Hammond Cedar, a sawmill that operated for more than 100 years in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, was among those to close permanently in 2019. (Maple Ridge News)

Budget 2020: Not much new for B.C.’s struggling forest industry

Focus on wood waste utilization, efficiency, Carole James says

As laid-off forest workers protested outside the B.C. legislature Tuesday, Finance Minister Carole James had little immediate assistance to offer for the struggling industry in her 2020 budget.

James’ third NDP budget contains a new $13 million fund for “economic development and revitalization” of the B.C. forest sector, hard hit by reduced allowable cut in the Interior and high harvest costs that have shut down logging on much of the B.C. Coast and Vancouver Island.

The budget for forests ministry operations for the fiscal year beginning April 1 is $844 million, up from $814 million. Provincial revenue from forest products is projected to go from $991 million this year to $867 in 2020-21.

“We’ve already started the hard work, but it still has to be done, and that means engaging everyone, including the people who are doing the awareness rally today,” James said, referring to forest workers gathered outside.

James described the $13 million fund as financing Forest Minister Doug Donaldson’s changes to wood waste utilization, and Premier John Horgan’s initiative to bring industry players together for better use of a diminished Crown timber supply.

“The long term is really the revitalization work. That’s just getting started,” James said. “That’s pulling together first nations, unions, businesses, bringing people together to talk about what we can do to revitalize the forest industry. The bio-economy, what can we do with the waste wood to make sure that we supply more support in our province to utilize that.”

Industry representatives says they support better collection and use of pulp logs and waste wood for pellet production, but at the moment, the cost of bringing out waste is twice as much as what they can expect to sell it for.

RELATED: B.C. Legislature braces for latest protest, from loggers

RELATED: Eight-month forest industry strike ends with union vote

James referenced relief programs funded out of the current budget, which runs until March 31. They include a $40 million program over two years for retirement bridging of laid-off workers who are 55 or older. There are retraining programs for younger workers, and assistance offices have been set up in communities dealing with mill closures, including Clearwater, Fort St. James and Mackenzie.

In the Cariboo, hit by a string of mill closures, the last of the Forest Management Society of B.C.’s budget has been committed to provide jobs reducing wildfire risk around communities, with forest waste cleanup contracts near 100 Mile House and Barkerville.

James said her government’s long-term strategy includes a commitment to “wood first” in public construction projects, to promote the engineered wood technology that is being marketed in the U.S. and Asia.

The end of a record eight-month strike by the United Steelworkers against Western Forest Products is also good news, James said, referring to a provincial fund to help contractors keep their trucks and equipment from being repossessed by banks.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

B.C. Budget 2020BC legislatureforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: RCMP bring 7 p.m. parade to front doors of Ridge Meadows Hospital

Cruisers with lights and sirens blaring give boost to those working within

WEATHER: Mainly cloudy with a chance of showers

Temperatures to reach a high of 11 C

Intergenerational Garden in Maple Ridge open for another year

All food will be donated to the Friends In Need Food Bank

Front line workers in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows calling out for supplies

Doctors and specialists say they are in desperate need

South Surrey hikers discover decades-old campsite hidden in Golden Ears Park

Group reconnects with original campers through social media, returns log book

‘The Office’ star John Krasinski offers Some Good News in trying times

‘The human spirit still found a way to break through and blow us all away’

B.C. worker advocate group calls for more sick days, protected medical leave

COVID-19 highlights need for changes to workers legislation: Retail Action Network

Lower Mainland cop awarded almost $3.2 million for 2 car crashes

Jeffery Neufeldt of Mission was injured on the job in collisions in 2013 and 2016

New rules issued for B.C. construction projects, work camps for COVID-19

Coastal GasLink, LNG Canada, Trans Mountain and Site C carry on

Staff member diagnosed with COVID-19 at Langley Lodge care home, Fraser Health confirms

The health authority is at the scene of the long term care home

Canada to spend $2B more on procuring medical supplies for COVID-19 fight

Government has signed deals with three companies

World COVID-19 updates: Putin may be exposed; 30,000 prisoners released

Comprehensive news update from around the world as of Tuesday, March 31.

Most Read