BRITISH COLUMBIA - The British Columbia government will provide $875,000 to 11 communities to assist mill workers and their families transition to other jobs.
Interior communites with permanent mill closures are eligible for $100,000; those with indefinite closures are eligible for $75,000, and those with shift reductions are eligible for $50,000.
“The challenges facing Interior forest communities are unprecedented, and that’s why we are getting these resources where they are most urgently needed,” Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson said in a statement. “Funds from these community support grants are going directly to the local governments, as they have first-hand knowledge of what supports are most needed in their communities.”
This isn't long after the province invested $69 million to support Interior B.C. forest workers impacted by seemingly never-ending mill closures and curtailments plaguing the province.
“While the forest sector must reduce surplus milling capacity to remain competitive, it cannot do so at the expense of the workers, contractors and communities who built the industry," B.C. Premier John Horgan said at the time. "Our government will ensure that forest workers impacted by mill closures are supported.”
“We appreciate the province recognizing these supportive measures needed for impacted workers as industry adapts to declining timber supply," said West Fraser CEO Ray Ferris. West Fraser has really been a victim of market conditions - recently shutting down production for the fourth time.
Donaldson says there have been four permanent mill closures in the Interior affecting between 500 to 700 workers. Thirteen indefinite closures are also ongoing - affecting around 1,000 workers. If you add in curtailments, Donaldson says around 3,000 workers have been affected.
British Columbia - Canada's largest lumber-producing province - exported just over 514 million board feet of lumber to the U.S. in October 2018, down from 645 million board feet from the same time 2017. It has also seen more than 20 mill closures and curtailments. Many Canadian lumber leaders have taken a hit - including West Fraser, Canfor, Interfor, and Conifex - and have either shut down plants or restricted production, with West Fraser and Canfor curtailing production more than once.
All cited challenging lumber markets, high log costs, log supply constraints, falling lumber prices, and U.S. import tariffs as factors.
Softwood lumber import tariffs of around 21 percent were levied onto Canada last year. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) told MarketWatch that those tariffs are restructuring the entire lumber global supply chain - incentivizing U.S. buyers to import from overseas rather than ship lumber across the Canadian border.
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