(Black Press Media file)

Stumpage rates result in job losses for 50 Fraser Valley employees

The company has operations in Chilliwack, Mission, Harrison Mills, Vancouver Island and the Interior

B.C.’s forestry industry crisis has hit the Fraser Valley, with Western Canadian Timber Products Ltd. laying off 50 employees last week.

According to vice-president Don Banasky, the Harrison Mills company laid off 50 employees — including those who worked in mechanics, welding, purchasing and logging labour positions — as well as four hauling contractors and a four-man yarder on Friday, Nov. 22.

The company has its primary office and shop in Harrison Mills, with forest management and engineering services located in Chilliwack. However, it also has logging operations in Mission, Manning Park, Boston Bar, Harrison Lake, Port Alberni and the Interior.

In a release, company president Brian Dorman said the lay offs were a result of high stumpage rates to the provincial government and poor log sale prices.

RELATED: Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

“The government is just taking too much of our sales price for stumpage,” Dorman said in the release. “Some of our cut blocks are still close to $50 per cubic metre, yet our sales price is less than $100 per cubic metre. This means 50 per cent of our sales goes to the government, which is unacceptable for any sound business to move forward.

“In today’s market, we need stumpage rates to be $5 per cubic metre, not $50 per cubic metre.”

Stumpage is the fee businesses pay when they harvest timber from Crown land. The B.C. government calculates stumpage rates quarterly, and each January releases an average stumpage rate schedule based on billed rates from the previous year. The schedule released in January 2019 showed stumpage fees in Coastal B.C. ranging between $11.88 per cubic metre and $24 per cubic metre.

RELATED: Stumpage fees rise, with varied effects on industry

Businesses pay based on the volume, species and grades of their timber, as well as the stumpage rates.

Banasky said the company has been in conversations with the provincial government about stumpage fees, but hasn’t seen movement from the government.

“It’s horrible to think the government is not jumping over hoops to assist in areas (that are) more than optics,” Banasky said in an email. “This is what it feels like for us. We would simply like to have an ear and so would the rest of industry. The time for action is now.”

Western Canadian Timber is not the only company to have laid off employees because of the forestry crisis. More than two dozen saw mills have closed temporarily around the province, and thousands have been laid off from early winter shutdowns. Truck drivers have also been impacted by the job losses, and even protested at UBCM this September against the province’s stumpage rates.

Currently, Banasky said, the company is focusing on paying its bills and reducing costs. When and if it brings back its employees and contractors depends on what changes occur from the province in regards to stumpage rates.

“We will be monitoring this on Jan. 1,” he said. “If stumpage drops and markets gain, we will consider going to work.”



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

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