B.C. government offering support to forest sector to ‘keep their doors open’

B.C. government offering support to forest sector to 'keep their doors open'

The BC Government has announced it will be deferring one of the forestry fees it typically charges in an effort to help the sector navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

Companies will be alleviated of stumpage fees, payment operators make to the Province to harvest, buy or sell trees from Crown land, for three months.

“As government, we had already taken a number of steps to help forest communities and the industry because they were facing tough times even before the COVID-19 crisis came along,” said Premier John Horgan. “Now, we’re deferring stumpage fees so companies can maintain their financial liquidity, which will not only benefit them, but ideally, forest workers and communities as well.”

According to the government, the deferral is available to Tree Farm Licence, Replaceable Forest Licence and First Nations’ Woodlands Licence holders who are in good financial standing with the Province.

The deferral will come with interest and eligible companies must be following through on their reforesting obligations.

In a press release, the BC Government estimates that the deferral will leave companies with $80 million so they can pay employees, pay contractors and pay other bills needed.

The intent of the BC Government is to help companies in the sector “keep their doors open or reopen them faster.”

“COVID-19 just added to the challenges facing our forest sector. In conversations with the forestry industry, the deferral of stumpage was a key ask, and I am pleased our government has been able to deliver support to companies, contractors and workers,” said Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

The stumpage deferral is the latest help offered by the provincial government to the forest sector as last fall they announced a $69 million fund to support BC forest workers affected by mill closures and shift reductions. This fund came following a union strike that lasted eight months.

The intention of the $69 million fund was to provide new supports to make sure people have access to the services they need. This includes everything from training, to work placement, to early retirement. It also includes community support grants for communities that have been hardest hit by a mill closure or curtailment.

“We’re building on other measures we’ve taken to help the forest sector navigate this crisis,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “What we’re announcing today may allow some companies to get back online sooner rather than later when we get through the situation we’re in now – or it may save other companies from having to shut down altogether.”

The BC Government also is providing a $1,000 boost to any employee eligible for employment insurance (EI) or the new federal emergency benefits for those who don’t qualify for EI. In addition, no one in the forestry sector can be fired for taking time off work to follow the advice of the provincial health officer.

“The deferral of stumpage fees is an important short-term measure to help alleviate some of the unprecedented financial pressure brought on by the COVID 19 crisis. It will help B.C.’s forest companies put people back to work in communities as markets come back and we move towards economic recovery,” said Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO, Council of Forest Industries.

Along with the stumpage deferral, major industries like pulp and paper mills will have the opportunity to defer 50 percent of their BC Hydro bill payments for three months.

“We’ve been hard hit by a variety of factors that have presented challenges to our forest workers. I am pleased that this government is taking steps to help our industry and forest communities in general,” claimed Stephen Hunt, director, United Steel Workers, District 32 Western Canada in a press release.

On March 26, 2020, the provincial government announced a list of essential services as part of its ongoing response to COVID-19. This list included businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of primary and value-added forestry (e.g. lumber, pulp, paper, wood fuel, etc.).



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