B.C. announces more forestry supports as mills extend layoffs

An aerial view of a clearcut east of Prince George, B.C., taken in the summer of 2022. (CBC - image credit)
An aerial view of a clearcut east of Prince George, B.C., taken in the summer of 2022. (CBC - image credit)

B.C.'s provincial government has announced further supports for the forest industry as several mills have said temporary layoffs will extend into February due to poor market conditions.

In Delta on Tuesday, Forests Minister Bruce Ralston unveiled the B.C. Timber Sales Value-Added Manufacturing Program, which sets aside dedicated fibre supply to small- and medium-sized secondary manufacturers.

Ralston says 10 per cent of B.C. Timber Sales' available timber supply will now be dedicated to manufacturing companies that don't have direct, or only have limited, access to their own fibre supplies to bid on.

"Our government's vision is to build a stronger, more resilient forestry industry through more value-added manufacturing," he said in a statement.

Curtailments continue

The fund comes following a series of job losses in the province's forest industry.

On Jan. 11, Canfor announced the permanent shutdown of one of its Prince George pulp lines, resulting in an expected 300 job losses by year's end.

And on Monday, Tolko Industries said it will be extending the shutdown of mills in Soda Creek and Armstrong through the month of February, affecting 350 employees, while Sinclair Forest Products announced the two-week closure of its lumber operations in Fort St. James, Prince George and Vanderhoof starting Jan. 30, impacting 360 employees.

In all three cases, the companies cited weak market conditions for the decision, as well as a lack of access to economic fibre.

The B.C. government has made several announcements over the past two weeks in support of the forest industry, including a $90 million manufacturing jobs fund, $50 million to access hard-to-reach fibre in fire-damaged regions and a $4.5 million investment to help reopen a Vancouver Island pulp and paper mill.