curtailments that have swept the province.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said $40 million over two years goes to early retirement funds. Another $15 million funds short-term work programs, focused on wildfire prevention and “community resiliency projects.”

Municipalities subject to permanent mill closures are eligible for an immediate $100,000, and those with indefinite closures can get $75,000 for community programs.

Four communities are eligible for the permanent closure fund: Quesnel, Chasm, Vavenby and Fort St. James. Maple Ridge, where Interfor announced last week it is permanently closing Hammond Cedar, is not included in the community funds, but retraining funds will be available, the ministry said in a statement.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said the training assistance, employment and mental health support is designed to prevent the “emptying out” of forest-dependent communities.

“We all realize there is no quick fix for the forest industry,” Bains said.

RELATED: B.C. forest industry looks to high-tech future

RELATED: B.C. Liberals call for forest industry tax relief

Donaldson said the province’s stumpage fees for Crown land timber are higher than companies want, partly because of high log costs as a result of shortages from beetle kill and forest fires. International pressures such as low lumber prices and U.S. import tariffs are also factors, and reducing stumpage is characterized as a subsidy by U.S. producers.

Donaldson said the province has been asking the federal government for assistance, but B.C. Liberal forest critic John Rustad said nothing is likely to happen until the federal election is over and a new cabinet gets to work.

“If you talk to any of the workers, they want work,” Rustad said. “There’s nothing here about addressing B.C.’s competitiveness issues.”

The B.C. Council of Forest Industries has its own suggestions to help the industry’s transition to a decline in allowable timber harvest that is expected to continue until 2030. In a position paper released this week, COFI calls for the province to establish a “working forest” designation to define the approximately half of the B.C. land base that is not subject to park, protected area or other restriction on forest activity.

B.C. is also changing its log export and harvest regulations to reduce wood waste. A policy took effect in April that charges triple stumpage for any wood deemed usable that is left behind when sawlogs are taken from Crown land.

This policy was cited by Teal-Jones Group in its decision to halt logging on the B.C. coast and Vancouver Island, and Donaldson says he expects similar objections to be raised by Interior producers.

“It might cost you $80 to $100 per cubic metre to get it out, and you get $50 for it, that makes it very challenging to do it on a sustained basis,” COFI CEO Susan Yurkovich said in an interview.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Just Posted

Warning: cancelling bus service to the North Island will compromise public health

Mount Waddington Health Network says transportation primary factor for rural health access

Island couple married on remote mountaintop, socially distanced and digitally connected to family

West Coast Helicopters lifts wedding onto Mount Cokely after COVID-19 cancelled previous plans

Island senior who did 120k in a 70k zone says vehicle shouldn’t have been impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

West Coast Trail to remain closed for now

Federal government won’t open world-famous trek until its First Nations are ready for visitors

VIDEO: Trudeau, Atwood say ‘happy birthday’ for Robert Bateman’s 90th

Famed Canadian artist and conservationist celebrated milestone this weekend

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Victoria Police arrest man wanted for fraud offences

Michael Friesen arrested on Johnson Street

Police looking for witnesses to Courtenay bear spray assault

The incident took place Tuesday, May 26 at around 8:30 p.m.

Vehicle theft of an unusual type creates a buzz in sleepy downtown Sidney

Suspect taken into custody after early-morning alleged attempt to steal a dinghy

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Most Read