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

Jumbo Valley to be protected, ending decades-long dispute over proposed ski resort

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

FedEx distribution centre coming to Castlegar

Development permit for ground facility before council next week.

Kootenay teams heading for curling provincials

Team Buchy and Team Nichols won the senior playdowns.

Trust delivers social grants, several in Trail and Rossland

Columbia Basin Trust supports 31 projects with $680,000 in social grants

Hospital in Trail goes from zero to 100!

Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital is one of 4 service hospitals operating in Interior Health

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Most Read