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

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Interior Health to host virtual town hall Friday, March 27

The Q&A forum begins at 6 p.m. PDT, link in story

West Kootenay octogenarian helping develop low-cost ventilator for COVID-19 patients

Peter Brockley is working with his doctor son, Graham, to develop the unit that could save lives

Interior Health issues alert following confirmed COVID-19 case on WestJet flight

The public exposure alert comes following the March 21 WestJet flight from Calgary to Kamloops

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Most Read