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Feds earmark over $3B for forestry sector with focus on climate change


December 1, 2020
By Kristina Urquhart

The forestry sector received a $3-billion boost in Canada’s fiscal update yesterday – but with the focus mainly on ecological management, a national forestry association says there are still opportunities for further development in the industry, especially when it comes to the bioeconomy.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presented the fall economic statement late Monday, noting that Canada will see a $381.6 billion deficit this year, with the possibility of more pending further COVID-19 related lockdowns.

The number is the result of the federal government’s COVID-19 aid package, which so far totals $490.7 billion.

Freeland said the government expects to spend $70 billion to $100 billion over the next three years to boost the country’s recovery from COVID-19, but that the full breakdown of funds is still to come. She expects one million jobs to be created as a result of the investment.

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Climate change a focus

Included in that stimulus spending is money for “nature-based climate solutions.” Starting in 2021-22, the government will allocate $3.16 billion over 10 years for Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to work with provinces, territories, NGOs, local governments and Indigenous communities to plant two billion trees.

Another $30.6 million in 2020-21 will funnel through NRCan to the provinces and territories to offset costs associated with COVID-19 safety measures for small and medium-sized businesses in the forest sector, including tree planting operations.

And starting in 2021-22, the government plans to provide up to $631 million over 10 years to facilitate the restoration of ecosystems, wildlife protection and resource management of Canada’s grasslands, wetlands and peatlands.

“Tree planting is just the beginning of the important work in our sector,” says Derek Nighbor, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), in a statement.

“Managing Canada’s forests so they grow to be healthy and resilient is critical in our changing climate. Sustainable forest management helps us keep northern communities safer from fire, keeps our air and water clean, and produces wood products and wood-based bioproducts that create family-supporting jobs and lower Canada’s carbon footprint.”

He noted that Canada’s forests are already among the world’s most sustainably managed.

“Our industry has 140 capital investment projects across the country that are ready-to-go – worth over $1.5 billion. These projects can safeguard and grow Canadian jobs, improve our ability to win on the global stage, and fast-track our move to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050,” Nighbor says.

“We look forward to working with the federal government to build a recovery that lasts and one that can chart a new and exciting path for our workforce and forestry communities across the country.”

Wage, rent subsidies extended

Among the other highlights was the plan to increase the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) from 65 per cent to 75 per cent from Dec. 20, 2020 to March 13, 2021, and to extend the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy to March 13.

This adjustment comes after the government had already extended the CEWS period to June 2021 during the speech from the throne earlier this fall.

The wage subsidy includes a base subsidy for all companies that have experienced a revenue drop, and a top-up wage subsidy for employers most adversely impacted by the pandemic. For the qualifying period, the base subsidy would remain at 40 per cent and the maximum top-up wage subsidy would increase to 35 per cent.

Furloughed employees will be eligible for a weekly wage subsidy between December 20, 2020 and March 13, 2021 to a maximum of $595.

A work-from-home tax credit up to $400 is also available to help affected employees with “modest expenses.”

Access the full 2020 economic statement here.