BC announces $69M to help workers impacted by mill closures
By Ellen Cools
The government of B.C. today announced $69 million in funding for a new series of measures aimed at supporting Interior B.C. forest workers impacted by mill closures and shift reductions.
“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 B.C. Premier John Horgan in a statement. “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.”
Premier Horgan and Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, met with the CEOs of major Interior B.C. forest companies to set out measures to support forest workers, including:
- $40 million to create a cost-shared, early-retirement bridging program for older forest workers
- $15 million for a new short-term forest employment program focused on fire prevention and community resiliency projects
- $12 million to help workers access skills training, and for employer and community grants for training
- $2 million for the creation of a job placement co-ordination office that will track the transition and employment of impacted forest workers individually
- Community support grants that will provide short-term assistance to communities severely impacted by the closure of a major forest employer
“The province is committed to supporting the people impacted by this change, but we need the forest industry and the federal government to step up and do their part as well,” Donaldson said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that the Interior forest sector recognizes that the new industry that will arise from this transition will need skilled, experienced workers to produce new forest products that can compete in global markets.”
“We appreciate the province recognizing these supportive measures needed for impacted workers as industry adapts to declining timber supply. This funding for workers’ support aligns with our efforts at West Fraser to ensure continuing employment and opportunity for our hard-working employees and their families as industry works together with government on longer-term solutions to our current challenges,” said Ray Ferris, CEO, West Fraser, in a statement.