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

Central Okanagan MP candidates put thousands into Facebook ads

Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr leads the pack with over $15,000 in ad spending according to a report

Souperbowl Sunday is back for fifth year this weekend

Organizers say they are looking for a fourth chef to compete in round 2 on Oct. 27

All-candidates meet and greet at UBCO

Students and residents will have a chance to meet with the MP hopefuls on Friday

Parts of KVR Trail becoming dumping ground for stolen vehicles

More vehicles are turning up due to more patrolling, says Const. James Grandy

Grey, damp, warm week ahead in Okanagan, Shuswap, Columbia

Environment Canada calling for clouds and showers, and warm temperatures, throughout the area

Election 2019: Robert Mellalieu — Green Party candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Robert Mellalieu is running for the Green Party in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

South Okanagan dangerous offender guilty plea struck down

Trial delayed again because Ronald Teneycke failed to elect his choice of trial

Six bears destroyed in three days in West Kelowna

A West Kelowna business has been charged for leaving garbage around Lake Okanagan Resort

West Kelowna Warriors being sold back to BC Hockey League

Current owner Kim Dobranski said the sale back to the BCHL should be completed by the end of October

Police standoff ends peacefully in West Kelowna

A distraught man was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon

Most Read