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

UPDATE: Missing Chilliwack teen found, safe and sound

RCMP ‘pleased to confirm’ teen has been located

Health officials are restricting visitor access to facilities in Chilliwack and Hope

Access rules for CGH and RCH, long-term care homes, and assisted living facilities have changed

COVID-19 case diagnosed at Abbotsford rehabilitation residence

First Abbotsford care home to have confirmed COVID-19 case

Fraser Valley’s tulips fields off limits to visitors due to COVID-19

Abbotsford and Chilliwack tulip farmers have announced their festival season won’t go ahead

Trail density has gone down in Chilliwack from last weekend’s overcrowding

Follow all the health rules and consider visiting some of our lesser known trails, says mayor

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

Don’t stop going to the doctor, just do it virtually: B.C. association

Doctors encourage patients to access telephone, online visits

Surrey MLA Jinny Sims cleared of criminal wrongdoing

She resigned her cabinet post during RCMP investigation

BREAKING: COVID-19 case diagnosed at Abbotsford rehabilitation residence

First Abbotsford care home to have confirmed COVID-19 case

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Trudeau commits $100M to help food banks amid COVID-19 crisis

Funds will help ‘urgent food needs’ for Canadians awaiting federal emergency benefits to kick in

Most Read