In an announcement made in Prince George, Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson brought forth a plan to help those who have been impacted by the curtailments and closures sweeping across the province.
In the midst of the downturn of the forestry sector, the minister revealed the plan to provide $69 million dollars to those who have been directly impacted.
“The previous government knew that the end of mountain pine beetle harvest would disrupt the lives of forest workers, contractors, and communities, but they did little to prepare for this inevitable transition,” said Premier John Horgan in a release regarding the announcement.
“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. Our government will ensure that forest workers impacted by mill closures are supported.”
According to a release, how those dollars will be allocated is as follows:
- $40 million to establish a new cost-shared, early-retirement bridging program for older forest workers
- $15 million to establish a new short-term forest employment program, focused on fire prevention and community resiliency projects
- $12 million for workers to access skills training, and for employer and community grants for training
- $2 million to establish a new job placement co-ordination office that will track the transition and employment of impacted forest workers on an individual basis, and community support grants aimed at providing short-term assistance to communities more profoundly impacted by the closure of a major forest employer.
“The provincial government has done a great thing right now by stepping up,” said United Steelworkers 1-2017 President Brian O’Rourke.
“I wish the feds were along in the picture to up the anty a whole lot more, but given where we are today, this should go to, I think not to make everything right, but certainly soften the blow a lot of the members in the smaller rural communities.”
A number of curtailments and closures have taken place across the region as well as the province due to sustained weak markets, pricing in wood product markets and high log costs according to companies such as West Fraser and Tolko.
(Editor’s Note: Listen to Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Doug Donaldson with MyCaribooNow in the audio file below)
(With files from MyPrinceGeorgeNow)