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

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

APRIL 9: Abbotsford inmate diagnosed with COVID-19, temporary rent-supplement applications open

Semiahmoo First Nation declares local state of emergency

Parking lots, beach access on SFN lands closed due to COVID-19

South Surrey man aims to ease stress of pandemic with free online yoga

Patrick Aubert says his one-hour classes are about rest, recovery

Surrey RCMP say $14K in stolen phones recovered following investigation

Police say phones reportedly being sold on Facebook Marketplace

Regional parks in Delta closed for the long weekend

Boundary Bay and Deas Island parks closed ‘until further notice’ on Thursday, April 9

B.C., Alberta health ministers urge public to stay home Easter weekend

Regional politicians, online petition calling for closure of provincial border to non-essential traffic

Human rights complaint over city’s Pride flag tossed out

Kari Simpson’s attempt to block Langley City’s flag raising has failed

Abbotsford prison has confirmed COVID-19 case

Pacific Regional Treatment Centre is the third prison in B.C. in one week to confirm case

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

Canadian Olympian diagnosed with heart failure, possible exposure to COVID-19

Olympic soccer star Karina LeBlanc diagnosed with pleural effusion

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

B.C. First Nations Health Authority launches virtual doctor program

Program to provide primary health care through COVID-19 pandemic

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

Most Read

l -->