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.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: WLST prepares farcical Roman musical for January

A comedic musical romp entitled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is coming soon

EDITORIAL: A community Christmas story

Imagining a town where people shop locally

Bowlers land medals at youth 5-pin zone championships

Cariboo Bowling Lanes in Williams Lake was bustling with activity last Sunday

Christmas comes early to the Salvation Army in Williams Lake

City Furniture has donated all the food for the Salvation Army Christmas Dinner

Williams Lake rallies to help with dog’s surgery costs

Dobby, 6, needs perineal hernia surgery, owner cannot afford the vet bill

VIDEO: These are the top toys this Christmas, B.C. toy experts say

Consider the play value of a game, staff at Toy Traders say

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

Most Read