Interfor’s Hammond Cedar sawmill on the Fraser River is among B.C. mills closing permanently. (Maple Ridge News)

B.C. offers early retirement, training fund for forest workers

Communities eligible for $100,000 for permanent closures

The B.C. government has announced a $69 million fund for Interior forest workers and their communities to assist with forest industry closures and curtailments that have swept the province.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said $40 million over two years goes to early retirement funds. Another $15 million funds short-term work programs, focused on wildfire prevention and “community resiliency projects.”

Municipalities subject to permanent mill closures are eligible for an immediate $100,000, and those with indefinite closures can get $75,000 for community programs.

Four communities are eligible for the permanent closure fund: Quesnel, Chasm, Vavenby and Fort St. James. Maple Ridge, where Interfor announced last week it is permanently closing Hammond Cedar, is not included in the community funds, but retraining funds will be available, the ministry said in a statement.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said the training assistance, employment and mental health support is designed to prevent the “emptying out” of forest-dependent communities.

“We all realize there is no quick fix for the forest industry,” Bains said.

RELATED: B.C. forest industry looks to high-tech future

RELATED: B.C. Liberals call for forest industry tax relief

Donaldson said the province’s stumpage fees for Crown land timber are higher than companies want, partly because of high log costs as a result of shortages from beetle kill and forest fires. International pressures such as low lumber prices and U.S. import tariffs are also factors, and reducing stumpage is characterized as a subsidy by U.S. producers.

Donaldson said the province has been asking the federal government for assistance, but B.C. Liberal forest critic John Rustad said nothing is likely to happen until the federal election is over and a new cabinet gets to work.

“If you talk to any of the workers, they want work,” Rustad said. “There’s nothing here about addressing B.C.’s competitiveness issues.”

The B.C. Council of Forest Industries has its own suggestions to help the industry’s transition to a decline in allowable timber harvest that is expected to continue until 2030. In a position paper released this week, COFI calls for the province to establish a “working forest” designation to define the approximately half of the B.C. land base that is not subject to park, protected area or other restriction on forest activity.

B.C. is also changing its log export and harvest regulations to reduce wood waste. A policy took effect in April that charges triple stumpage for any wood deemed usable that is left behind when sawlogs are taken from Crown land.

This policy was cited by Teal-Jones Group in its decision to halt logging on the B.C. coast and Vancouver Island, and Donaldson says he expects similar objections to be raised by Interior producers.

“It might cost you $80 to $100 per cubic metre to get it out, and you get $50 for it, that makes it very challenging to do it on a sustained basis,” COFI CEO Susan Yurkovich said in an interview.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

Cache Creek council makes decision to close pool for 2020 season

Effects of COVID-19 pandemic and delinquent taxes two factors in decision

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

Easter scavenger hunt — with social distancing — coming to Ashcroft

Fun, family-friendly event will have participants hopping (safely) all over town

COVID-19 info: Yard waste accepted at TNRD Transfer Stations

Plus precautions at the Ashcroft Emergency Department, library news, bus info, and more

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Interior Health confirms five additional cases in Okanagan COVID-19 outbreak

The total amount of confirmed cases at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. is 19; no further cases expected

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Most Read